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How Road Warriors Can Carve Out More Family Time

A CEO who spends a third of his year on the road reveals the lengths he goes to to keep family close through it all.

How Road Warriors Can Carve Out More Family Time
[Image: Flickr user Mrhayata]

Earlier this month, MongoDB’s Max Schireson stepped down from his position as CEO to transition into the role of vice chairman. The reason? Doing so, he says, will allow him to restore time and energy to the other big role in his life: being a father.

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A dialogue on how fathers should be balancing work and life is long overdue. While the discussion usually focuses on high-powered mothers juggling a career and a family, the Pew Research Center found that fathers still only spend about half the amount of time that mothers do with children.

Now more than ever, dads need to be focusing on how they, too, should strive to “have it all.” It’s promising that, with Schireson’s news, the work-life balance for dads is gaining more and more attention. While stepping down from an executive role won’t be the solution for everyone, it’s time for dads to reconsider how they approach the work-life balance.

To me, having it all means being able to excel both at the office and outside of it without having to compromise either sphere. As a Czech person with two kids and a global business, my schedule can be quite challenging because I’m always traveling. (In 2013, I tracked that I spent roughly one third of the year en route for business trips, conferences, and speaking engagements.) But a packed schedule shouldn’t mean it’s no big deal if I miss out on time with my family. When I’m away from home (Prague), my family and I keep in touch digitally. Other times–like this summer, when I had to be in New York for an extended period of time–we decided we’d all live in New York for the season.

Taking your family everywhere with you isn’t the solution every time (and shouldn’t be, as they have their own lives at home). Whether you’re at home or abroad, here are the techniques that I’ve found help me on the journey to being equal parts dad and businessperson:

Make Family Time Untouchable

There are countless articles, books, and seminars out there that teach us how to maximize productivity during the workday. These lessons can help us do the same with our personal time. One simple but often overlooked scheduling technique is blocking out time, and it works particularly well at home.

At the same time every day, I block out a minimum of two hours where I solely spend time with my kids. During this time, I don’t allow myself to do anything work-related, whether it be taking any phone calls or responding to emails. There are no exceptions here. This time allows me to connect with my kids without any distractions.

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This method works well for a couple reasons. First, it’s important for my kids to know that I’m fully devoted to them, and by spending regular, uninterrupted time with them, it shows them they’re not just a filler for when dad needs a break from work. Second, it’s important for others I work with to know that I have certain times that I can’t be reached. This helps them to manage their time and my time more efficiently. If they know that I have my family time from 7 to 9 p.m. every day, for example, then they know they can plan to connect with me during other times of the day.

Experiment With Your Schedule

Modern companies are surprisingly flexible when it comes to work schedules. The standard 9-to-5 schedule still exists, but it’s not as rigid as it used to be. It’s worthwhile to experiment with how and when you put your work time in.

Personally, I find that I can be quite efficient at night when I have no distractions. To maximize this “productivity time,” I often head out of the office a bit early during the week and opt for picking work back up later at night. This allows me to spend significantly more time with my wife and kids during the day when our whole family is at home. Then, once my kids are all tucked into bed, I can wrap up any work I need to finish while they’re asleep.

Switching from the work mindset to fully concentrating on your kids and family is a challenge. It’s something that I–and a lot of entrepreneurs that I hear from–often find difficult, but it’s a valuable growth area for anyone looking to balance the two spheres.

Small Moments Are Important Moments

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of the small, day-to-day activities you can do with your family. While it’s wonderful to plan, say, a two-week family vacation, it’s so important to interact with your family as often as possible on a daily basis to show them they’re an integral part of your life.

One way I do this is by taking my children to school as often as I can in the mornings before I head into the office. While taking kids to school might seem to some like a trivial process or even a chore, it allows for valuable face time with not only your children, but with other influential figures in your children’s lives. Regularly greeting teachers and other parents allows me to be more involved with the personal development of my children, and it means that I’m in the loop on what’s going on in their lives.

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These smaller moments don’t take up much time and may seem inconsequential, but they’re meaningful for your family and insightful for you.

Connect In The Right Ways

As the CEO of a social media analytics company, I’m a proponent of the opportunities that digital innovation has created. But with that said, technology can both help and hinder when used at home. A good rule of thumb is to use it when it allows you to connect effectively with your family, but to drop it when it takes away from your precious time with them.

Like many parents, my wife and I limit the amount of screen time our children get. We are generally against allowing our kids to use devices like iPhones and iPads at will. We find it more meaningful to engage them with other creative activities. There are a few exceptions, though. When I’m traveling on business, Skype and FaceTime are great ways for me to speak with my children and be a small, fun part of their day.

No matter your situation, it’s important to remember that the job of caretaker shouldn’t be limited to one type of person. Each parent plays a key role in their children’s development. It can seem difficult–even overwhelming–to balance work and family life, but if you get creative with your schedule, having it all becomes a lot easier. For the dads and moms that truly want to have it all: spend your time wisely.

Jan Rezab is the cofounder and CEO of Socialbakers, a social marketing and analytics firm. He currently lives in Prague with his wife and their two sons.

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