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Child's Busy Schedule: Recipe for Mediocrity?

Prioritizing activities brings more success

As your child heads back to school, her calendar is probably quickly filling up with school activities, sport practices and games, and that doesn't even include her social calendar or time spent on homework. Most kids these days are being pulled in a hundred different directions and always seems to be on the go.

Offering your child many different opportunities and experiences is priceless, but the more activities and responsibilities a child takes on, the more likely things will be left undone or done poorly.

Your child will be much happier, confident and less stressed out when she makes the decision to prioritize her activities and let some things go. In order to excel in a particular area your child may have to make some tough choices. Trying to do everything may be a recipe for mediocrity.

The myth of having it all

I relieved myself of several unrealistic expectations and subsequent guilt the day that I realized the expression, "You can have it all," is a myth. I realized that I can only keep so many balls in the air at one time and if I get overzealous and add too many, they all come crashing down. Gravity gets me every time! 

  • Your child's resources are scarce. There are only so many hours in a day and she only has so much time, energy and money (meaning, your money). While it is easy to get jazzed up as you and your child schedule activities for the year, it is important to be realistic. She can try to focus on doing a few things very well and allow some other things to lag behind. Or, she can try to do everything, and the odds are that none of them will be done extremely well. You've heard the expression, Jack-of-All-Trades, Master of None! 
  • Juggling too many activities and responsibilities leads to mediocrity. Your child may be able to be on the honor roll, play a fall, winter and spring sport, and volunteer for the local animal shelter, but that probably means that she doesn't have time to baby-sit anymore and doesn't have as much time to hang out with her friends or practice the oboe. Your child will be much happier, confident and less stressed out when she makes the decision to prioritize her activities and let some things go. In order to excel in a particular area your child may have to make some tough choices.Boy juggling balls

No one is super human

Before the 2004 Olympic Games I gave a talk to a church group. During the question and answer time a woman raised her hand and praised me for being able to juggle my cycling career, marriage, job, travel and my responsibilities at home. She wondered if I had any tips and suggestions on how they could do the same.

I looked at her and chuckled a bit as I explained that I didn't always juggle it all very well and that something always had to give. I could train, travel, race, work, and spend time with my husband, but I hadn't dusted in a month, there was a pile of undone laundry on my floor, and I hadn't seen my friends in months. She looked a bit horrified by my answer, but that was the simple truth. (Hopefully this won't fuel your child's argument against cleaning her room.)  In order to be successful, your child will have to make the choice to focus her time and energy on what is most important to her and subsequently make sacrifices elsewhere.

Benefits of prioritizing

Teaching your children to prioritize her activities and responsibilities at a young age is important. It will help ensure that she is spending her precious time on things that matter to her and help her to find success.

  • Once your child finds her passion, specializing in it will bring her more success, and with success comes confidence.
  • Specialization also helps a young athlete hone other skills, like time management, discipline, work ethic and goal setting. Learning to prioritize is one of the first steps in developing skills that will help her in all aspects of her life.

Make a list

  • Sit down with her and have her make a list of her activities and then prioritize them from least to most important. You may need to explain that there are some things that are optional and some that are not. For example, school and homework are not something she gets to drop; school is her job and therefore needs to be her top priority. Don't be surprised if her priorities and yours are a little different.
  • Have her analyze her list and decide how much she can juggle and on which activities she'd most like to focus her energy. Knowing what her goals are will help her streamline her list.