How to Avoid Taking It out on Your Family: The Buffer

A young mother is working on a laptop on the sofa in her home with her baby sleeping in the push chair next to her.

At the Two-Brain Summit this year, I talked about our tendency to “swallow the shit”: to keep the stress bottled up inside. To protect our friends and family from the harder realities of entrepreneurship.

I shared a personal truth: that the hardest parts of my day are only eight steps away from my dinner table. That I often have to suppress my stress to shield my family from my frustration—and I have to do it fast, while I’m climbing the stairs from basement to kitchen.

On the day after the Summit, I was flying high. I got a couple of dozen emails telling me how much people loved the Summit and Two-Brain. I had a great, productive day. And then, at 4:55 p.m., I got a refund request.

Of course, it was super frustrating. But dinner was ready, so I pasted a fake smile on my face and tried to concentrate on what my kids were saying while I boiled over inside. But I was obviously distracted.

I should have had a buffer ready.

Building in Buffers

A mental buffer is a brief window between thinking about work and thinking about family or friends. For example, your buffer could be your drive home from work, it could be a nap, or it could be a five-minute meditation.

Entrepreneurs try to abruptly transition from “work time” to “home time” all too often. We bring our work problems to the dinner table, answer emails at our kids’ ball games and think about social media when we’re on dates.

The reverse also happens: You get up early to jump-start your day. You do some stretching, listen to a podcast and review your checklist. Coffee in hand, you head out the door in a focused, productive state—and you see dog crap on your lawn because no one walked the family pet the night before.

You’ll carry that distraction into every meeting all day. Your home problems will overshadow every text you send, every email you write.

You need a buffer or a brief recess between home and work. If you don’t have a buffer, your family becomes the buffer.

I suggest one of these:

  1. Take a 30-minute car ride.
  2. Take a five-minute walk.
  3. Read five pages of a book.
  4. Stretch five body parts for one minute each.
  5. Perform a 10-minute meditation.
  6. Do a crossword puzzle.
  7. Phone a friend.
  8. Watch a funny video on YouTube.

These things seem simple—maybe obvious. But if you don’t give yourself permission to have a five- or 10-minute buffer between home and work, you’ll ruin hours of family time by thinking about work.

Your brain doesn’t know how to turn off, but it does know how to turn the channel.


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