4 Steps for Surviving Evenings With a Large Family

Time management is a balance of planning and responding. You can plan for the things that are under your control. But when things are out of your control, you can only respond.

I can plan my entire work day. From 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM I can account for all my time. I set to-dos for that entire period. I even try to have a week filled up before I start it. I don’t always make it, but it’s a plan I try to stick to.

But what happens when 5:00 PM comes? Not unlike the carriage in the story of Cinderella, I feel like I turn into a pumpkin. This means that I have no energy left to plan things – to be intentional. All I can do is respond.

When all you can do is respond, you need something to elicit your response. Otherwise you do nothing. The best responses are ones that come about intentionally, rather than as a reaction to circumstances. What helps in a situation like this is having a coach.

She’s My Wife – And My Night Coach

And who’s my coach? My wife. I call her “Night Coach,” because I’m “Day Coach.” And when the work day is over for me, she’s on duty coaching me. So do I just let my wife tell me what to do? Is it that simple? No. She’s also got her hands full, and she can’t spell everything out for me.

I’ll say to her something like this:

Honey, I can do dishes, I can do laundry, I can watch the kids outside, I can watch the kids inside, I can help them with their homework, I can give them baths, or I can repair something in the house. I can’t do all of them, and I can only do one of them at a time. Which would you like me to do?

Here’s a GI Joe 4-step breakdown of what I did:

  1. Definition: I defined what various tasks need to be done in our home and family on a regular basis.
  2. Assessment: Then I assessed what tasks I have the energy to do after a full work day and reported them to my wife.
  3. Selection: I let her choose the task that most needs doing.
  4. Reporting: And afterwards, when I’m done with a task, I report to her again.

By defining the help I can offer her, I just made things easier for her – I let her make a choice, rather than come up with the choices.

What if you don’t have a wife? A husband? Or some Night Coach?

Be your own Night Coach. Embrace the idea that your time is a balance of planning and responding. Define those things you can do within the context of any given weekday evening. And just pick the one that comes easiest to you, or the “low-hanging fruit,” as I like to call it. Maybe your choice isn’t the perfect one – it doesn’t have to be. You can rest in knowing that at least the dishes are getting done, or at least the laundry is getting done, etc.

Stop waiting for some coach to come and whip your schedule – and ultimately your life – into shape. Be your own coach. You can be your Day Coach. Much of our work nowadays is subject to our control, with the many opportunities for remote work and “be your own boss” situations. But I would advise against letting Day Coach plan your nights was well. You only have a limited amount of energy. Instead, leave some time in your day for responding, but plan those responses ahead of time. And if you don’t have a spouse or someone like that for a Night Coach, just do what comes easiest to you – pick the low-hanging fruit.  At least you’ll be getting something done.