Do you ever feel like you’re in the wrong place? Like you should be doing something else at this time, at this moment?

Well, I’ve spent a lot of my time in this life believing that I needed to be “somewhere else” and not fully participating where I was. Later, when I got back to work, I felt I had “missed out” on the experience I just left!

Eventually, I learned and read about presence, and realized I was cheating myself and those around me, while I was thinking and planning what to do when I left the party, or meeting, or coffee shop.

If you want to learn about presence, you might observe your family dog or cat. This week, my dog Samantha has her world turned upside down. “Daddy” is in Germany so her morning routine is changed. Her usual treat is walking with Daddy at 5:00 AM, running ahead and clearing the path of deer. (We all know how dangerous deer can be!) This week, Mom gets up at 6:00 and lets her out to patrol on her own. Is she upset? No. In fact, she seems to be enjoying the change, as she enjoys everything in her life.

Samantha is present. Regardless of what happens around her, she gives it her full attention. She has her habits, but she makes adjustments for the circumstances and reacts to whatever comes her way.

As we go into a holiday weekend, you might be tempted to think about working while you are playing. Or, you might wish you were playing, while you work a few hours to catch up. How can you stay present, enjoy your time, and still have a productive week-end? Here are a few tips that work for me:

  1. Start your day with a 10-minute meditation. In a special, quiet, dark place, set a timer for 10 minutes and close your eyes. Try to think about nothing. As thoughts come, let them go. Focus on breathing slowly and deeply. A holiday week-end is the perfect time to start meditation. You get three non-work days to begin your new habit!
  2. Make a list of what you want to do, see and experience during the weekend. Then, make a list of critical work items. Make a clear choice about what comes first and what can wait until Tuesday morning. If you must, decide on a discreet “work time” and stick to it.
  3. Set expectations. As you are planning activities, really talk with your friends, family or your spouse about their expectations. Want to meet at the park for a picnic? Sure, we can probably do that from noon to 4:00 on Monday.
  4. Manage your energy. Notice how much time feels right for an activity; then stick with that. A three-hour party is my limit. A 90-minute brunch feels right. I find that leaving an event when I am ready creates a feeling of “just enough” and satisfaction with the event. Children will want to push for more time, until they are exhausted. That’s why you set expectations.
  5. Leave some unstructured time. Have a morning, an afternoon, and maybe an evening during the weekend when there are no appointments to keep. This allows for true connection and intimacy with friends and family. It also helps you relax after keeping all those appointments in your work-a-day world.

If this all sounds a little too structured for you, you might be someone who lets life happen to you. I’ve found that I am happier if I choose my life activities. I love to set the stage, and then come to my life with the excitement of a child on their birthday. Who knows what’s in store? There are lots of presents when you allow yourself to be present.

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