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Be where your feet are - How to manage your time better

By Joan Bell, Enterprise PMO, Arbela Technologies

I returned to my chair after taking a business call on the sidelines of one of my sons’ lacrosse games.  I was informed by the other parents that while I was attending to business on my phone, my son made a fabulous play and scored.  Unfortunately, I missed it. 

As the PMO that oversees projects across the globe, the ability to shut down has proved extremely challenging.  Keeping up with resources in multiple time zones and client projects in several countries, and cities takes time.  A side effect of the rapid growth we have seen in our organization, for me, had unfortunately become multi-tasking during family time. 

Too often our attention is divided and we try to do several things at once.  Especially us ladies.  We're wives, moms, and professionals.  We're expected to multi-task.  And yes, we can multi-task, but ultimately something will suffer.  We can complete all the tasks, but are they completed with the same level of excellence if we had taken one at a time and truly focused? 

Challenged by my children, I have made a conscience effort this year to "be where my feet are".  It's a phrase my youngest son coined in our home when he realized I was not enjoying the amazing resort pool while in Cabo, Mexico because I was answering work email on my phone from the lounge chair.  And he was absolutely right.  I was physically there but mentally engaged elsewhere.  It broke my heart to realize that I was only partially there and my kids wanted all of me engaged.

I've been reading articles on productivity and implementing little improvements to help me focus on the tasks at hand while at work so I can focus on the people I love when at home.  Here are a few that are working for me:

  • I shut work email off on my phone on the weekends and vacations.
  • We don't allow electronics at the kitchen table during meal times.  That is our time to share in the adventures of their days. 
  • I ignore emails that come thru during their games.  I say ignore because if my husband and I have to go to two fields, we text to update each other on the other game.
  • I take my phone to meetings but turn it upside down during them.  If it rings, I know it is something urgent from my kids.  Otherwise, it can wait until I return to my desk.
  • I've converted the dining room into my office.  My husband now has the whole office downstairs.  It keeps ups from distracting one another so we can each focus and get things done.  It also means I cannot see my computer when we have movie nights so I am focused on my family.

I'm working hard to make sure I am productive, not just busy and when I am disconnected, I am focused on "being where my feet are".  My boys are teenagers, and every opportunity to participate in their lives is invaluable. We have had some deep and heartfelt conversations because we have been equally engaged and therefore understand each other's perspective.  And since my husband and I are both on the same page and in the same conversations mentally, we can more appropriately support each other and the kids.  I'm still a work in progress, but so far the rewards are definitely worth the efforts.