In the closing session of a recent Next Level Leadership® group coaching program, I asked the participants to talk about what had changed for them over the previous six or seven months. A number of them talked about how they had made changes to be more consistently present with their families during the course of the program. They had made simple changes like getting home by 6:00 pm at least three nights a week or staying off email for at least a full day during the weekend so they could focus on their partner and kids.
Essentially, they were scheduling the act of being present. The pace of professional life today can have you running so flat out that you don’t even realize you’re doing it and don’t realize what you’re missing in the process. By taking some time to recognize what they’d been doing, these leaders renewed their relationships with their families and, at the same time, renewed their own perspective. To a person, each of them said they felt more productive and creative at work because they had scheduled some regular time to be present with their families.
This past weekend, I did the same thing. My parents came out to L.A. for a visit and I more or less cleared the decks to be fully present with them and my wife and sons. (That’s the six of us on the beach on Sunday afternoon.) Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I did anything particularly heroic or notable here. All I did, following the examples of my clients, was schedule some time to be present.
Here are three simple ideas that worked for me that might make it easier for you to be present with the people who matter to you outside of work:
1. Plan Ahead: This past weekend with my parents and family was a four day event. As someone who uses part of most weekends to catch up on stuff I missed during the week, being present required more planning than I usually do. Beginning a couple of weeks of ago, I engaged in more planning than usual to make sure I wouldn’t have urgent deadlines that had to be addressed this weekend.
2. Unplug: About 80% of my smartphone time this past weekend was dedicated to taking or sharing photos. I checked emails occasionally but not excessively. The increased level of relaxation was noticeable.
3. Set Boundaries: There were a couple of instances where I had to do some work. An unexpected call with a client on Friday morning for example or writing this post for another. One of the things I do that is mindless rather than mindful is allow myself to get distracted by other tasks before settling in on the one I really need to do. I didn’t do that this weekend. When I had to break away, I announced that I needed to and said I would be back in 30 minutes or less. I found that making a declaration around time boundaries kept me really focused on the task at hand and enabled me to more present more of the time.
Those are three things that worked for me this past weekend in staying focused and intentional on being present. What about you? What do you do to stay present with the people who are most important to you?