Work more family time into your schedule with these tips and tricks.
WORDS SUE-ANN BAUMGÄRTEL
What does half an hour mean to you? Is it 30 minutes of sitting on the train after work, or is it 1800 seconds of two episodes of Sponge Bob? Half an hour of Chinese tuition for your child might seem like a life sentence of purgatory, while half an hour of free screen time might disappear in the blink of a child’s eye. Wikipedia defines time as an “indefinite progress of existence and events” that are essentially “irreversible”. In terms of physics, it is “what the clock reads”. Physics becomes philosophy and sociology when we question how we use this piece of string which we call time. Is time money? Can you turn back time? Do you really kill it?
How to Make Time
Work, cooking, cleaning, organising the children’s week, laundry – all these things are essentials which just need to be done, whether we like it or not.
Someone needs to provide for the family, clothes don’t get washed, ironed and put away by themselves, and we all need to eat something. Find a healthy and balanced approach which works for you, and hopefully, you will be able to find some unknown sources of extra time.
Cooking can be made easier if you double up on family favourites
If your family loves your lasagne or jiao zi, use the weekend to make two portions, and freeze the second one for another meal. Plain cooked rice can be transformed into fried rice. If you are rushed for time, a supermarket roast chicken can be enjoyed with a simple green salad, or try a piece of siu yuk with some green vegetables steamed together with your rice in the rice cooker. A slow cooker can prepare a curry or a nourishing soup while you are out at work.
Be realistic about your “to do list”
Divide it into do, don’t and delegate. Chores that are not urgent for the week can be put under don’t, bills and your daughter’s end of term ballet show should be put under do. Delegate what you can to other people. Maybe you can organise a car run with another parent from your son’s swimming club. Spread out your tasks, but never take the helper – be they domestic help, a neighbour or grandparent – for granted. Show your gratitude genuinely.
Keep everything in its place
Keep a basket or designated drawer for each family member by the door. Keys, cell phones, library books, school items and loose change can be organised accordingly.
While technology can be a huge time waster, use it wisely
Order household items such as toilet paper, cleaning products, and foods with a long shelf-life online, and get it to be delivered to your home.
Organise a family calendar
With each family member having a different routine, it is all too easy to lose track of time. As an experiment, you could write in essential appointments and activities in red, and personal time together could be written in blue. This gives you a clear picture of how much your time as a family is divided.
Sort out dirty laundry directly in the bathroom
Think of the sorting hat from Harry Potter. You can then deal with each pile efficiently and quickly. Fold rather than iron whenever you can.
Do you feel overwhelmed with your workload?
It might help to talk honestly to your boss about your work. Make your job work for you, rather than the other way round.
Involve the kids
Multitasking only really works if you are realistic about what you want to achieve. Don’t expect to prepare a presentation for your company’s visiting CEO while trying to help your child out with his maths homework. Multitasking only works when you keep the tasks themselves simple. Get your kids to help out with simple chores around the house, like setting the table or sorting out laundry.
Try and make the most of your routine time together. Sometimes the morning drive into school is a great opportunity to talk to your children. If you are doing the grocery shopping, get them to help out with choosing fresh produce, weighing it and bagging it. Children are usually more focused and efficient when given responsibility.