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Blog: Simplify Your Life
Overscheduling Syndrome



The teenage daughter of my organizing client once showed me a science project she was working on -- "Why I'm So Tired All The Time." Was it sugar intake? Too much TV? Turns out she just had too damned much to do!

What Are We Teaching Our Children?


As this 10th grader rattled off her list of daily activities, the problem was apparent. She rose at 5AM for school and stayed 1-2 hours late each day for a different extracurricular club. She then had either soccer practice or dance class, and spent 2-3 hours a night on homework. She would fall exhausted into bed around 11PM, get 6 hours of sleep, and start all over again the next day. By Friday night, she was so wiped out that she slept all weekend, just trying to recuperate.

Does this sound familiar? As adults, we aren't very good at recognizing our limits -- and we're passing this disability on to our kids. We cram too much into our day, set unreasonable expectations for ourselves, and walk around feeling overwhelmed most of the time. Our children see us in action and mirror our behavior.

What most kids are mirroring is overload. In simply raising our offspring, we're creating a new generation of stressed-out, overcommitted adults -- but we have the ability to change this by consciously adjusting our attitude toward time. Start by recognizing that you can't do everything, no matter how hard to try. Take a second to figure out your own priorities, then bring your behavior into alignment with those values. The key to teaching your children good time management skills is for you to learn them, first. "Do as I say do, not as I do" just doesn't cut it with kids. You have to show your children that you are in control of your schedule (not the other way around).

Re-Evaluating Your Child's Schedule


When you want your child to have every opportunity, it's easy to go overboard. But if their days are filled with an endless succession of structured group activities, there's no time to explore, daydream, and "just be a kid." I find it disturbing that children can't even knock on a friend's door and ask if so-and-so can come out to play -- they have to schedule a "play date" in advance. I'm not sure when society collectively abandoned the idea of goofing off as part of growing up -- but it's not a bad tradition to try and bring back. Leave some unscheduled time in your child's day -- even if it means dropping a few activities and limit their extracurricular involvement to accomplish this goal. They will thank you for it later when they grow up to be more balanced adults.        

One more quick comment here about priorities -- if you tell your kids that family time is important, but you find yourself working every evening and weekend, they will get the message, just not the one you intended. Do you really want to live your life like a cheesy Harry Chapin song? Set aside at least one weekday evening and one full day on the weekend as "family time" no one is allowed to schedule anything else so you can actually enjoy each other's company. Even you just order pizza and play board games, you will be teaching your kids that relationships are important, and you must make room for the true priorities in life.

Getting Organized


Have you ever had one of those frustrating days when no one in your family knows what anyone else is doing? At the last minute, Tommy asks for a ride to soccer practice, and Susie needs 3 dozen cupcakes for the class party tomorrow -- but Mom has a meeting that she can't get out of and Dad has to work late tonight. Chaos!

Sit down together as a family once a week and plot out each person's schedule for the next seven days. Hang a wall calendar in a high-traffic area like the kitchen, and record each person's activities in a different color pen (blue for Tommy, red for Susie, green for Mom, purple for Dad). You will immediately be able to see and correct scheduling conflicts, plan ahead for upcoming events, block off your "family time," and even plan the week's meals. Just be firm about your policy. If it isn't on the calendar, there is no popping up at the last minute expecting everyone else to rearrange their schedules. When Tommy forgets to tell you that he has a ball game on Wednesday night and you've already planned to go to your book club, don't cancel on his behalf.

Remember that old saying, "Your failure to plan ahead does not constitute my emergency." It's his responsibility to arrange a ride with a friend or he will just have to miss the game. And next time, he's more likely to put it on the calendar. I know it sounds mean, but it's time for a little tough love!


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posted on: 11/10/2009 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips


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Simplify Your Life


by Ramona Creel

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About Ramona:

I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!

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