One of the many benefits I have enjoyed from honing my personal productivity skills over the past year has been the opportunity it has given me to see what, if anything, I had learned that could be applied to the family as a whole. The stand out was how our family communicated and managed itself as a unit. Frankly it was haphazard – and stress inducing as a consequence. We needed some quality time together each day and we needed an easy system to manage our commitments. Does that sound familiar?
Thanks to Mike Williams over at The Art of GTD, Zone by Zone I realised that we were missing a golden opportunity to sit down as a family early in the morning and simply chat. When we were fresh, not tired at the end of the day. He described to David Allen in a GTD Connect conversation how he spent time with his children as part of a standard morning routine. It dawned on me that we had no routine and our mornings were largely not pleasant, often stressful and all about individuals getting dressed rapidly, eating on the fly and running out the door on time to school or work. A big rush and not a positive way to start the day.
My wife graciously agreed to give an idea I’d had a try. She would get up earlier (and without a cup of tea in bed!) with me so that we could get the kids up, ensure they did their jobs, get their lunches and were all sorted for the day before we sat down as a family to breakfast. It has been an amazing change. We talk together about our respective days ahead or about some other topic of mutual interest. It’s how we stay in sync, at least once a day. We do tend to eat dinner together most nights but it’s more functional, everyone’s tired and keen to get on with their early evening activities. So breakfast together has been key. I really value this time each morning now, jealously guarding it from breakfast meetings at work (which I almost always decline now). And we all leave the house in a much better mood.
We also didn’t have a single place in the house that you could see a calendar of events and commitments for any or all of us, they were all over the place. Pieces of paper on the fridge, on the kitchen bench, in the study and in a school bag – you get the idea. Of course, some were just in our heads too. Now we have an A3 size month view calendar that I found on the Internet (it’s very plain – you could make one yourself) pinned to a board in the family room. Everything goes on there. Now we can see it all in one place and can proactively plan the week ahead, discussing over one of our meals what this might mean for school pick ups, sports games on the weekend etc. No surprises now and a lot less stress. I also find that having this family calendar has helped me enormously with my own GTD system as I can ensure I’m on top of all my commitments at work AND at home.
These two simple changes have opened the communication channels within our family enormously. There’s more awareness now of what everyone has going on and a better understanding of what each of us needs to do to make things work as easily as possible. There are days that are less than perfect but on the whole it’s been a huge success.
What family routines do you have and how do they help?