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  Improve Your Home Time UseSunday, December 10th, 2023  
by Judith A. Wessel

The following are some strategies that could help you find more time:

Change the Sequence of Activities
Finding a different way to do something is less disruptive than changing your goals or standards. Starting with the least disruptive strategy, decide what sequence of activities can be reordered to improve your productivity and reduce the time spent or reduce the "hassle." A change in sequence can be done through "foresight." An example of foresight is anticipating family or individual needs and planning for them. For example, arrange now for child care if a child should unexpectedly get sick in the future. There is nothing that can upset our balance more than having a sick child and no contingency plan. Or, there is nothing more frustrating than discovering at the last minute that a child needs to be transported somewhere while you're at work.

When planning and organizing time, stay on top of family and individual activities by keeping a master calendar in the kitchen or in a location that everyone passes each day. Be sure that everyone knows it is their responsibility to have all activities listed on the calendar so everyone knows each other's schedule. This way transportation plans can be made a week in advance without the last-minute hassle.

The second way to reorder the sequence in which activities are done is through "timing." If it takes two hours a day to do housework to meet your standards and you don't seem to get it accomplished in the evening after work, you might try changing the time you do the activity. For example, do one hour of housework, such as a load of laundry, before going to work and another hour of housework in the evening.

Another strategy is to allow only a certain amount of time per task. When that time is up, move to the next task. You may want to consider breaking down a major job into smaller parts. For example, washing the panes in one window per week may take only a couple of minutes. Cleaning several windows each week may make the task more manageable than washing all the windows in the house at one time.

Plan difficult tasks during your peak energy time. If cleaning and waxing the kitchen floor gets put off until the end of the day, and then doesn't get done, try moving that task to the beginning of the day. Some people like to get up a half-hour before the rest of the family wakes up to give themselves more time to do things that are important to them.

Some other examples of changes in timing might be related to shopping. You might try grocery shopping at a time when there are shorter checkout lines. Incorporate other errands close by so one trip takes care of several items.

Although employed homemakers distribute household tasks more evenly over the year than do non-employed homemakers, January through April is usually a low period. What activities can be shifted from later in the year to these months? Cleaning a freezer during this period instead of during the busier summer months would shift a household activity as well as be a better time to maintain cold temperatures of frozen foods. Other examples include cleaning closets, organizing kitchens, or clothing activities. If November or December is always hectic for you, what can you plan to get done in September or October to reduce the pressures of the holiday season?

Use Other Resources Fully
Think about every resource that you might draw upon. It might be a potential that you weren't aware of, or haven't used to the fullest, such as the timer on a range or the programmable component on the microwave. VCRs and telephone answering machines are two examples of resources that allow us more time flexibility.

If there are other family members in the household, you may be able to draw upon their abilities through delegation of responsibilities. For instance, ask your spouse to do the grocery shopping and have your 12-year-old fold laundry. When you are delegating responsibilities, consider the skills and abilities of each individual. This means you shouldn't ask a 5-year-old to take out the trash if she can barely lift the bag. If you ask a 7-year-old to fold the laundry, the end product may not be the same as when you fold it. This isn't necessarily bad, but if you can't accept it, then give that child another chore. Think of creative ways to delegate tasks, especially with children. Drawing chores from a job jar based on individual skills works for some families.

Go beyond you and your family. Think of community resources that can be helpful. A few examples include a day care after school that picks up, meals on wheels for elder care, drop-in day care at a church, or a shopping service.

Use More Services
To increase the amount of leisure time available to your family, you can hire someone to clean your house, run errands, mow the lawn, or care for your children while you do other things. Remember that there is a trade off between time and money. To purchase more services you will need to spend more money than time. You might decide that the value of your time is worth the added cost of hiring someone else to do the tasks.

Also, it might be possible to trade a task you are unable or unwilling to do. Someone can do that task for you in return for you doing a task they cannot perform. For instance, you might be an excellent cook but not have tools to do yard work. You could arrange to prepare food for your neighbor in return for them doing your yard work. This arrangement might not increase your amount of leisure time, but each of you would be doing tasks that you enjoy and are for which you are well suited.

Change Your Standards
To increase leisure time you might want to reduce the amount of time spent on household tasks such as cleaning the house or doing laundry. This means that you need to lower your own standards a little bit. Maybe you need to tolerate some dust around the house or wait another day for clean laundry.

To reduce your personal maintenance time you might look for small ways that will give you extra minutes, such as getting a low-maintenance haircut or buying clothes that don't need ironing.

Club meetings, volunteering, and social outings can lead to less leisure time or less time with your family. It is very hard to say "no" if you enjoy these activities, but they can also take time away from other areas that you consider important. Cutting down on outside commitments may be temporary or permanent.

Changing work or education time is a drastic measure that involves many permanent changes. In order to do everything you want to do, it might become apparent that you will need to change your work pattern or number of hours of employment. With so many families struggling to balance work and family life, employers are becoming more agreeable to flextime and alternate work schedules. If commuting takes a substantial amount of your time, you might consider relocating or changing positions.

Bradshaw, Eva. (1994). Family time use. (Computer Program Manual). Columbus: The Ohio State University, Department of Family Resource Management Expert Systems Laboratory.

Deacon, Ruth E. and Firebaugh, Francille M. (1988). Family resource management: Principles and applications, 2nd Edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., A Division of Simon & Schuster. Chapter 12.

Hanna, Sherman. (1992). Family time use. (Computer Program). Columbus: The Ohio State University, Department of Family Resource Management Expert Systems Laboratory.

Hanna, Sherman, DeVaney, Sharon and Martin, Allen (in press). "Using a Computer Simulation Game to Teach Family Time Use Concepts." Time Use. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Wessel, Judith A. (1989). "Work and family: Maintaining a balance." Balancing Work and Family Notebook. Columbus: Ohio State University Extension.

Wessel, Judith A. and Sanik, Margaret M. (1984). Monthly variations in home productivity of employed and non-employed homemakers, Southeastern Family Economics/Home Management Conference Proceedings, Blacksburg, VA.

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet HYG-5009-94

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