Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shifting Gears from Work to Play

As fall gets rolling, schedules are getting busier, school is back in session, and we are considering what we are going to accomplish this fall, at work and at home. This week, I encourage you to deepen your connection to those you love through making conscious transitions between work and play.

How and when do you connect with yourself and loved ones? Many people come home from work at 5:00 grumpy. Changing clothes right away, or showering right when you arrive home, can help set the stage for changing gears. Try to check in with yourself about what you most need at early evening. Reconnecting with your senses, by eating a crunchy apple, changing into your softest jeans and sweater,or going for a brisk walk or bike ride, can help you move out of your head and back into your body.

We need boundaries between work hours and downtime. If you work outside the home, try to leave unfinished work there. If you work from home, set and keep work hours and turn off work at the appointed time. Do your best not to fuse work into your personal time by turning off your computer and resisting the impuse to check work messages and e-mail on evenings and weekends. Be a boundary role-model for your work friends. Tell yourself 'STOP' when work thoughts come up on non-work time. Train yourself not to talk about work on off hours.

Exercise can help you get some fresh perspective and dissolve the tensions of the day. It can give you private time to process leftover thoughts from work and mentally 'take out the trash' before you spend time with loved ones. I have counseled several couples who improved the quality of their relationship by exercising after work BEFORE they meet up.

End your day with your easiest tasks. Use the last 30 minutes of your day to make copies, return phone calls or e-mail, or make a to do list for the next day. That will help you know where to pick things up on your next work day.

Make plans to meet up with friends or family after work. It will help you keep a tighter boundary at the end of the day. Reconnecting with small children at the end of the day by joining their play is a way to join their world, rather than expecting them to join yours. Most children and teens won't give you much if you ask a flat 'how was school?' If you can track other things they told you about their day and ask specifics, like,'how did the math test go you were worried about?',you will get deeper and be less rote.

If you are part of a couple, it may be fun to try this exercise. Make 3 columns on a piece of paper. In one column, write down how the two of you played together when you were dating. In the second, list how you have fun and play together now. In the third column, what you would like to do for play together in the future. Have your partner do this exercise, too, and you can compare lists and discover and rediscover a whole lot of good ideas for increasing the fun in your relationship this fall. Don't be shocked if your current list of fun things you do togrther is shorter than the two others. I often find that with couples who are busy raising their families. It just means it is time to refocus an having more fun with your partner, because, eventually, it is the two of you again when the kids go to college.

Teens can be a challenge in the family fun department, but keep trying. A live music performance or concert, a roadtrip, a movie and Starbucks outing, laser tag, or a meal out might all be fun ways to connect. Let them include a friend at times.

This week, remember fun is important for switching gears, reconnecting with yourself, your partner, and your family. When all is said and done, we will never regret not working more.

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