Have You Earned Your Work/Life Balance?

Work life balance concept, 3d render, white backgroundThis past week I had the privilege of hearing a CEO address his workforce before I delivered one of my Lunch and Learn performance management talks.  He talked about the next year and what would be required of each of them to be successful.

Then he talked about work/life balance.

That’s a hot topic isn’t it?  It all started back during the Great Recession when those who were fortunate enough to HAVE a job pulled the weight of what used to be a fully staffed company.  It meant long hours and the sacrifice of family time.  As the economy improved, people still felt this imbalance and the outcry for more balance is deafening today.  Good performers continue to put in long hours and stay connected to the office in the evenings, on weekends, and even on vacation.

But not EVERY employee does this do they?

I heard an interesting stat claiming that American workers only put out about 67% of their full effort at work and yet 97% of them see themselves as top performers.  Admit it, you’ve seen your coworkers slack off and not “play until the whistle.”  Maybe you’ve taken more than a “rounds” off in your workweek.  Work/life balance then isn’t an entitlement, it’s earned.

Which is the point the CEO made to the group.  He had no trouble with people taking off early for appointments and other important events.  He DID have a problem with people not making up that time or not putting in effort when they were working.  I found that refreshing and important for all of us to think about.

Work/life balance is nice but it’s not free.  As a small-business owner, I know that any time I take away from work costs me something.  On the rare weeks I’m in town, I love to attend workouts at the Title Boxing Club in Clarksville, TN.  This means however that I need to leave at my house at 2:30 to make that 3:30 class which lasts an hour.  Then I drive that hour back home arriving around 5:30. My workout (Life Balance) eats up 3 hours of my work day.  That time needs to get made up sometime or I won’t adequately service my clients or gain new ones.  Thus my habit of waking up at 4:00 AM most mornings.  Work/life balance comes at a cost but I’ll pay it.

So what about you?  Are you lamenting a work/life balance-less life?  If so, make your request known to your boss.  If you have that work/life balance, are you “playing until the whistle” each day?  You’re paid for a full 40 hours.  Be sure you’re doing your part before asking for balance.

Get Off the Dead-End Road

deadendA few weeks ago I was flying home through the Orlando airport and noticed some major renovations to the food court.  An old favorite of mine, the Kafe Kalik restaurant looked like it was being replace by something else.  It was kind of sad, for that place was a solace for me at one dark period of time in my business career.

For a two –year period, I did some subcontract work for a client in Orlando.  The client was great.  The contractor I worked with was an absolute pain in my ass.  It didn’t take long for me to realize the project wasn’t a good fit, yet it paid really well and I got no sympathy from my family or friends for my misery.

Aside from a couple of people on the project, nearly everyone I worked with managed to rub me the wrong way.  For the first time in my life, I doubted my ability to lead a workshop.   Each time I left for one of these gigs, I was tense, stressed and one time actually became physically sick.  When the two-day workshop ended, I’d limp into the airport and park myself at the Kafe Kalik to de-stress with several beers and prepare myself to get home and recover.  It was a very unpleasant experience.

Finally I agreed (with myself) to do one last project with this group.  When finished (and after I got my check), I was planning to drop out of the project.  The contractor beat me to the punch, dropping me and a bunch of the other instructors from the project.  I was sad, only because I didn’t get the satisfaction of quitting, but elated that I was now free.  I vowed then never to take on any work that would stress me out that way.

What’s the lesson?  If you’re in a no-win, dead-end situation, get off that path and do something else.  I can’t tell you what I did with the large sum of money I earned on that project, but I do remember every stressful moment:  every incidence of wanting to smack one of my co-trainers over the head.  Each time where the contractor went out of their way to make me feel small and incompetent.  The sick feeling I felt on Sundays, waiting to board that flight on a Monday.  The fact that arriving in the Orlando airport didn’t have fond memories like it did when we brought our kids through there to Disney.

Life’s too short to tolerate misery.  I can tell you that now with 20-20 hindsight.  Why experience it for yourself when you can take my qualified word for it?



The Proactive Approach to Time Management

sign at the hospital points towards the emergency room entrance.When we lived in Maryland, we seemed to make regular trips to the ER at Walter Reed National Capitol Medical Center (formerly, and properly named Naval Hospital Bethesda!).  All of managed to get ill or injured outside of normal clinic hours so we’d often head to the ER out of necessity.

The ER was the last place I wanted to be.  Normally it’s packed and the wait time to get seen is at least 2-3 hours.  Then you wait another 30 minutes or so to get your drugs from the pharmacy.  I always packed my Kindle, iPad, and MacBook and prepared myself for a long wait.

Occassionaly though, we got seen right away.  Depending on the patient load, we were triaged in quickly.  Triage is the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition.  So if I go in with a sinus infection, I’ll be bumped down the priority list by someone having chest pain (I guess that’s fair) but it also means that it’s pretty hard to ever plan out your evening if you’re an ER staff.

One of the most requested classes I get is anything related to time management.  I’ve long advocated that you can’t manage time, only your reaction to it.  There is no magic solution for time management either since different personalities seem to all approach it in a unique fashion.  Maybe the best way you do it is by apply the principle of proactivity.

The ER is by definition a reactive entity.  There’s no predicting what comes through the door.  You can’t plan, only react.  When multiple patients come in, the triage process helps you sort out what’s most important, then of course that lineup changes if something more urgent comes in.

Proactivity can best be likened to a wellness clinic.  Wellness clinics work to treat proactively by encouraging healthy diet, lifestyle, and preemptive medical examinations.  By scheduling appointments at regular intervals, a person could possibly prevent conditions that would send them into an ER.  This would then allow ERs to care for only the most urgent illnesses (not my little sinus infection) and victims of trauma.

So how does this apply to time management?  Be proactive!  At the beginning of each day, visualize the outcome you’d like at the end of the day.  Some folks use a “to-do” list and put the steps down.  Others tend to follow a looser structure.  Regardless, by determining what’s most important early in the day, you can take deliberate steps throughout the day to get it done.  The alternative is to live out of your In-Box and by whoever calls you first.  Your day will be filled with emergent matters followed by down time trying to recover.  At the end of the day, you’ll still have those unfinished priorities but be completely exhausted by the reactionary approach you took to the day.

Outcomes in an ER aren’t always successful and they always cost – time, money, and sometimes more.  Proactive care may take time on the front end, but it’s possible you’ll gain much more later on.

This week, think of some steps you can take to be more proactive.  It might be more effective than how you manage yourself towards time now.  Who knows, it might even save you a trip to the ER!