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Our Favourite Ways to Juggle Priorities as Parents

When you become a parent it can often feel like you're being pulled in too many directions at once, but it doesn't have to be that way! When you discover what's really important to you, it's possible to find balance


You may be enjoying the end of your summer holidays, or perhaps up to your eyeballs in new uniforms and kit bags as the children get ready to go back to school. Regardless, learning to juggle your priorities as a parent can make all the difference between simply enjoying a glass of wine on a Friday evening, and needing a glass!

As parents, we face seemingly endless 'to-do' lists and competing priorities, but what if you could actually ditch some of the things on the list? The good news is that - in the majority of cases - you can. You just need to take a step back and examine your priorities and goals, then consider what really needs doing.

We asked Emma, founder of 385 Smiles and mother to a five-year old son, for her tips on how to juggle priorities for a more relaxed and rewarding lifestyle. Here's what she had to offer...

Top 10 tips for managing priorities as a parent

1) Know what your priorities are

It sounds obvious, doesn't it? And yet how often do you find the things that really matter, that promote your health and happiness, are not happening because life has 'taken over'? You are not alone.

We've all been there, telling the children to amuse themselves because we just have to tidy the house. And yet, when asked what you value, the majority will put family time above a tidy house. So, how do you work out your priorities?

Priorities are simply a reflection of our values, and values, simply put, are the things we think are important in the way we live, work, and interact with others:

  • Take a step backFind a quiet moment and reflect on your top five values
  • Write them down
  • Do a time audit - write down your activities over the last seven days including the amount of time you spent on each activity. Now look at the extent to which the activities you are prioritising are a reflection of your values
  • Now consider the steps you can take to better align how you spend your time with what is important to you.

2) Know what your goals are

Now comes the good stuff, because this is where you get to choose what to spend time on. Rather than battling time - trying to cram as much in as possible and always feeling that there is not enough - what if you could choose what you spend your time on so that there is always enough?

How? Start with working out your goals; a fun way to do this is to create a vision board. Dig out some old magazines, a piece of paper, scissors, glue, and go for it! Find pictures that appeal to you; don't try and make sense of them, just cut and stick without judgment or censorship. The picture will build, and along with it will come an understanding of your goals.

3) Make time for what is important

Once you are aware of your values and goals, make the time for what is important.

The important stuff is the anchor in your diary around which all else must fit; have rules and principles around this and stick to them. For example, I have a non-negotiable rule that I take my son to school and collect him three days of the week. I fit my work around that, but for me it is important that I am there with him at the beginning and end of his school day more often than I am not.

4) Do less

Do what's necessaryIt sounds trite, but we live in a world where being busy has become a proxy for status. If you are busy, you are in demand, or so the logic goes. But what if instead of getting us somewhere it's just burning us out?

Be a minimalist with your to do list. What can you stop doing? The Pareto principle states that 80% of what we achieve comes from 20% of our input.

So, de-clutter your time. Go back to your time audit and your goals. Look at the things you did in the last seven days and decide which ones are helping you to achieve your goals and how much was just 'noise'. Eliminate the noise.

5) Run your own race

It's easy for me to say 'eliminate the noise', but I can hear you responding with "BUT, there are some things that I just have to do! I have to cook dinner... I have to go to the gym... I need to go to that party... I should invite my son's friend for a play date..."

The list of things that we 'have to' and 'should' do goes on and on.

6) Stop using these words 'have to' and 'should'

Try replacing them with 'I want to' when you are talking about things on the to do list. How does it feel? If it feels good, do it. If it jars, ditch it.

Remember, it's your race you are running and if you do the things you want to do and ditch the things you feel you should do, you will not only have more time, but you will also have more energy.

7) Replace the 'to-do' list with a 'done' list

Or, at the very least, have both. Which feels better: looking at a long list of achievements and signs of your productivity, or a long list of things that you have yet to do? They say it's cathartic to cross things off the list, but I sometimes find highlighting them makes them stand out more!

8) Learn to say No

It's fine to say 'no'All of the above suggestions bring me to the conclusion - you must learn to say no. Say it gently and with compassion but, please, say it.

I don't know many people who like saying no, but I know that I appreciate the honesty. When someone says no to me I know where their boundaries lie and I know that when they say 'yes', they are saying it because they want to.

The reasons people find it difficult to say no vary, but what they all have in common are assumptions. When you feel you 'can't' say no, it is because you are making an assumption about how the other person will feel or react in response.

Take a moment and think about the occasions when someone said no to you, did you want to end the friendship? Did it make you dislike the person? Did they get angry with you? Chances are, it didn't change much.

So, go ahead, practice in the mirror or with a friend, find the right form of words for you, and then do it. It will be cathartic!

9) Get the foundations right

Having the energy for everything you have to do is essential so, take great care of yourself and get those foundations in place. Think in terms of energy and not in terms of time.

I know that you already feel time-strapped, but think back to the last time you did something you loved; how much additional energy did it give you, even if it took some of your time? Eat well, sleep enough, exercise and do things that bring you joy. These are non-negotiables, not non-essentials.

10) Celebrate

With a lot to do most of the time, it is easy to feel like an uphill struggle, so take the time to recognise and celebrate what is going well, however big or small.

And a bonus tip...

11) Hire a coach

Do what you love

And if this all resonates, but feels too much, talk to someone. Sometimes a friend or family member can help you get to the bottom of it; however, coaches are experts in uncovering the things that hold people back, and in providing accountability to help you get to where you want to be.

More information and tips for managing priorities as a parent can be found at: 385 Smiles.

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