This is the final post in a series that I’ve worked through on my favorite thoughts from Laura Vanderkam’s book, Off the Clock, which I found particularly pertinent to my life as a wife, mom to three, business owner, school volunteer, church member, friend, daughter, sister, and the list goes on.  And I know that many of you wear those same hats.

A few of the people who top my list.

First We Decide

If our goal is to attain that ‘off the clock’ feeling of time slowing, space to breath and seemingly all the time for what matters most to us, then it would follow the people closest to us are a great use of our time.  We see that this meaningful interaction requires deciding to give someone attention—without thought of what you may be missing or what else you could be doing.  

The people closest to us are worth the bother!  And they don’t just help us pass the time, but they can make the hours spent together that much sweeter.  This is such an important thing for me to remember when I get caught up in my daily grind of three children at home for the summer; with inevitable arguments, messy bedrooms,and all the rest that comes with raising three kids.  The best I can do is focus on the relationships I am building with each one.  

Then Create Space

So the question remains:  how do we create this space for relationships?  If the past is any indication, I know that waiting for the time to come when I’ll be completely finished working or cleaning up the house, or be otherwise completely relieved of all outside tasks is never coming.  If I waited for that to happen before I had quality time with each child or a date night with my husband, I’d be waiting forever. I know I have to prioritize those times ahead of at least some of my work and all of my household chores.  

If you’ve been following this series, you know I am a fan of the bullet journal and in addition to daily planning, it helps me keep yearly and monthly goals.  I plan in three categories: Personal, Professional, and Relationships. Setting some kind of intention at each juncture helps me at least become aware of the time I am or am not spending on each of my most important relationships:  my marriage, with each of my children, and then with various friends and extended family members.  

At the beginning of this year, my husband and I set a goal to have a date with each child, alone, once a month–so each quarter we’d see all three of our children in this one on two format.  After just a couple of months, we realized that is just not feasible and changed the goal to have a date with one child every other month and a family date with everyone in the other months.  

The basic point is that planning in this time is important.  Whether you have time to devote a whole day to a relationship or just a few minutes at bedtime, they can both be beneficial.  Vanderkam quips that you would not show up at work at 9 am with no plans until 1 pm, and when you arrive home at 6 pm with no plan or structure, that time can get sucked away with Netflix instead of dedicated, meaningful interaction with your children, spouse or friends.  Planning well means we prioritize these tasks.

Reaching Out

Vanderkam references Reach Out, by Molly Beck, which I promptly purchased and have almost finished.  She encourages ‘reaching out’ to colleagues, friends and acquaintances on most days of the week to increase your professional network.  I was struck by her message but want to take it further to my family ties. I have grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other more distant family members who I have seen more regularly in the past, who have become distances due to proximity and time, but want to rekindle some of those connections.  And I love the discipline of sending one note or call per day. Building a routine to stay accountable to myself and reach my goals.

This chapter prompted me to reach out to a group of moms in my neighborhood and church that all met up last summer for a discussion of a Christian podcast (Don’t Mom Alone is still fabulous if you want to check it out!) that we all listened to.  This summer I didn’t get started as early as I wanted to, but didn’t give up and we finally started getting together last week for a new study of Bob Goff’s, Love Does.

Take a moment to consider your relationship goals for the rest of the year.  What will you prioritize? How will you create memories with the people that you care about?  What will you gain from giving the gift of time?

Have you read “Off the Clock”?  What were your favorite takeaways?  I just lent my copy to a friend, but when it is returned to me, I’d love to lend it to you!  Reach out and let’s keep in touch! Because you are a great use of my time.