“Dear Diary,

The kids will soon go back to school. I must gear up for my fall business. Summer draws to a close. Fatigue and change are in the air. The stress of upcoming holidays is an annoying buzz just under my daily consciousness.

Sometimes I wonder how other people do it. Do they have more hours in their day than I do? How can I plan ahead for fall and for the holidays and be prepared? After all, this stuff is seasonal! The calendar year repeats itself over and over again. It seems like I could catch on faster, but instead I usually feel like someone chasing a merry-go-round that started before I could quite climb on.”

The days are still long–though not for much longer! We put a lot of pressure on our poor little summer. We are supposed to do all our usual stuff, plus yard work, outside projects and some good old-fashioned fun, all in this tiny window of opportunity. Now school and other fall activities and routines begin.

Many of us are guilty of trying to cram way too much into a 24-hour day. I struggle to accomplish as much as I can in the weekly Monday to Friday grind. During this, I try to capture that elusive thing some people call “leisure time” or “family time” in this brief season of late summer or early fall. How can we get it all done, especially during the week?

Here are some ideas that help in the quest for mid-week free time—that is, when I remember to use them:

Have weeknight schedules for errand running, household care and meals.
For example, maybe Wednesday is errand night, Thursday is laundry night, and Friday is pizza night. Try not to run errands on weekends because everyone else has the same bright idea. You will spend more time standing in long lines than getting things done. Meals require less mental effort if you are willing to let them be scheduled too.

Somewhere along the line, we have gotten the idea that schedules and habits are restrictive things. I would like to suggest that schedules are actually very freeing. Try to put household tasks on a schedule. Why?  So you don’t have to worry about them or even think about them the other six days of the week!

Turn off the television on weeknights.
Eliminate this time waster to free up time for things you need to get done and things you want to get done. Possible exception: Use television to entertain young children while you get dinner on the table. This isn’t “cheating” if it saves your sanity and makes you a calmer parent. Right?

Take a walk around the block.
I actually have to remind myself to do this, so I am not totally embarrassed to include it. There is something about being outside, even for a short period on a hot muggy day, which unties mental knots like nothing else can. It also is a great chance to meet and to connect with neighbors. After all, if we are all going to hide inside with our air conditioners, it might as well be winter. If you don’t believe me, I ask you to try it three times in the next week, before you tell me it was foolish to mention. Please.

Go to bed at the same time every night.
Give yourself at least fifteen minutes of winding down time every night—something just for you such as reading time, a relaxing shower, or a conversation with a partner. Try using this time for anything you consider relaxing except watching television. Why not television? Come on! Who watches television for fifteen minutes and then promptly turns it off? Don’t get hooked and subsequently tired! We all need relaxation and rest. Our bodies appreciate a regular routine too.

Take time to plan and schedule leisure, fun, and family activities for the weekend.
If I don’t make the effort to schedule the “good stuff” on the weekend calendar, it gets swallowed up by errands, projects, and even Saturday morning cartoons. Do you ever ask yourself, “Where did the weekend go?” There will usually be an endless to-do list of things to go buy or household projects to tackle.  Make time for fun.

Take it upon yourself to make sure the fun stuff happens too. When I am at the mall, there is a little nagging voice in my head telling me that my time could be better spent elsewhere. Guess what? When I am on a family bike ride or reading with one of my kids, that yucky little voice is gone. It is up to me to schedule the right stuff.

Finally, reduce the guilt. When will we learn that we really can’t have our cake and eat it too? At least, we can’t have it all in the same tiny window of time! From the time you walk in the door to the time you go to bed on a week night, you only have four or five hours to deal with dinner, children’s sporting events, homework, errands, household tasks, the mail, and whatever you brought home from work. Give yourself a break. After all, if you don’t, who will?

Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs.

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