I live in an amazing part of the east coast that allows me to spend time in the water year round. There are several spots right by our home where I can snorkel without much effort. Today was one of those days where the tide and sun aligned along with a day off from work. I entered the water, submerged, and glided with the current along the rocks just inside the inlet. At that moment I was in a whole different world. All I was thinking about was the myriad of colors all around me. There were schools of bait fish, big snapper, blues, spider crabs, and stone crabs peeping out from under the rocks. I love the sense of adventure in not knowing what I will see. Every now and then I would stick my head above water to keep alert of my above the surface surroundings. What makes it even more amazing to me is that this is my backyard. I don’t have to plan a vacation to see these things I just have to make time. Two hours passed and it hardly felt like I had been there for 30 minutes. The time flew by and when I returned to land I felt refreshed.
It is so important for each of us to take time to refresh ourselves. For some it is hiking with their trusty ol’ dog and others it might be curling up to a good book. Whatever it is for you the important thing is that you take the time to do it. We were not meant as human beings to work all the time. One of the things I stress is work life balance. It has been alarming to me over the years how many people that I come across that struggle with this balance of work and life. Balance is something I struggle with personally. I know that when I unplug and take time for myself I am a better husband, father, employee and leader. Yet, the in bin is always full. Think about the last time you took a day off. Did you come back to more work? I have even heard people comment that being on vacation wasn’t worth it because now they have 1000 emails to respond to. As leaders we really need to pay attention to this warning signs and look at ways we can really give ourselves and others a true day of rest.
This disease of constant contact with others is not healthy. You might think it strong to refer to our constant connection to work, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as a disease, but think about it. One definition of diseases is any harmful, depraved, or morbid condition, of the mind or society. When we start to think that we cannot disconnect from our work, that is a harmful condition. As a leader we must model the behavior we want to see in others. We must be willing to unplug and give others permission to do the same. We cannot demand of ourselves or those we work with a balanced life. Balance is a constant effort, there will be times like today for me where I feel very balanced and then there will be times when I know I am way off kilter. Here are some practical things we can all do to help foster a work life balance.
- Turn off your phone. What! That is almost obscene to suggest such an extreme act. If you need to, let someone in your organization know you will be going “dark” and ask them to cover for you.
- Stop emailing your staff and peers at 11:45 in the evening. Unless you work the graveyard shift it can wait. Sending emails at all hours of the night sends the message that you can be reached at any time and if you are sending these late night emails to your staff then you are making them feel like they need to be working 24×7 too.
- Use your vacation days. There was a commercial a year back, no idea the company, but I do remember part of the commercial. There was a boy about 6 or 7 and he said forfeiting vacation days was the stupidest thing he had ever heard of. I agree.
- Take Lunch. Yes guard your lunch hour. You are not a slacker just because you take a break and get out of the office for an hour.
- Figure out what refreshes you and block off time on your calendar to make it happen. Yes actually make appointments for your personal time just like you do for your work engagements.
- Find someone you can confide in. Make sure you have a sounding board, accountability partner who can call you out with love when you are off balance.
“Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls– family, health, friends, integrity– are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” ― Gary Keller, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results