When I coach with families and share advice & recommendations, I often hear two messages from parents.
I’ve been so busy. We’ve just been so busy. It’s a crazy time of year. We have so much going on.
There isn’t enough time to ________ (talk about those things, address those things, make those changes, really be together).
Honestly, these are messages that I have personally voiced on more than one occasion and they are messages that I hear not only from my clients, but friends and family too.
While it’s easy to believe and accept that “this is just how life is”, the reality is that we are fooling ourselves. We all have busy moments, but this isn’t a “busyness” problem. This is bigger than that.
Families are struggling against a “noise” problem and that noise is negatively impacting personal life and family life.
You may be thinking, what do you mean by “noise”?
Noise looks different in each home. It may be those things you enjoy doing, but are doing in excess or at inopportune times (a simple boundaries issue). Or those things that you are in the habit of doing, but that don’t bring added value or joy to your life.
Regardless of what noise looks like in your life, it has the same negative consequences and affects us in similar ways. We may find ourselves:
Distracted and missing moments. What did you just say? What did I miss? What just happened?
Feeling like a portion of the day has slipped away. How is it already the evening? Where did the last hour go?
Feeling stressed, tired, rushed, agitated, over extended or short fused.
So how do we cut down the noise in our lives and improve the quality of our family life?
It’s a three step process that requires observation and awareness, as well as the desire to create change.
Pinpoint the noise is in your life.
Consciously minimize it.
Protect family time.
Pinpoint the noise in your life
Maybe you already know what “the noise” is in your life or maybe you have an idea, but aren’t ready to really admit it. Most of us have a sense of what noise looks like and feels like in our lives, but haven’t taken the time to really pinpoint it.
Below are some examples of what noise may look like in your home. When looking over the list, take a moment to think about what is distracting you, leaving you stressed and/or feeling like time has slipped away. Another way to think of this is what makes your mind or body feel tired or overwhelmed?
Cell phone texts, notifications, apps, emails (all the ways that we can be reached and distracted)
Social media (comparison, commenting, keeping up)
Work calls, work emails and work “emergencies” after hours
Social visits (visits from friends, family or neighbors at inopportune times and/or taking on more than you can/want to)
Too many projects at the house
Over-scheduled outings and “fun” activities (you're often too tired too enjoy)
Children’s birthdays and school social gatherings (there are times that these can even be excessive)
School and community events
Know that while some of these would be considered fun activities or just a part of a regular life, they can still feel like noise to you. This is personal and subjective.
This step is about bringing more awareness to your days and your weeks, so you can pinpoint what is creating noise in your life and in the life of your family.
Consciously minimize noise
Once you have pinpointed what feels like noise in your life, you’re going to make an effort to consciously minimize it. This part is about removing “the unnecessary”, setting limits and finding balance. I recommend getting your partner involved in this step, so you are on the same page and can motivate one another.
Cutting down the noise in your life may look like:
Only turning the television on when you are actively watching a program.
Removing notifications and apps that distract you.
Mindfully scheduling social outings and commitments.
Saying no to invitations.
Unsubscribing from email newsletters that you don’t read or don’t enjoy.
Setting clearer boundaries around work.
Protecting blocks of time to for self-care.
Part of minimizing noise is owning that it’s time to make a change and you’re ready to do the work. As soon as you do that, you will start to think of different ways to cut down noise in your life.
This is a HUGE step. By doing so, you are creating time, space and energy for yourself and your family.
Once you have started minimizing noise, you will begin to notice that you have more, be it more “present and mindful time” or less stress and more energy.
The final step is to protect this newly created space, energy and time.
Protect Family Time
The problem with noise is that it finds a way to creep into quiet moments and your hard earned noiseless space. “Yes, we are available. We don’t have anything scheduled today.” “I’m going to take this work call, we are just hanging around anyway.” “Sure, stop on over. We are at home.”
This is where having your partner to motivate and hold you accountable can be crucial! You’ll be doing the same for them!
In addition, to really break yourself of the noise habit, you are going to schedule in “unscheduled family time”. This means blocking off times throughout the week to be present together as a family without whatever noise is in your life (devices, commitments and expectations, etc.). The idea is that you are purging the unnecessary and creating space for what matters.
This can be anything from lounging at home to doing an activity together. The idea is that you are protecting that time and making a commitment to family.
You can start by scheduling this in one afternoon a week and add in more “unscheduled” blocks of time as you feel ready. Think of this as time to simply be together.
I would love to hear from you. What do you experience as noise in your life? What is one way that you consciously minimize it?