Posts Tagged ‘Work Life Balance’

Blackberry, iPad, laptops, internet; it is easy to develop addictions to the devices that simultaneously join and divide us.  There are now so many ways to remain connected to people that the line between our private lives and our business lives has become increasingly obscure. Managing business and personal relationships can be a tremendous challenge. People sacrifice their personal lives to develop better business relationships and race to get more accomplished at work. Bosses and employees are often expected to keep working long after 5:00PM and frequently miss important events and dinners with family. At night, they are wound so tight they get out of bed at 3:00AM to send out email. They know it’s not healthy, but they keep on driving forward. Some are fearful of what will happen if they don’t try to create miracles every day at work, and others are so driven and passionate about their work, that they just can’t stop themselves. The self -imposed stress is almost unbearable. Mental fatigue has become the new normal, and even though they know all of this can be personally disastrous, they persist.

Several years ago, I was interviewing for a sales job and asked my would-be manager what he was like to work for. He told me he works 10-13 hours a day and expects the same kind of dedication from his employees. I told him the position would not be suitable for me because I have a family and they are my priority. I added that I was willing to put in extra time when needed, but I could not do that every day. He immediately got defensive and told me that when he gets home at night, he does not open his brief case and he mows the grass on weekends. It occurred to me that he will come home one night and find his wife in bed with his neighbour. Needless to say, I didn’t get offered the job, and wouldn’t have taken it, anyway.

That guy made an impression on me, though. Over and over I see people giving it all up for the company. They never seem to realize how expendable they are. They foolishly believe that if they work hard enough and long enough, they will never be let go. The truth is, however, that the decision to let go of an employee is a business decision. When it is time to let you go, they will let you go because it suits them. They will focus on your shortcomings and completely ignore your sacrifices. They will never thank you for always being early and working late. They will never pay the legal fees you incurred for your divorce which was the result of your misaligned priorities. Likewise, no one gets promoted because they never take a lunch break, or because they missed twelve of their children’s concerts and a family funeral.

Entrepreneurs face similar challenges. They make themselves overly available in case of emergency. The computer is on all evening, the Blackberry is forever buzzing and the phone is always ringing, yet probably 98% of what takes them away from enhancing their personal relationships can be dealt with during a normal work day. It is a matter of managing time and setting priorities.

Just as we make decisions to be constantly available for business, we can make decisions to block off pockets of time to be available only to family and friends. Taking yourself off the grid, so to speak, will refresh you. Follow these simple rules for a month and see what happens:

  1. Use a phone with voice mail that is only for family and friends to find you and tell them when they can call you.
  2. Turn off the Blackberry and other mobile devices during social time with family.
  3. Make a rule not to work after 6:30PM.
  4. Don’t work on weekends.
  5. Hire an answering service to field business related calls after hours. Give them the criteria for what is urgent, and have them contact you under those circumstances only.
  6. During evenings and weekends, don’t check email or surf the net, even for fun. Go for a walk, or engage in some other physical activity instead. Include a friend or a family member, or just enjoy being alone.
  7. If you take a vacation, do not take electronic devices with you.

If you do these things, you will probably find that you are more relaxed, and that your personal relationships are warmer. You will also notice that your business did not fall apart; the earth did not break into pieces and that your desk still has a bottomless pile of tasks that you can now more effectively work on. What about your blood pressure? I’ll bet it’s lower.


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