Simple daily routines add precious family time to your day

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

I needed one and a half more hours every day. I found better organization and planning not only made it possible to get the time for the six-mile run I wanted , but all in our family benefited from our new procedure.

It worked out best for me to run before I left for work. Afternoons and evenings I wanted to spend completely with the family. You may want that extra hour yourself, even if running is not the way you plan to spend your time gain.

When our second- and fourth-graders get their pajamas on at night, they also clean their rooms and lay out all the clothes they'll need for the next day. At the same time, I am preparing lunches and setting out anything they will need to take to school the next morning. When I tuck them in at night, I set their alarm clocks and make sure everything is in readiness for morning.

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The breakfast table is also set the night before. It's important to me that the morning meal be pretty, happy, and nutritious, so I set the table carefully with pretty dishes, napkins, and silverware. On each plate I place two different colored fruits and, occasionally, dry cereal. Usually I prefer to cook ahead brown rice, oatmeal, or whole wheat berries. This I dish up in cereal bowls the night before and refrigerate. I also put small pitchers of milk in the refrigerator. Then in the morning all I have to do is place the bowls and pitchers on the table. Everything else has already been done.

When I rise at 4:45, I can do my warmup exercises and be out running by 5 a. m. It's true that I run with the song of the stars, but it's a pretty, quiet time, and I love it.

The children's alarm will wake them at 6 o'clock. My six miles should end at home at 6:05, but if I should take longer, they will have risen without me. We practiced during the summer, and they know the morning rules: Don't leave the bedroom-bathroom area until (1) beds are made, (2) faces washed, hair brushed, and (3) fully dressed. Since clothes have already been laid out and rooms cleaned, these early chores are simple and are easily done while I am exercising at cool-downs, taking my own shower, and getting dressed.

By 6:30 I'm downstairs, ready for action, and the kids have usually started to eat. Dad runs too, and though his schedule varies more than mine, we all have to leave by seven, so the whole family has a pleasant half-hour together to start the day off right.

If there is a ''pet project'' in your future, maybe this method can give you extra hours too.

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