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How to Manage Your Work-Family Life in the Next 20 Minutes

Ryan Sanders



Being busy does not mean you are productive. I want to be productive — not simply busy. I want to have times for reflection and feel alive in the freedom that comes from managing my time well and balancing work and family life. But work-family “balance” is not realistic — it’s “managing” work and family that’s possible.

I have spent my life being busy. This post is to help you get your day back. For you to ever manage your time, you will need to manage your calendar. But first, let’s go back in history. You see, busy-ness and I have a history.

I was a busy child. From ages 9 to 12 , I wasn’t simply attending school. I played football, basketball and took piano lessons. I have a history of feeling busy.

I was a busy teen. In high school, I worked at my dad’s shop until I turned 16 and could legally work at my local grocery store. I have a history of feeling busy.

I was a busy college student. In undergrad, I worked as a student pastor. I worked part-time each semester and full-time in the summers. Also, I pulled extra jobs during the summers. I have a history with feeling busy.

I was a busy young married guy. After surviving college, I married my college sweetheart. I not only started my career in publishing, I started studying for a master of divinity. I worked full-time, attended seminary, and pulled freelance gigs when possible. I have a history with feeling busy.

I was a busy new dad. Then came our first daughter. On top of the work, marriage and more work, our firstborn girl added to the busy feeling. Three-ish years later, another baby girl came along. Yes, I have a history with feeling busy.

Three years ago, I blamed relocating my family from Tennessee to Washington, D.C., on my feeling busy. With managing work, wife, daughters…things were busy.

I don’t like feeling busy. I prefer feeling productive.

The answer is your time. And you can’t control your time without controlling your calendar.

Having items marked on my calendar often make the difference between feeling “too busy” and feeling like I am managing life. Let’s get real and forget “balancing” work and family. Let’s try to “manage” work and family this year.

First, use one calendar. Stop keeping two or more calendars with a work calendar and a personal calendar. One life, one calendar. I use my iPhone calendar and the Reminders app with daily tasks and deadlines for everything.

I think in big chunks first and then get more detailed with smaller, daily tasks. Spend 20 minutes and schedule these items on your calendar. Doing so will help you more effectively manage work and family: 

1. Schedule Annual Events (5 minutes)

  • Work — Think ahead for the next year and schedule blocks of time, from staff retreats, fiscal year-end to vacation and holidays at your company. Add these repeating events to your calendar.
  • Family — You will take some vacation from work or travel somewhere at least once in a year. Get it down on your calendar. Consider each of the four seasons and plan your travel and holidays by blocking your calendar for these times.

2. Schedule Monthly Events (5 minutes)

  • Work — Block monthly reports on your calendar as well as the time you will need to prepare for said report each month. No more last-minute-fill-in-the-spreadsheet-before-the-boss-gets-to-the-office fun!
  • Family — Schedule date night with your spouse. Put the event on repeat, monthly. Pro-tip: purchase concert tickets in advance, it’s more difficult to cancel a concert you both want to attend. You will be intentional about finding childcare for a “big event.” Also, it’s on the calendar so you will feel bad if you manually replace said date night with something less meaningful.

3. Schedule Weekly Events (5 minutes)

  • Work — Your weekly “TPS report” needs filing at 9 a.m. on every Monday? How about that staff call that happens every Friday? Be sure the weekly events are down as “reoccurring events” in your calendar.
  • Family — Add “Family Night” to your calendar weekly. This may mean dinner and/or playing Xbox 360 Kinnect — the point is to do something as a family and it be scheduled on your calendar.

4. Schedule Daily Events (5 minutes)

  • Work — What tasks do you complete daily? From lunch to checking email. Schedule 15 minutes blocks on your calendar and add your personal break time so your calendar shows up as “busy” when someone tries to schedule another meeting.
  • Family — Add the daily tasks once and have the items repeat daily. For instance, I have “7 p.m.: Bath and read to my girls.” This is on my calendar and in my Reminder app. This way, when a friend wants to play tennis late in the evening, I have to manually replace bath and reading time for my girls with something else. Guess what? Chances are good I will decide to play that match earlier in the evening or save it for the weekend. My point here is this: Your time is now down, you are focused and intentional about how you use your time. You will notice that having items on your calendar and in your tasks list has a unique way of showing what you value — for good or ill. Confession: I add note of motivation to some reminders. For instance, with “7 p.m.: Bath and read to my girls,” I have a note that reads: “You don’t get this time back. Bell is only 7yo once. Gabs is only 4yo once.”) Trust me, when you’re exhausted in the moment and a bath and reading seem routine, you’ll thank me.

Remember, this is a process, but keep working and you will get better at managing your work and family life. After all, it’s all one thing — your life! You can’t control everything in life, but often, you can control your time.

Ryan Sanders is the Communication and Cause Marketing Manager at National Fatherhood Initiative. He is married with two young daughters and lives in Washington, DC. Find him online at www.fatherhood.org and on twitter @RyanSanders.

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