Work Life Balance

I was at a networking event a short while ago and the speaker stated that the average entrepreneur worked approximately 70 hours a week – and said it in a way that implied that to be successful everyone in an entrepreneurial business had to work 70 hours a week!

Needless to say, I stopped listening at that point and looked around the room. I noticed the tired faces, the greyed out expressions of a large number of small business owners who clearly empathised with the statement that 70 hours a week was to be expected – if they were to become established in business and successful.

This made me feel sad that  many people in that room were having to work so long and hard to earn an income … and also slightly annoyed that this was ever suggested as acceptable. It isn’t and it shouldn’t be.

On balance, while I understand why long hours might go into something one feels so passionate about that they can’t leave it alone i.e. I know many authors who can not stop themselves from sitting at their keyboard when their creative mind is set free and the hours just roll by. But working 70 hours a week just because it’s your own business seems unfair and doesn’t leave time for other things you enjoy … those other things are often the reason you started on you own in the first place.

What’s the answer?

Start to look at everything you are doing in your business and what and where your currently spending your time – look at your working practices, pricing, hours spent hands-on as against getting systems in place to get the business to work for you. Look at where you are losing time in unnecessary travel, appointments, meetings etc. Analyse your business activities over a two or three week period and then look for ways you can work more efficiently and effectively.

I guarantee by doing that one exercise and making changes to what you are currently doing you will find the long hours syndrome has firmly been knocked on the head.

A light-hearted look at ‘Murphy’s Law’

Something that crops up in business every now and again is ‘Murphy’s Law’, so I thought I’d shed some light on this in a humourous way.

Murphy’s Law states that “If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.”

In other words, if there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong

Extreme version:
 If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the FIRST to go wrong

Murphy’s Law happens on a daily basis, for instance:

• When you drop buttered toast it will land butter side down (unless it is strapped to the back of cat and in which case the cat will land right way up on all four paws).
• When waiting for a bus, every one that turns up is not the one you are waiting for. When you pop into the ladies or gents for two minutes, that’s when your bus turns up and goes without you.
• When you drop a valuable item such as a diamond ring, it will fall down the only drain visible in five miles!

And in business you may have experienced Murphy’s Law in action when:

• The photo-copier jams when you go to use it after functioning perfectly all morning for other people.
• Your printer cartridge runs out just when you have an important report to run off.
• Your boss walks in just as that personal friend rings for a chat.

Where did Murphy’s Law originate?
Interestingly, it was Edward A. Murphy, Jr. one of the engineers on the rocket-sled experiments that were done by the U.S. Air Foce in 1949. To test human acceleration tolerances (USAF project MX981).

One of the experiments involved having a set of 16 accelerometers mounted to different parts of the subject’s body. There were only two ways each sensor could be glued to it mount, and somebody methodically installed all 16 the wrong way round!

Murphy’s pronouncement of what had happened was quoted at a news conference a few days later. Within months ‘Murphy’s Law’ had spread to various technical cultures connected to aerospace engineering.

Quantized revision of Murphy’s Law says that: everything goes wrong all at once. Murphy’s Constant: matter will damaged in direct proportion to its value. The Murphy Philosophy: smile … tomorrow will be worse.

Best wishes for a brilliant weekend and for those pessimistics amongst you – thank goodness it’s Friday!

Stress, sickness, inability to sleep, work suffering and piling up … is this happening in your business? Truth is, it’s all too familiar.

As a trainer, I feel it is a duty to create an environment where people thrive. This doesn’t have to be kept solely to the training room.

Here are a few tips to creating a healthier, happier and less stressed workplace:

Tip No. 1

Plan ahead. Prepare and become organized. Set times into your diary for certain activities and keep to these time slots.

Tip No.2

Hold meetings out doors rather than in a stuffy indoor meeting room. Try walking through the park for 30 minutes to share ideas or discuss problems and finding solutions. There is a reason top executives say that more business is completed on the golf course than in their office!

Tip No.3

Ditch the radio and play Alpha music or Classical music in the background. It creates an environment of harmony which increases work ability and concentration.

Tip No.4

Add a sensory aroma to the environment. Orange or eucalyptus helps to stimulate the mind.

Tip No.5

Set yourself up for success and those people you set goals for too by making them achievable and realistic. Better to have smaller goals that you can reach than ones that will always be out of reach. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Of course all of these can be part of a great training session, but part of being a fantastic trainer is to share the things that work with others and to embed them into the organisation.

Taking just one or two of these tips and adding them into your organisation, you will soon evidence the difference they make in creating a harmonious, healthier and a happier, more productive workplace.

Imagine, it’s the middle of the week and you are meeting a friend for lunch. After a leisurely lunch, your friend suggests you visit the local park for a walk in the sunshine. You agree. And as you walk through the park you become aware of a band playing on the bandstand. The sun is shining brightly, butterflies and birds are enjoying the day and the music is gently soothing. Your phone and email are switched off and work is farthest from your mind.

The next morning you step into your office guilt-free, totally refreshed and looking forward to the day.

Dan Sullivan, Strategic Coach describes this as a Free Day. It’s a 24-hour period completely free from work-related problem-solving, communication, and action.

Can you imagine being in a position to do just that, have a totally free day? Unfortunately the reality for most business owners is that the scenario of a completely free day doing nothing but enjoying themselves is too far-fetched. There’s just too much work to be done to take time off, there’s money to make and commitments they have to keep to clients. There are too many balls to keep in the air and if they stop it will likely all come tumbling down.

Most people think that to have a free day that you must work hard relentlessly to be able to take the very occasional day off. That’s the reward for all their hard work. I used to think so too … until I learned otherwise.

You see, it’s more important and I’d even go as far as being essential for achieving success and optimum productivity. You need to take time to rejuvenate before your productive periods – not after them. Think about it for a moment. If you are totally refreshed and energized BEFORE you begin your productive work, isn’t that better than feeling tired and run down?

That’s something I’ve noticed about successful people. They block time out of their diaries when they don’t have anything to do with work. Their phones are switched off. Their emails are not opened. Their brains are switched away from the work environment. They totally detract themselves out of the workplace as a necessity to re-energize and to become more successful.

To replicate the results of successful people (which is a pattern we can all follow) I decided to pay attention to this. I began to schedule in some free days into my schedule. Was it easy to do? No, it certainly wasn’t at first. There was always something that I still needed to do, or finish, or an email I had to send, or some admin that I attend to and … well, I’m sure you know how it goes. And if I’d listened to that and given in to it that’s all it would ever have been … more work and no free day off.

But I really wanted to improve the quality of my work and personal life too. I wanted to have some free days to do some of the hobbies I loved such as playing golf, walking my dog for miles across country, or having a lazy lunch and shopping trip with my girls. And starting to do that has made such a difference to the quality of both my personal life and my work.

So, how do you switch from working so hard to actually taking some time off?

Some of this is to do with your mindset. Because when it comes to earning money, we think of having to work to make money. And if there’s anything left over after that, then this is the free time we allow ourselves. Often it isn’t anywhere near enough, if any at all. This concept doesn’t work for time or for money.

What you have to do is to book your free time off first. Then plan the rest of your working activities around that. It won’t come easy at first because it’s something you’re not used to. It takes time and practice to get it working in this way. But it will get easier and you will find that your free days are a necessity rather than a luxury.

And think about it. If you had a Ferrari in your garage and it was it was your pride and joy, you’d want to look after it. You’d take time to keep it clean and serviced. You’d drive it on nice sunny days not the messy raining ones when it’d get dirty. Your Ferrari would be an incredible asset.

What about your business?  Surely your main asset is YOU! Without you there won’t be a business. Without you, there is nothing going to happen. Taking time out for relaxation and total rejuvenation is what Stephen Covey calls ‘sharpening the saw’. It is a priority. You must make it a priority for you too.

What do you do on your free day? It depends on how you rejuvenate. For me it’s doing something active, going out or participating in sport or visiting a museum or the theatre. At other times, its simply reading a book, decorating the room I’ve promised myself I’d do, or watching a film with a close friend over a bottle of wine and box of chocolates (one of my favourite chill outs). In other words, it can be anything you choose it to be as we are all different people. We rejuvenate in different ways. If a day spent in front of the T.V. does it for you – then that’s it.

What’s most important about your free day is that it should be a world away from work, free from responsibilities, worries, concerns and even goals.

Don’t just read this and think ‘that’s a great idea’ as that’s not going to anything for you. Start right NOW. Plan your free day into your diary and stick to it. Make it a regular day that is sacred for you. Don’t allow others to infringe on it either – it’s just for you to enjoy as you wish.

I promise that you WILL be so much more creative and productive too!