It’s easy to get distracted. Sitting down to write a book, I go to my internet browser to research something, and twenty minutes later realize I have no idea what I wanted to find, but I have read all the updates on my Facebook page. Online shopping, news, entertainment stories, fun quizzes, the possibilities for distraction are endless! And that’s just online.
Sometimes, it’s OK to not be totally focused. When you give 110% all the time, you get burnt out and don’t have anything left to give. That’s why we have weekends, evenings, and reading for fun. After finishing a big project, there is a good chance your brain will force you to take a break and relax a bit for a day or two while it recovers. But here’s the thing: it’s possible to use time wisely, or poorly, even when relaxing – or on vacation. Kids don’t have much control over their schedule, especially if they are on travel sports teams. Sometimes kids have to feel like nothing is in their control. Helping them learn how to manage their time is a good step toward helping them feel more in control.
Possibly the most important thing you need to use your time wisely is to know yourself, and the same is true for kids. My Dad wakes up and is super-productive first thing in the morning, sometimes even before the sun is up, but is completely unable to do anything more than socialize after 7 PM, at the latest. As a stay at home parent, I spend the entire weekend caring for the family and accomplish nothing on Monday, no matter how hard I try.
Knowing what motivates you matters, too. Some people are internally motivated. The thrill of learning something new, being better than others/winning, being first, or even just finishing a task is motivation for them. Others are externally motivated. Money, having people like them, and prizes are just a few of the things that may motivate them. All sorts of things motivate people.
Once you know what motivates you, it is easier to motivate yourself, and it is easier for those around you to help motivate you. Being motivated is the first step toward actually getting up and getting things done.
Taking Breaks and Naps
There are optimal lengths of time for breaks. A “break” usually only needs to be five to ten minutes, and rarely over thirty minutes. Sometimes even a minute or two does the trick. Any longer and it is an activity in it’s own right. Odds are good that if it started off as “a break” and has lasted more than ten minutes, the activity turned into either procrastinating or wasting time. Either way, it’s time to stop and get back on track.
After several hours of work (usually at lunch time and the end of the school/work day), most of us need a longer break, closer to a full half hour. Most parents need a break when they get home, before doing anything for the kids or house. If this is you, then it’s a good idea to explain to your kids that Daddy/Mommy needs X amount of time when they get home before they ask for help with homework or to go over their team’s complicated play-off schedule. It doesn’t mean no kisses, cuddles, or chatting. Set a rule that you, and your brain, gets a half hour or so to recharge, before being given any ideas for award-winning science fair projects and the detailed list of items needed to finish it within the next 48 hours.
There are optimal times for napping. A short cat nap of 10-20 minutes is good if you are just a little sleepy. Thirty minutes tends to leave people groggy when they wake up. One hour can leave you a bit groggy, but not as much as thirty minutes and it helps with memory. Ninety minutes is a good length for a long nap. Anything more than that can mess up your sleep cycle at bedtime.
Our brains are wired to need breaks every hour or so, with longer ones a few times a day. Whenever you get tired, a healthy snack is a good idea, too, unless it is almost mealtime. If you move around and get a little exercise, even better! That’s just how humans function.
Reading that word, your brain may jump to visions of vegetating in front of the TV, surfing the ‘net or playing video games, but while those are distracting, they are not necessarily relaxing. Think about how you feel when you lose in a video game. Now think about how you feel when you have tried the same level over and over and over and still can’t win. That’s the opposite of relaxed. How much more true do you think that is for your kids, who don’t have years of experience with frustration and disappointment?
Our bodies have adapted to our environment for thousands of years. Wood fires, trusted people nearby, the outdoors – there are many things that our bodies recognize as meaning “safety” that automatically start our body relaxing. To truly relax, try some of these activities with your family:
- Walking in the woods.
- Meditation / prayer.
- Physical activity including activities like bike riding and running around playing tag.
- Baking – if you bake it, then you can eat it.
Become Attuned to Nature/the Seasons
This may not seem related to using time wisely, but it is. When the power goes out, humans must revert to following the sun for our schedule. We wake up with or near the sunrise, and we go to sleep not long after sunset. There is no reason not to be more attuned to nature even with power. Motivation and staying on track are infinitely harder when we fight what our body naturally wants. Being attuned to nature is just one more way to work with our bodies instead of against them.
Another part of being attuned to nature is doing things when the seasons dictate. Most of us who live where winter is cold need to take care of certain projects, like getting the snow blower ready and putting on snow tires, before it gets too cold out but after it is cold enough that we need the tires. Time it wrong, and you are wasting time either redoing it (switching between the hose and the faucet winterizing gadget) or moving slowly because it’s too darn cold.
It all boils down to paying attention and staying focused. For kids, this can seem well-neigh impossible, but it just takes practice. A LOT of practice. And timers. Timers are a great help, and they are standard features on tablets and phones, so it’s pretty easy to find one. If a more visual reminder will help your kiddo, hourglasses are simple enough for even the littlest to use.
What are your tips for helping kids use time wisely?