Leaders: Balance Your Work and Personal Life

By Jeff Wolf

Time to Read: 2 minutes

A proper work and personal life balance continues to be a key issue for most leaders today. With the pressure placed on leaders to execute and perform, what steps can they take to extract the most joy from their work?

Leaders are working longer hours, making work-life balance a critical issue that won’t go away soon. Certainly, technology has a huge impact on our lives. Immediate access and availability through smartphones, instant messaging, and email, put great pressure on leaders to respond quickly to both large and inconsequential problems.

When I coach executives, I find that many are tethered to their devices. As a result, they often tend to experience a loss of focus, lack of energy, and decline in decision-making ability, leading to job burnout, high stress, divorce, and even alcohol or drug dependency.

One effective way to combat work-life balance issues is through time management. When you efficiently manage your time, you have a more balanced life, higher productivity, less stress, and greater job satisfaction. I usually recommend several key steps:

  • Learn to say no. As leaders, we are always asked to take on more responsibilities, deadlines, and commitments. It’s human nature to try to please everyone and expect more from ourselves, but we can easily accept more work than we’re realistically capable of completing. Saying no in a professional way prevents you from overloading your schedule and accepting more than you can handle.
  • Determine when you’re at the peak of your day. People have peak and low periods during a workday. Find your peak, and tackle the most important issues during that time.
  • Create a not-to-do list composed of activities that need to be completed, but needn’t be personally handled by you. Decide who you can empower to complete these tasks and delegate.
  • Empower others. Surround yourself with great people and empower them with decision-making responsibilities.
  • Establish a no-contact time. Close your office door for 15 to 30 minutes each day. Let everyone know that you’re not to be disturbed. Don’t answer the phone or emails or reply to messages; instead, choose to work on issues that require your most immediate attention.
  • Maintain your energy and exercise regularly. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and eat balanced meals. Go for five-minute walks two to three times a day.
  • Implement periodic stand-up meetings. Much of what’s achieved in a one-hour meeting can be handled in 15-to-30 minute gatherings where everyone stands. This keeps people on track and focused on resolving key issues quickly.

Work-life balance involves more than time management. Leaders must recognize the need to slow down, enjoy life, and replenish their energy supply daily. Having a balanced life takes into account all your needs, including family, friends, work, play, private time, exercise, and spiritual time. It’s a matter of getting your priorities straight.

We often say we’re working long hours for our families, but if we ask our families they’ll say they would like to have us around more. Think about the impact you have on your family by working long hours. Then take a few minutes out of your busy day and try to figure out how to cut back and rearrange your priorities.

The key to achieving a balanced life is building it into your schedule like anything else and then making it a habit. Start by making an action plan: Look at your schedule two to three weeks in advance and block out time for things you enjoy doing and people you enjoy being with. It takes discipline to do this, and discipline is what leaders have.

Making a commitment to work-life balance makes leaders more productive and better prepared to handle the daily tasks, while providing the time to enjoy life.

Jeff Wolf is the author of the international best-seller Seven Disciplines of a Leader. 

A dynamic speaker and highly requested executive coach he was named one of the country’s top 100 thought leaders for his accomplishments in leadership development and managerial effectiveness. 

 He may be reached at 858-638-8260 or jeff@wolfmotivation.com 

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Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Work/Life Balance

Source: Unsplash

It’s a retail tradition in the U.S. that the holiday shopping season starts the day after Thanksgiving on Black Friday. Retailers slash prices of selected merchandise, sometimes as much as 50 percent or more, to attract buyers and get the jump on Christmas sales. The lower prices are a bonanza for consumers and it shows in the massive number of happy shoppers who park outside retailers like Wal-Mart, Sears, Target and Best Buy many hours in advance of store openings. Those store openings are no longer confined to 5 am. Each successive Black Friday, retailers try to cram in more hours. Many now open at midnight.

Unfortunately, the joy that shoppers experience through buying a $1000 TV for $350 isn’t extended to employees of those stores who are forced to cut their Thanksgiving holiday short and come to work, many times Thanksgiving night.

Some retailers are bucking the trend. REI, the outdoor and camping equipment retailer, shocked the retailing industry by announcing it will be shutting down its stores for Black Friday this year and paying all of its 12,000 employees for the time off. In a letter to REI employees, company CEO Jerry Stritzke wrote:

 On November 27, we’ll be closing all 143 of our stores and paying our employees to head outside. Here’s why we’re doing it:

For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth.

 

We’re a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us.

The restaurant Chick-fil-A is a pioneer in work-life balance. Its founder Truett Cathy recognized the importance of rest for his employees when he first shut down on Sunday, a practice the restaurant has maintained since 1946. But Chick-fil-A has been the rare exception.

Until this year. Many retailers such as Costco, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Pier One Imports, and a host of others, now plan to at least shut down all day Thanksgiving, while remaining open for Black Friday. Lately Thanksgiving has been seen as one of the most important shopping days of the year, so this trend can be viewed as a welcome one for employees at these stores.

Asking That Important Question

I believe this change stems in part from leaders who are increasingly concerned that employees who work excessively long hours, especially around the holidays, are not as engaged nor as motivated as those employees who are provided the opportunity to balance work-life issues.

Leaders are beginning to recognize the need of employees (and the leaders themselves) to slow down, enjoy life, and replenish their energy supply daily. Having a balanced life takes into account all of their needs, including family, friends, work, play, private time, exercise, and spiritual time. It’s a matter of getting priorities straight.

They’re asking theses important questions: What’s essential for our employees? Do they live to work or work to live? These are simple, yet critical, questions. Working to live should pay the bills while bringing them satisfaction. Living to work, however, means they are likely making sacrifices in other areas of their lives: marriage, family time, going out with friends, hobbies, recreation, exercise, and other aspects of healthful living.

Anna Quindlen, the Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist, put it best. In a graduation speech at Villanova University, she advised students and graduates to “get a life.” Quindlen, who at 19 lost her mother to breast cancer, meant a real life, “not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, bigger paycheck, or larger house. Do you think you’d care so much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of saltwater pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the Delaware Water Gap, or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.”

It wouldn’t surprise me to see this trend continue. Partly because in recent years the start of the holiday shopping season has been shifted all the way back to Halloween, which extends the holiday shopping period for retailers that need to demonstrate annual sales gains. And also partly because leaders are recognizing that paying attention to the well-being of employees translates to employee motivation and retention.