Being More Present

balance family Apr 30, 2024
Physician playing with daughter.  Doctor learning to be present with family.



“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.”
―Eckhart Tolle



Q: “Daddy, will you play with me?”

Me: “Sure.  What do you want to play?”

Q: “Let’s play dolls.”

Me: “OK, sweetie.  Let’s play.”

Moments later, I start checking my phone, and my thoughts begin to swirl.  

  • Were there important emails I didn’t respond to this week?  
  • I need to remember to pay bills.  
  • Don’t we need to register for summer camp soon?  
  • When am I on call again?
  • Did I give the dog her heartworm medicine this month?

Q: “Daddy, why aren’t you playing?”

Me: “Umm.  Sorry, sweetie.  I’m here.”

Is that true?  Am I really here?  The answer is decidedly not.  I am physically here, but my mind is in a thousand other places.  I am physically present, but I am not present in the moment, and it feels terrible.  

When I first found physician coaching, this was a massive issue for me.  How can I be more present with my family?  I would spend my entire week at work, wishing I was home with my family.  But when the weekends finally arrived, I couldn’t focus.  The moment I sat down to play with my kids, I would become overwhelmed by everything that needed to get done.  A neverending to-do list stole my quiet moments of play with my children.  Within moments of sitting down, I would already be planning my escape so that I could start getting things done.  The guilt of not having spent enough time would hit me as soon as my kids went to bed on Sunday evening.  And the cycle repeated weekend after weekend on an endless loop.  Why did I do this?  What gives?

Several thoughts prevailed as I played with my children:

  • This is not productive. 
  • I am not doing the things that are needed to make life happen. 
  • If I am playing with dolls or cars or pretend food, I am not creating a better life for my family.  

Physician coaching taught me to examine those thoughts more closely.  Are those thoughts even true?

The truth is that the purpose of playtime is to have fun.  Playtime creates memories and builds relationships.  It teaches our children valuable lessons and helps them become curious and inquisitive people.  Playtime is part of what makes me a good dad.  So why can’t I focus?  Why can’t I be more present?  The more I asked myself these questions, the more I felt ashamed and guilty for not making more time for play.

The answer is time management.  I had never allotted time for everything that needed to get done, so my free time felt like a free-for-all.  In those few moments I managed to escape my clinical work, all of the other life-related tasks flooded my brain.  Focusing on what was in front of me was challenging because I didn’t have a plan for my limited “away from work time.” While playing with my kids, I was thinking about paying bills.  While paying bills, I was trying to remember if I had finished the laundry.  And so on.

The first step toward remaining present with my family was to create a plan for my time:  

  • Make a list of what needs to get done
  • Prioritize the list:
    1. Urgent and important
    2. Nonurgent, but important
    3. Urgent but not important
    4. Nonurgent and unimportant


  • Forget about anything that falls under categories 3 and 4
  • Assign time to complete jobs in categories 1 and 2


By focusing on essential tasks and creating time to complete those jobs, I reassured myself that everything necessary would be accomplished before returning to work on Monday.  And when I could see that everything would get done, I didn’t have to be distracted while playing with my kids, and I could allow myself to be present and fully attentive.

You might be wondering: But how do you know how long it will take to get everything done?  Parkinson’s law is the adage that work expands to fill the time available for completion.  If you allow yourself a certain amount of time to complete a task, then hold yourself accountable for completing the job within the allotted time, you will achieve your goal.  Ever wonder why people do their best work at the last minute?  It isn’t true.  They did the same work they would have done ahead of time; they just constrained themselves to complete the job at the last minute.



As humans, we tend to overestimate what we can achieve in a short amount of time and underestimate what we can accomplish over a long period.  There is a learning curve to this process.  If you don’t get it all done on the first try, you can adjust how you manage your time in the future.  No matter what, we need to remember always to show ourselves grace.  We are all trying our best and taking steps to become the best versions of ourselves.  

Some might read this and question the logic.  You might think it sounds terrible to allot time to your children in the way you might allocate time to a task like paying bills or rebalancing your investment account.  But assigning that time permits you to know that everything will get done.  Then, when your mind begins to wander, you get to remind yourself that you are exactly where you need to be.  Doing this lets you be incredibly intentional with your time and fully present with your family.  

I learned to accept that I could never play with my children enough.  They will always want to play more.  But to be a good dad, I don’t need to play with them all day.  Allowing myself the time to focus on my kids helped me to create the memories and relationships I wanted and needed with my children.  It also allowed me to recognize that I need to spend time accomplishing other tasks that will create an incredible life for my children, even when I am gone.  I know that I have not conquered being fully present at all times with my family, but it is a journey I won’t let up on until I succeed.


Are you ready to stop feeling distracted?  Do you want to create a deeper connection with your family and friends?  Are you tired of always thinking you are supposed to be doing something other than what you are doing?  Maybe it is time to think about creating a better physician life.  Could physician coaching be the answer?  There is no better time to find out.



Feeling stuck and trying to figure out "What's Next?" I invite you to download my FREE GUIDE: The 5 Essential Steps Every Physician Needs To Figure Out "What's Next?"

This resource offers practical, actionable steps to help you take back control of your career, set clear goals, and make consistent progress toward the life you genuinely want.



PS.  I get a lot of inspiration from music lyrics.  Many people use inspiring quotes (and I do too), but music really speaks to me.  I hope you find inspiration in the songs too.


Paul Simon - Father And Daughter



Click here for the lyrics



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