2. Make a few solid commitments that matter to you (once a month is enough), keep them and “own” them.
While you are at these events, be fully engaged, not scanning your phone or distracted. Talk to and listen to others. People remember how you behaved and how you made them feel, more than how often you appear. So show up, be magical (offer your undivided attention) and then disappear until next year.
3. Have an honest rejection paragraph ready.
For a wide variety of invitations and asks, you can give an identical reply, so prepare a quick paragraph you can cut and paste to respond to opportunities you do not plan to attend. This sounds crass and insincere but is actually the opposite. A warm, prepared response that leaves the door open is better than a hurried reaction or a flat “no/cannot attend.” Consider a version of “my work demands have been so enormous lately that I’m struggling to keep up and still make time for the people I love. As soon as I get out from under, I’ll get in touch because I want to connect in a quality way.” Having a prepared statement like this can be a major time-saver and benefits from being honest, while keeping the door open should you decide to engage in the future.
4. If you expect to be especially busy for a certain time frame due to family or work obligations, say so in advance and in writing.
Again, craft a prepared statement which designates the time frame during which you will be less available than usual (or unavailable) and a brief reason (courtroom appearance, child’s surgery), and send to all concerned including friends and colleagues. This type of notice avoids you having to reply to emails while you better focus on the issue at hand. It manages expectations, and once the time frame is over, you can take a day to reply only to truly important messages that require it.
5. Whenever possible, make your kids your personal assistants.
Depending on the discrete tasks of your job, involving your kids nails many birds at once. If you have an oral presentation for work, practice doing it in front of your kids and solicit their opinions. Ask them to help choose your outfit, take photographs at an event, etc. This not only allows you to genuinely prepare, but allows your kids to better understand your work responsibilities. It will raise their self-esteem enormously to be your personal consultants contributing to your career, and it’s less important that you use their suggestions than that you involved them in decision-making. In my experience, you’ll be surprised how useful their feedback can be (i.e., ”you don’t sound serious here, that color makes you look terrible…”). Kids don’t lie!