How to Spend More Time with Your Family This Summer (Even When You’re Fantastically Busy)
[Editor's note: following is a guest post by Laura Stack]
If you’re like most of us, family is one of the biggest reasons: you want to provide a good life for the people you love. Which makes it all very ironic, since working long hours keeps you away from your family…the very people you’re working so hard to provide for. It’s a vicious circle.
Remember that old song “Cat’s in the Cradle,” where the busy father missed out on his son growing up because he was too busy working…only to have the tables turned when he retired? It’s not just a song. Things like that happen every day in the real world.
The lesson here? Just this: the best thing you can spend on the people you love is time.
Letting work intrude on family time should be the exception, never the rule. You need to be unplugged sometimes—not just for your health, but because your family, especially your kids, need you to be there. So if you don’t want to look back on your home life with regrets, then it’s time to make a bigger hole labeled “FAMILY TIME” in your schedule, and to build all kinds of barriers around that time to keep it sacred.
Here are a few basic concepts to help you get your priorities straight:
- Organize your schedule, and stick to it.
- Focus fully on your family during family time. Turn off your personal electronics, including the TV, computer, and cell phone.
- Don’t fall for the “quality time” shtick. The quality of the time you spend with your family does matter—but so does the quantity. An hour of quality time isn’t going to make up for ten hours when you should have been there but weren’t. And incidentally, “quality time” is not synonymous with “spending money on your kids.” What your family really wants is your attention, not your cash.
Once you’ve got those concepts solidly in place, start working toward ways to give more of yourself to your family. Here are some ideas that pop quickly to mind:
- Rearrange your work schedule. If you want to see your kids off to school, schedule your workday to start a bit later than normal. If you’d rather be there when they get home so you can enjoy the whole evening together, start earlier.
- Do training over the Internet. Instead of being gone for days at a time for seminars and training sessions, attend webinars online. It’s still a relatively new option, but the technology is growing by leaps and bounds.
- Telecommute. See above. If you don’t have to squander time driving across town when you could be communing with family, why should you?
- Hire household help. If your free time is limited, you shouldn’t have to spend it waxing the floor. If you can afford to, hire someone else to do it.
- Have a sit-down meal together. This is a wonderful option that has become rare in this busy era. Turn off the TV and get some face-time with the family. If the family is just you and your spouse, I recommend the occasional candlelight dinner.
- Combine business travel with vacation. When you can, bring your spouse and kids along when you travel for work. Even if you can’t be with them the whole time, you’ll be together most of the time, and they can have some fun exploring when you’re working.
- Limit your kids’ extracurricular activity. I’ve got this theory that parents who try to stuff their kids’ schedules full are subconsciously preparing them for the business world. But if you do that, they won’t be around for family time. Instead of sending them off to Little League or ballet every single evening, keep them at home sometimes so you can enjoy each others’ company.
Now, I realize that not all these ideas are possible or even practical for everyone. But they offer a place to start, at least, if you’re really serious about spending more time with the family—and you should be.
I’d love to hear your ideas on the subject, so feel free to drop me a line!
For nearly 20 years, Laura Stack has presented keynotes and leadership workshops internationally on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today’s workplaces. As the founder and president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., she helps individuals, leaders, teams, and organizations achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®.
She has implemented productivity-improvement programs at companies such as Wal-Mart, Cisco Systems, UBS, Aramark, and Bank of America. Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of employee productivity and workplace issues, Laura has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, USA Today, and the New York Times.
Laura has been a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, Xerox, Office Depot, and Day-Timer, and she is the 2011-2012 President of the National Speakers Association (NSA). She’s the bestselling author of five books, including What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do and SuperCompetent. Contact her at TheProductivityPro.com, facebook.com/productivitypro, or twitter.com/laurastack.