You cannot imagine the craving for rest that I feel—a hunger and thirst. For six long days, since my work was done, my mind has been a whirlpool, swift, unprogressive and incessant, a torrent of thoughts leading nowhere, spinning round swift and steady. ― H.G. Wells
How can you stay at the top of your game for the long run? Many managers and leaders ask themselves that question perhaps more than they want to. In an article in Inc. Magazine, a top executive said that any senior executive worth their salt has a true desire to lead but not only in their professional lives but in their overall life. They earnestly want an overall existence that truly allots them the time and energy to have and develop real personal relationships, the pursuit of decent health, family, and maybe, possibly enough time to go to a movie or a play. What is truly sad about all this is that the research shows that for most leaders or managers this all together may be “a bit of an overreach”!
Peter and Laura Wakeman the founders of Great Harvest Bread used “Handrails” to help achieve the elusive work life balance that too many fail to attain in their personal and professional lives. They developed these strategies over the course of 25 years of leading the company. Handrails are the rules that define the relationship between leader/manager and company that help make it possible to live that life that they want.
Here are three examples of handrails that I have used and found them to be effective. I challenge you to consider them in your quest to find the elusive balance.
- The “two day weekend rule. Simply stated, the weekend is the weekend, honor it and enjoy it. Don’t take work home and don’t take calls or answer them.
- The 1000 Hour Rule. Practice measuring the effective use of your time. Mark down the way you use your time. Is it spent on strategic, “A” level goals that are vital to your stated goals and priorities that are both urgent and important? Or are you spending too much time on the trivial things that clutter your life and work? Take stock of what you are doing. I guarantee if you can spend a 1000 hours in a year on the vital issues in life and work, the potential of success is going to grow exponentially for you.
- The vacation rule. Use it and use it in full. If you have 2, 3 or four weeks, make certain you take them. Ask yourself the question, “Do I work to live or live to work?” There is only be one possible answer for the effective leader.
Don’t allow intense times at work to confuse you and create the false pretense that you are irreplaceable. You are. If you have hired, trained and made clear your expectations, your staff 99 times out of 100 will do the job superbly.
At the end of the day however, it is not these “handrails” that matter, you will create your own if you consider this concept. It is really your awareness of them and the recognition of how important they are to your work and life. And while this concept of Work Life Balance Handrails might seem somewhat extreme to some, considered and applied in some way they ensure a real measure of success in creating the life you want and the professional business you lead or manage.
Normally, I only use a single quote at the beginning and the end of my work. They are meant to stir the pot and get you thinking. In this offering however I am going to end with two quotes instead of one. I think both are valuable and jolting in what they offer. I trust you will agree in the most positive way.
Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them–work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls–family, health friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.” ― Brian Dyson, former Vice Chairman and COO of Coca-Cola.
[Clayton] Christensen had seen dozens of companies falter by going for immediate payoffs rather than long-term growth; and he saw people do the same thing. In three hours at work, you could get something substantial accomplished, and if you failed to accomplish it you felt the pain right away. If you spent three hours at home with your family, it felt like you hadn’t done a thing, and if you skipped it nothing happened. So you spent more and more time at the office, on high-margin, quick-yield tasks, and you even believed that you were staying away from home for the sake of your family. He had seen many people tell themselves that they could divide their lives into stages, spending the first part pushing forward their careers, and imagining that at some future point they would spend time with their families–only to find that by then their families were gone. ― Larissa MacFarquhar