We live in a world where we’re always on, never really off… or at least it can feel that way. If we allow it to, our work can become all-consuming and creep into every aspect of our lives. There are pressures to perform, pressures to get everything done, and pressures to deliver. Do more with less is the expectation, and as tech has embedded itself in our lives, it’s assumed we’ll available whenever the world wants us to be.
When 9-5 becomes 24-7, how can we be present in the moments that really matter?
First, let’s focus on one of the most challenging areas, at home. When the day is “done,” however you define that, coming home can mean one of two things. It’s either a time to slow down and check back in with family and friends, or it’s merely a change of where you’re sitting physically, shifting from one workplace to another. If you’re looking to make coming home a time to check back in, here are three simple practices I use to make the transition from work to family and be present.
First, I try to wrap up my workday by thinking ahead to the following morning. For example, at the end of the day on Tuesday, I take my final 10-15 minutes to prepare for Wednesday. What’s coming up, what meetings do I have, what projects need attention, and what will my priorities be? If I can wrap my mind around these things, and get settled on what’s coming tomorrow, it eases my anxiety at home over the coming day.
As I’m driving from work to home (it’s a short drive) I try to transition my work day to home by thinking of some of the things I am grateful for. Sometimes those are things that happened during the day at work, sometimes they are things about my wife and the twins that I am thankful for, and sometimes they are as simple as blue skies and an open sunroof. That short exercise, setting aside some of my stresses and anxieties and replacing them with the things I am thankful for, prepares me to be present at home.
With that in place, as I walk in the door of my house, I try to immediately set my phone aside with the notifications silenced. I’m not perfect at it, but I know that I am like Pavlov’s dog. If I hear the ring or the ding, I will want to see what email, text, or voicemail just came in. Even if I don’t look at it immediately, I know my mind will spin in the background wondering who it was, even though nine times out of ten, it’s nothing that requires my attention. For me, it’s best to simply set my phone aside and be present in making dinner, checking in with Cristina, my children, and Bella, the dog. Then we can transition to the evening’s activities, whether that’s shuttling kids to play rehearsals and lacrosse, an evening walk, or time with the guys at Bible study.
I’m also somewhat religious about the concept of setting time aside for staying connected with the guys in my circle. Sometimes this is an early 6:00 in the morning breakfast or connecting for a quick lunch. Sometimes it’s a Friday afternoon brewery meet-up, a round of golf, or a summer evening at the ballpark. Making time for these moments, and creating spaces where conversations about life and our aspirations can be shared, is not only healthy but required.
Work will wait. If you need to, pick it back up later, once everyone slows down for the night. Challenge yourself to be present when you’re with them and don’t miss some of the best parts of your day because you weren’t present when they were happening.
It’s not just for friends and family…
It’s easy to think that being present is something that only applies after hours, once you leave the office. Consider this, though… How many times have you sat through a meeting where someone was glued to their laptop, or a lunch where they kept checking their phone or watch, and you knew they weren’t all-in on your conversation? Maybe they were 75% in, or even 90% in, but never completely present. If you’ve been on the receiving end of that, you know how frustrating it can feel. Being present shouldn’t be relegated to your time away from work – be present AT work as well! Go all-in on your meetings and your conversations. Give the people you’re sitting with your UNDIVIDED attention, and let them know how much they matter by listening with intention.
Being present requires being intentional, no matter if you’re at home, work, or with friends. Go deep and live in the moment. When you’re with a client or coworker, be with them. When you’re enjoying dinner with your family, really appreciate it. When you’re at a middle school lacrosse game or watching a play, be there. When you’re out with your best friends, focus on being with them. Like I shared in one of my past blogs, sometimes you need to slow down to speed up. Work will still be there later, and then you can be present and go all-in on that as well.
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