Dealing with the Necessities of Life : Setting Aside Time for the Basics (part 2) - Caring for the People in Your Family

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Caring for the People in Your Family

When we work on putting together a family schedule, we completely forget about the essentials needed to take care of the people in our family. As we mentioned before, we get so caught up in the extra, special activities that we overlook the basics that are crucial to health and happiness. We'll get to the extras later, but for now let's make sure we cover the basics.

Every person needs time in his schedule for the following:

  • Taking care of personal hygiene

  • Eating

  • Exercising

  • Sleeping

  • Socializing

Now is a good time to take out your spiral notebook and start making some lists. Each family member should have a personalized list of needs because needs vary based on age, gender, personal preference, and personal circumstance. For example, someone who plays soccer as an enrichment activity  will need to schedule less exercise time than someone who chooses chess club for enrichment. For each list, you should also indicate how much time each item will take and how often each item needs to be done. Figure 1 shows an example of the beginning of a personal needs list.

Figure 1. You'll need a list of each person's personal needs, along with frequencies and time estimates.

Just as when you have a paid job you must block out from your schedule the chunk of time you must be at work, you also must block out a huge chunk of your time for sleep. Individual sleep needs vary, but Table 2 will give you an idea of how much time to allow each person in your family for sleep.

Table 2. Average Sleep Needs Per Day by Age
2–12 months14–15
12–18 months13–15
18 months–3 years12–14
3–5 years11–13
5–12 years9–11
12–20 years8–10
Source: The National Sleep Foundation; www.sleepfoundation.org

Many people shave more and more time off their sleep block because they think this is the only part of their schedule in which they can get time to do the things they don't get around to doing otherwise. But by depriving yourself of sleep, you actually reduce the amount of productive time you have while you're awake because insufficient sleep


It doesn't take much sleep to make a huge impact.

Consider these facts:

  • Sleeping one hour longer at night generally boosts your alertness by 25%.

  • One night's sleep debt reduces the time to reach total exhaustion by 11%.

  • In the four days after we lose an hour to switch to daylight savings time, there is a 7% increase in accidental deaths compared to the one-week periods before and after that time!

  • Diminishes your energy and performance during the day

  • Reduces your ability to concentrate

  • Impairs your memory

  • Depletes your immune system

  • Reduces your motivation

  • Makes you indecisive

  • Causes you to lose your sense of humor


Don't wake up early to work out. The stress from the sleep loss cancels the benefits of the exercise!

In other words, what you lose in time by getting the sleep you need, you make up in increased productivity when you're awake.


Most people are familiar with the notion that while they sleep their bodies repair themselves, and most people would not be surprised to learn that during sleep the brain stockpiles neurotransmitters—norepinephrine and serotonin—that it will need for attention and learning when they're awake.

Most people also think that while they sleep their brains rest. Not so. Your brain is often more active when you're asleep than when you're awake. It's busy making sure it stays organized:

  • It grows neural connections to hold memories, analogous to your going out and buying a file cabinet and other filing supplies.

  • It goes through its long-term memory storage and decides to forget some things, the same way you'd go through a filing cabinet and throw out old papers that were once important but that you no longer need to keep.

  • It frees up capacity for new long-term memories, just as cleaning out your file cabinets gives you room to file newer papers.

  • While it's going through your long-term memory, your brain is also strengthening your memory of important stored events, just as running across old papers may remind you that you have them.

  • Your brain discards some short-term memories instead of moving them to long-term memory, similar to your throwing out junk mail after a quick review.

  • Your brain takes the new memories it's going to keep and which it stored temporarily in its hippocampal zone and moves them systematically into the brain's neocortal zone, similar to your sorting through piles of paper and filing documents where they belong.

In other words, getting enough sleep is directly related to your brain's ability to manage information. If you don't get enough sleep, your brain will become frantic, looking around for misplaced information the same way you become frantic looking around for misplaced papers if you don't take enough time to put them in their proper place.

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