Steve recently posted the question the best employees are necessarily overworked. While I don’t think it’s necessarily so, it does tend to happen in my experience.
I’ve been interviewed in the past about work/life balance and have some strong opinions on the topic. I’ll lay out some of my thoughts, and I hope you will share your own strategies and techniques for balance and productivity.
I have a natural tendency to volunteer for more work. I want to make a difference, and there are so many things I want to do. I’ve had to develop systems to combat this, because I’ve realized my time is a non-renewable resource.
I was once an operations manager who took my job home with me, just about always. There is a particular date with my wife I remember where I lugged my laptop along with me, just in case I had to remotely restart one of the cards in a base station that was acting flaky. That is NOT a good work-life balance.
My cell phone was always at the ready, and I tied myself to work even when I really didn’t need to. It was cultural. I thought it was my job. After that role in particular, my wife and I re-evaluated this paradigm of the always-on culture, always available at a moment’s notice.
Since then, I have a rule.
Unless there is an emergency of some sort, I work 45 hours per week maximum. Here are some of the changes I’ve made to keep my rule feasible.
1 – Eliminate multitasking to the full extent possible
If you increase your Results-per-Hour (RPH) you can get more done in 45 hours than would have normally taken you 60 hours.
Turn off email notifications and check your email at scheduled times during the day. Have some kind of system that keeps your email in check and not a time-suck.
2 – Make your meetings effective
How much time do you spend in meetings each week? What if you could reduce that time by 75% or even cut it in half, and still be involved where it counts? Many professionals could do exactly that, if they look hard enough.
3 – Empower your team
When you seek to hold too much control and decision-making power, your team will have to come to you a lot more than they should. By empowering your team they gain more commitment to the project and there is a nice benefit of freeing up your time.
4 – Set healthy boundaries
I once interviewed for a role where the hiring manager said (and I quote) “We expect you to work no less than 50 hours a week.” No mention of results and output… I was offered the job, and declined it.
If your current boss expects you to work for the sake of “putting in your time” or does not have any respect for your free time outside of work, it may be time to have a candid conversation and set some boundaries. It is not acceptable for you to be called while you are not at work unless there is a very, very good reason for it. (Note: If you are in an always-connected paradigm right now, this will take time and some convincing to change your environment.)
5 – Avoid “keeping up with the Jones’ ” at work
In some organizations, working 80 hours a week is a “badge of honor”. Not for me.
It’s strange, but in my experience many of the people who put in that much time (and ‘complain’ about it regularly at the water cooler) seem to be doing a lot of chit-chat and unfocused activity at work. I wonder if they are really producing 80 hours worth of value? I wonder how long they can keep it up…
Psssst… You know your work laptop? Guess what that’s for? Travel.
Just because you can take your laptop home with you every night doesn’t mean you should. There are times when I take mine home, but most of the time it stays in the dock on my desk. The majority of the time is during the winter when I think I might be working from home the next day due to a blizzard.
Voilà! More Time To Be Awesome
Now you can focus on doing some volunteer work in new areas to advance your career. If you’ve eliminated 15 hours a week and are still producing the same results, an hour of volunteer time or training each day becomes very feasible.
Share your thoughts below, that comment box isn’t just for pretty looks.