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5 Steps to a Calmer Evening

5 Steps to a Calmer Evening

5 Steps to a Calmer Evening

    Whether you work outside the house or stay at home full-time, the toughest part of the day is the same: those frantic early evening hours when there are mouths to feed, homework to do, and cranky kids to handle.  The trick is to streamline your to-do’s so you can feel calmer and focus on what counts – spending time with your family.  Here’s how.

    1) Ease into the Evening

    Instead of walking in the door after work or errands and immediately launching into another chore, allow time and space to downshift into evening mode.  It’s basically about transitioning.  In other words, giving yourself and your family that unwind time.

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    Creating a calming ambiance, by turning off the TV and playing soothing classical, jazz, or instrumental music, can instantly reset the emotional tone of the house.  Another idea is to dim the lights and light a few candles – it makes for a warm, cozy atmosphere that will relax the family.

    Another transition idea is to create a ritual.  Set vegetables and dip or cheese and bread on the counter and serve juice or water in fancy wine goblets.  This will not only take the ravenous edge off so you avoid meltdowns before dinner, but it will feel special and establish the transition time.

    2) Create a Dinner System

    Rushing to get dinner on the table is a major source of evening mayhem, but a little bit of preplanning can help you power through with a minimum of stress.  Use weekends to chart out your nightly dinners, grocery shop, and even preassemble parts of a meal when possible.  Consider writing a weekly plan and checking the calendar to see which nights are going to be particularly busy – so you know when frozen pizzas or easy-prep meals are a must.

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    3) Keep the Kids Busy

    All the shortcuts in the world won’t help if you’re constantly being interrupted, so a little creativity may be needed to get the kids out from underfoot.

    Make the time you cook be about you and let your older kids, who should be doing homework, know that you are there only to be asked a very important question.  Other than that, you are off limits.  For younger children, it might be necessary to involve them in the meal preparation or to put on an appropriate DVD.  When my son was younger I used to put him in his highchair and talk in an animated way – sort of my own version of a cooking show.  Now that he’s older, he helps put ingredients in bowls and pots and stirs just about everything!

    4) Plan Homework Time

    To avoid last-minute cries of “Mom, I haven’t done my homework yet,” having a homework routine is a must.

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    After the kids have had a healthy snack and 30 minutes down-time after school, they should begin their homework so that it is completed before dinner.

    5) Share the Work… and a Break

    Dividing tasks between you and your partner can make family time more serene for both of you.  It might be that when your husband walks in the door, it’s his turn to take the baby for 30 minutes so you can get dinner started.  Then, after 30 mins, you take the baby back and your partner has 30 minutes to change and unwind.  This way you’ll both be refreshed enough to start your evening together.

    Be flexible with this.  If your partner is stressed when walking in the house, offer a later-in-the-evening task, such as washing dishes or packing lunches for the next day.

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    All in all, evenings can be calm if routines and decisions are made ahead of time.   Decide what you and your partner truly value and then set up some systems to make it work.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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