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My schedule received an overhaul after the first two weeks of starting an Executive MBA program. Going into this commitment, I blocked off two hours a day to study, six times a week, ideally after putting the kids to sleep. Then I quickly realized this is not nearly enough time for the volume of work expected of me. I can go over my chapter reading, but the assignments are what’s time-consuming. How can I add more time to a 24 hour day? Not possible. So I need to rearrange my weekly time landscape.

When more time is demanded of us for new commitments, it is easy to succumb to just dropping everything to pour your focus on the area that screams the loudest. But if you don’t approach this thoughtfully, you may end up neglecting certain areas of life that’s more fragile. I’ve seen it portrayed in real life, where parents get too busy for their kids that they grow up, and they’ve completely missed out on their children’s lives. In the US, for 2018, over 3/4 of a million marriages resulted in divorces and annulments*, per the National Vital Statistics System.

“What you fix your gaze upon is what you will pursue in life.”

- Jonathan Murphy

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In thinking through the theme of the Working Mom World blog platform, I came up with this: To be present in your kid’s life while you make a living. This premise is really toward the entire family relationship. It’s even more important that I invest attention and energy into deepening my relationship with my spouse. Raising a family calls for teamwork. Everyone has a role to play from the father and mother to the kids. I recognize that we’re all trying to make it work the very best we know how. You can pursue a personal or professional goal, but not at the cost of the family unit crumbling. Bill Butterworth reminded me that time and focus is what human relationship is designed to have. Families should grow from our attention and not suffer from neglect.

In a university commencement address given a while back by Brian Dyson, then CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, he spoke of how we should prioritize our commitments. The idea is that life is a game in which you are juggling balls in the air. There are life domains that are resilient like rubber, and they bounce back. But some balls are fragile made out of glass. “If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.”

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I submit that the two critical glass balls are family and health. Conscious of this, my integral action was to ensure that my family had my time and attention. Kids grow up, and then they’re gone. So be mindful of taking on an active influencing role in our children’s formative years. There is none as heartening as being present in your kid’s life while you make a living. I believe that we don’t have to sacrifice family for a career or, conversely, sacrifice a career for family. It just takes careful intention. Here are some ways to be consciously doing this:

Protect Your Time Commitments

Create a schedule so that you can have a full view of your day. You’ll be empowered to say “no” to things that disrupt your priority. Be vigilant against time stealers. Honor your time commitment, especially to your family. They cannot always bend to every whim of your busy workload. I encourage you to take the time to layout your ideal week. Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner solidified this practice for me. I usually do this quarterly. But when I have a significant schedule change, I find myself fine-tuning it often until I get it just right. Here’s how mine looks right now. I’ve revised it to make sure I have family time blocked off and properly labeled.

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Be Present in the Moment

When you are with your family, actually be present. Savor the moment. Take it in like you are mentally taking photos to deposit into your memory bank. These are what you remember: your loved ones’ precious smiles, the funny dialogues you have, the burgeoning curiosity of your children where the answers you offer fill in a gap in their comprehension of certain complex topics. Be conscientious about not burying your face on your cellphone during this time. Whatever it is, it can wait.

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Have One-on-One Time

Create bonding moments through quality one-on-one time with each member of the family. You can have depth in your conversation, and both of you can genuinely open up. You strengthen closeness and family values. You have a chance to listen closely and get to know one another. My husband and I can talk anytime we want on regular days. But we both recognize that having a date night where we go out just the two of us to connect deeply is essential. I am also mindful of having exclusive time with each of my kids whether we’re walking around the block, or sitting down with them to talk about their week, or cuddling them and giving butterfly kisses during bedtime.

As a busy working parent, we may get into moods where, after a full day’s work, we don’t want to think or do anything that commands more energy out of us. We want just to kick our feet up, relax and recharge, to be ready again for the next workday. But we can’t do that. We have responsibilities in our home life. We live for our loved ones, and we’re not living for one workday to the next.

To be able to quantify your priorities tangibly, I think you need to only look at two places: your schedule and finances. Where you spend your time and resources speaks volumes of what’s really important to you. You may be thinking the family is so important. But if you don’t even spend time with them, then what you’re thinking and what you’re doing are misaligned.

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When you are too busy, you must deconstruct your day. And like building blocks and bricks, go ahead and build it back up consciously putting in place the correct order of your priorities. You have the agency to do the right thing and find proper alignment. It takes thoughtful intention.

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Shiela Bernardo is an advocate for up-skilling in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field, as a self-taught computer programmer who started out in the US job market as a part-time massage therapist. She is now working as a Vice President of a Fortune 100 financial institution. Shiela is currently taking up Global Leadership Executive MBA in Business Analytics at the University of Texas at Dallas. She perpetually seeks to demystify how to keep the house clean with two active young daughters while working out her personal goals.  She looks out for opportunities to live a missional, purposeful life in the backdrop of ordinary daily experiences.  She blogs about family, faith, and finances in her spare time. She lives in Frisco, TX with her family. ♥

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