Can’t be in two places at once? Double booked? It’s not just one meeting booked over another, it’s something for your family at odds with a work commitment.
This is likely to cause stress and make you feel guilty. You’re bound to feel guilty because you have to let people down whichever you decide to do. You are also likely to feel stressed because it’s clear that you’re unable to be in two places at once.
Firstly, you need to decide how you are going to prioritise your work and personal commitments when they collide. This will be different for each individual. Each individual will want to make this suitable to them so there are dramatic differences, especially across different cultures.
Secondly, I’d recommend putting some time into your calendar. This means you have done some thinking in advance and you can avoid what possibly could be a very intense decision. When thinking about how to prioritise work and family commitments, explore these facts;
Values: To feel successful, you need to live according to your values. Ask yourself: what are my values in terms of the type of spouse, parent, and employee I want to be? What choices will I be happy that I made five years from now?
Culture: Every family has a different flavour in terms of what matters to them. Ask yourself: what kind of family culture do I want to create? Do I value eating meals together, going to kids’ activities, or spending quality time with my spouse? What decisions would be aligned with that culture?
Individual preferences: To some children, having you show up at certain events may be a big deal, whereas to others, it’s not. Ask them when it’s most important to them that you show up. Find out what’s important to them and ask them when they want the support. The key question is: what matters most to the people in my family?
Job Restrictions: Certain positions require more travel or more work outside of normal business hours. Ask yourself: what’s truly required? Where do I have flexibility?
Once you have figured out a way that works for you and makes your life easier when having to make decisions, you can then make decisions with less guilt or potentially no guilt at all, because you have planned ahead. You now always have the ‘values system’ to reflect back on and won’t be worried about what other people are thinking when you choose to either spend time with your family or focus on work commitments.
After creating an overall plan on how you want to address your family and work time routines, expand your options and think of how you can help yourself if you were able to be in two places at once.
Often people are completely engaged in making the one decision and then don’t actually consider other options. These are some of the other potential options to consider.
Virtual Presence: Being virtually present at the most important times can make a huge difference in how supportive you make people feel. An example of how to do this is to be there for your son when he is competing in a football tournament but check into meetings when he’s not on the football pitch. Reassure the people you're meeting with so that they know you are involved and you know the insights of what’s going on.
Delegate: When in the position where you can’t be in two places at once think about it, is there somebody who can take your place and go for you? At work maybe? Another colleague in your department. In other cases, at home is there someone who could help you by doing the school pick-up.
Time Split: Try and do both, manage your time so that for example you attend the first half of the meeting and are then able to leave and make the second half of your daughter’s netball game. Another example, sit in on the meeting but call your son just before his football match, then call again when you have a toilet break and then finally call when the meeting is finished to see how he got on.
No matter how well you plan, times will come up where work and family commitments fall on the exact same day at the exact same time. These situations rarely feel easy, however, with some reflection, you can reduce the guilt around your decisions and decrease your stress by finding ways to make your presence and support felt in both worlds, even when you can’t literally be two places at once.