When work follows you to the gaming table…

I’m sure you’re familiar with the popular sitcom, The Office, whether in its British or American versions.  They’re both excellent, for the record.

Regardless, it’s a story of people who never seem to leave the office.  Even when they leave the office, the relationships and issues seem to follow them!  And this experience is not foreign to us.

We bring our work home with us literally, emotionally, and intellectually.  We work on it at home.  We stew on it at home.  And we think about it at home.  And we even bring our work to the gaming table.

How long does it take you to engage as a player or GM?  How often do you find your mind wandering to the meeting earlier in the day?  Does your work end up wandering into your headspace during your gaming, introducing unneeded distraction and stress?

If it does, it probably leaves you asking: is it possible to disconnect?  Is it possible to just chill out and enjoy the evening without worrying about spreadsheets, projects, and emails?

I promise you: it is possible to disconnect.  And here’s how you can do it:

Recognize that there’s a problem

First of all, what is actually detracting from your ability to engage?  Are you distracted?  Are you stressed out?  Are you mentally worn out?  Are you emotionally worn out?  Are you simply tired?  It could be any of these things.

You can’t solve the problem if you don’t know what the problem is.  Think about it.  Talk to your GM or other players about it.  Talk to a significant other or close friend.  Figure out what is actually happening when you get to the gaming table that keeps you from engaging deeply.

Recognize the source of your stress

Once you recognize the problem, ask what’s causing this problem at the gaming table?  It’s not necessarily a bad thing that’s causing the problem.  In fact, more often than not, the most important things can detract from our gaming.  Our responsibilities at work and home are of utmost importance!  But when we’re gaming, the goal is to unplug and to enjoy.

Remember this: you cannot take care of your most important things if you’re not taking care of yourself.  And central to taking care of yourself is rest, relaxation, and play.  Gaming is a way to take care of yourself, so that you can address the most important things in life.

So what (potentially important) responsibility causes your issues at the gaming table?  What worries you and makes your mind wander?  Identify the source of your problem.  Just knowing what it is will put you light years ahead.

Choose to disconnect from that problem and its source

Recognizing a problem and its root cause neither solve the problem, nor eliminate its root cause.  As I said, they may actually be very important things.  But sometimes you simply need rest from those important things.

The ancient Hebrew concept of Sabbath fascinates me.  Six days, the Hebrew people were to work–and work hard!  But on the seventh day, rather than working they were to rest.  And they didn’t rest because their work was done.  No, they rested in spite of their work not being done.  And it was a reminder to them that ultimately, their livelihood and provision came from God, not their own work.

Now regardless of your religious affiliation, there’s a lesson to be learned here: rest is a choice to disconnect, not a byproduct of perfect circumstances.  If you want to disengage from whatever’s distracting you–if you want to immerse yourself in your tabletop gaming–it’s only going to happen by you choosing to make it happen.  You have to recognize these truths:

  • Concerning yourself with your responsibilities at the gaming table isn’t going to change anything meaningfully.
  • There’s always more work to be done.  So even if you tied up that loose end, there will be others to worry about too!
  • You need to be able to disconnect now, so that you’ll be able to better connect with these other issues later.

You must be able to say, “My work isn’t complete–that job isn’t done–that task list is still in motion.  But I’m turning off my phone, I’m unplugging from that world, and I’m plugging into this one.  I choose to focus on what’s present and to enjoy it.”

While this is only the tip of the iceberg, I’m curious what your thoughts are.  How have you combated these issues at the tabletop, whether as a GM or a player?  How have you overcome it yourself?  Join our new Facebook discussion group and share your thoughts!

3 thoughts on “When work follows you to the gaming table…

  1. For a while, three of us worked at the same place, currently two of us still do. All of my current game group work in the Information Technology field. So, yeah, we bring work to game night. How we manage it is we start out the evening with snacks and chatting. Work is allowed to be discussed during that time. Once we sit at the table together, we have an unwritten but agreed upon rule…no talk of work once the games begin. We settled on that years ago, we respect and honor that rule and it makes our games so much better. Not saying frustrations and stress are not in the back of our minds, but we consider game night special and we make every effort to all relax, have a good time ourselves, but also to encourage the others to have a good time as well.

    • It just came about naturally. We had some weeks where work topics were dragging on so one of would casually say, “Ok, enough of that, lets get to some gaming!” Over time, that stuck and we just all respect, and to be honest, cherish that we have this time to just have fun together.

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