Humans are remarkably distractible creatures. It is so easy for us to become caught up in the wrong mindset, even if we started out on a strong footing. We need to maintain a perpetual mindfulness of our priorities in life and align our actions with those things that are most important to us.
However, remaining mindful of our values and goals in the busyness of action requires sustained focus, and that often does not come naturally. As distractible people, we easily lose track of the whys behind what we do when we find ourselves swept up in the momentum of actively working towards our goals.
When we are first beginning to plan for a life that’s aligned with our value system, I’m sure that most of us put our families very high on our priority lists. In fact, for many of us, our families and friends are the main driving force behind what we choose to do. We want success, connectedness, happiness and to provide safety and purpose for our children, for our spouses and for our beloved friends.
It’s an unfortunate tendency that relationship building, and the time and effort that it requires, is often overlooked when we get caught up in the work of goal-seeking. We tend to forget that relationships also require effort, or we may take for granted that our relationships will withstand neglect and poor maintenance.
The truth is, all relationships will suffer given a lack of attention. Relationship neglect is like a wedge. An imbalance of your attention may seem as though it is causing no harm at first, but as time goes on can easily develop into a huge emotional gap between you and those you care about.
Here are three things it is vital for you to understand:
- Failing to get to know your loved ones will drive them away. People change and grow constantly. Do not just assume you understand your loved ones well, or that because you got to know them long ago, you already know all there is to know. Spending time continuing to learn more about those you care about reaffirms your interest in them and draws you closer together. It keeps relationships fresh and dynamic.
- Not spending adequate time with your loved ones will drive them away. For most people, time is a very important factor in a relationship. Signifying through your choices that you enjoy and value spending time with someone helps them to understand their worth to you. Especially for children, this is crucial for the development of their sense of self-worth in general.
- Not actively treating your loved ones as if they really matter to you will drive them away. When a loved one repeatedly receives the message from your actions (or lack thereof) that they don’t really matter, the impact on their self-worth is not the only casualty. As they struggle with the neglect of the relationship and realize that you are at least partially at fault (even with children, who often tend to blame themselves), anger and resentment are likely to form towards you. This builds walls in the relationship that can make it more difficult to mend in the future.
If your loved ones are important to you, factor relationship building into your time management plan from the beginning. It is not wise to put relationships on the back burner and assume you can always fix the problems later. Many have been devastated to realise that for their relationship, it is too late. You’re not the only person in your relationship and you can’t decide for another person how much neglect is too much for them to take before they decide it isn’t worth it anymore.
Your family and loved ones should always remain a high priority, and living in line with your values means that you will act accordingly. Position yourself as best you can to be available to those who are truly important to you. If this means that you need to actually schedule this time in to make sure it happens, then do so. If it means that you need to sacrifice time spent on other things of lesser importance, then do so.
Always remember that you are the parent of your children. Being in this position requires an ongoing commitment to raising them well and being present and available. Building relationships with your kids takes time, both in quantity and of quality. You must factor the time needed to build strong relationships and do the vital work of teaching and disciplining your kids into your schedule.
If you find you’re running short on time for your kids or other loved ones, it is time to readdress your time usage in general. This does not, and can not, necessarily mean that every waking hour is spent with your family and friends. It’s important for you and your loved ones that you continue to work towards your other goals. Your kids especially need to see this as they are learning how to be productive adults too.
What it does more often mean is that you need to cut the fat from your time expenditures, streamline your processes and seek out the best possible balance. Perhaps you’re spending more time than you should be on pursuits that are less important or don’t fit in with your goals and values at all. These are the ones that need to be cut from your schedule, not the time you spend with those you care about.
How are you spending your time? Be honest and self aware as you appraise your schedule. Do you spend downtime on your computer or phone instead of interacting with your family? Is your alone time balanced with time spent with your kids? Can you rearrange your errands in a more efficient manner to cut back on transportation time? Are you spending more time on housework or other things because of disorganised habits?
If you will apply yourself with dedication to the task of carefully appraising and budgeting your time usage, you will be rewarded with both strong relationships and productive work. Actively seek that balance, organise for efficiency and pare away things that aren’t important to you so that you have time for the things that are.