How to simplify home life, free time for essentials
'My home scarcely runs like the proverbial well-oiled machine,'' admits Susan K. Jones with an engaging smile, ''and I'm not always the best policewoman when it comes to making my six-year-old hang up his clothes. But some of the time-saving techniques that many executives use in their offices have certainly helped smooth our way and free our time for those things we think matter most.''
Mrs. Jones knows a thing or two about time management. Besides being a wife and mother of two small children, she tends a full-time career from her office in the attic of the family's home in Grand Rapids, Mich. There, in her under-roof perch, she edits the Execu-Time Newsletter; handles special advertising and marketing assignments; and has w ritten, with Lauren R. Januz, a new book called ''Time-Management for Executives'' (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, $15.95).
Susan Jones, armed with a master's degree in advertising from Northwestern University, now also finds time to teach advertising and marketing courses part-time at a local college. Little wonder then that she added a chapter called ''Managing Home and Family'' to her time-management handbook for executives. She admits that she is, every day, proving her own pointers on what it takes to make a business or a household run more efficiently.
Since the ultimate goal of time management is to be more effective when you work and to have time left over for personal pursuits, she offers a few suggestions:
* Become a list- and schedule-maker and keep a calendar. Make ''to do'' lists for each week and each day and keep track of all family activities by getting the biggest monthly calendar with the biggest date squares you can find. Hang it in the kitchen. At the beginning of each month, fill in all regular appointments, such as ballet and swimming lessons, Cub Scout meetings, club and church meetings. Then fill in all special events, such as birthday parties, school plays, and every family member's social engagements. The big calendar then becomes an at-a-glance guide for meshing plans and for setting up chauffeuring and pickup arrangements well ahead of time.
* Stay flexible, but schedule even pleasant events like a dinner out with your spouse, or leisure time for unwinding and thinking long thoughts while on a non-hectic family vacation. Putting nice events on the schedule, as well as all the must-do tasks keeps life feeling rounded out and as if there is time enough for everything.
* Schedule a time for the family to be together each day. ''At our house it is breakfast, when everyone is fresh and cheerful,'' Mrs. Jones says.
* Block out some time just for yourself. Give yourself a regular ''peace-and-solitude'' quiet hour and teach your children to respect your private time. Don't think you have to be doing something ''constructive'' every minute. Look at a frivolous TV show, read a book or magazine, go for a drive - but have fun doing it.
* If you work at home, teach your children when you should not be interrupted. ''My six-year-old son knows I will have breakfast and lunch with him each day and be at the door to greet him and have a long visit when he comes home from kindergarten at 3:30. He also knows that he cannot run his trucks and trains around my feet during my office hours!'' Mrs. Jones says.
* Use the mails for paying bills; the phone and the mail for shopping.
* Avoid peak hours for shopping, eating out, and going to the movies.
* Have a ''financial corner'' in your home and keep all your money-related items there. Stack bills in a ''due'' folder or file and set definite times to pay them.
* Decide whether it might be more efficient to patronize a dry cleaner, auto repair shop, and shoe repair business near your work rather than your home.
* Keep sets of spare keys for car, home, and office in a safe, handy place so you will always be covered in case you misplace your main set.
* Forget perfection. It is an outmoded goal in two-career families. Strive simply to make everything reasonably clean, comfortable, and complete. ''At our house,'' Mrs. Jones said, ''everyone participates in a quick pickup just before bedtime, putting away toys, folding up afghans, stacking up newspapers and magazines, and clearing up any snack mess.''
* Establish a family communication center for notes and messages. A good place for such a bulletin board is right beside the kitchen door, where children can leave notes stating their whereabouts and where the day's chores or appointments can be posted.
* If you expect children to help with chores, take time to teach them the proper ''systems'' for doing the jobs. Never tell a child to ''do a load of laundry'' or ''clean the bathroom'' or ''start supper'' without patiently showing him or her exactly how it is to be done. Teach children the right way to dust, use the vacuum cleaner, and make their own beds, and that making one's own sandwich includes putting things away and wiping the counter afterwards.
* If you have a social calendar that includes many birthday parties, weddings , anniversay celebrations, or the like - and you have limited time to shop - sign up with a gift-buying service at a favorite store and let it take care of such matters for you.
* Keep meals simple, both for family and guests. If you scale down the formality of your entertaining, your guests will probably be relieved and do the same when they return the favor. Or join a gourmet club where you have to be host but once a year. The other 11 months you simply take one covered dish to somebody else's house.
* Keep your lives more simple by learning to say ''no'' to social engagements that do not interest you. Refuse politely and with thanks. This is much more sincere than a reluctant acceptance.