Get Away – It May be Better for Your Business
By: Bob De Contreras
No Personal Time!
Over the past few years CEOs, senior
executives, and business owners have found themselves spending more and more
time at the office and at home working. In a recent survey of over 1500 CEOs
and senior executives, almost four-fifths (78 percent) of respondents say they
have 90 minutes or less of personal time during the workday. The majority (62
percent) of respondents have 60 minutes or less of personal time daily and 6
percent of respondents say they have virtually no personal time. The sad
commentary is that most of this free time is spent for meals. Less than a third
spends this personal time exercising, and one-fifth spends it reading or
These busy company leaders feel it’s
necessary or expected to drop personal activities to complete deadlines or meet
a deadline on a project. Executives in a committed relationship may need their
spouse to work extra at maintaining the home, caring for children, etc. If the
spouse is also engaged in income producing work, then a low-maintenance
lifestyle is a possible strategy for overcoming stress and time constraints. For
example this may include having no pets, no children, fewer vacations together,
smaller living spaces, fewer hobbies and little cooking. Many in this lifestyle
report that making exceptions in this area leads to significant expenditures for
child-care, house-keeping, and expensive, short vacations.
In another study on overworked employees
the study showed that overworked employees:
Were more likely
to make mistakes at work.
Were more likely
to feel angry at their employers for expecting them to do so much work
Were more likely
to resent coworkers who don’t work as hard as they do.
Were more likely
to feel higher levels of stress.
Were more likely
to display some symptoms of clinical depression.
Were more likely
to report health problems.
Were more likely
to neglect taking care of themselves.
Stress related to work, the busy work
schedule or feeling overworked can lead to lost sleep. Most of us need 7-8
hours of continuous sleep to feel good and function well, but we often get far
less with today’s busy lifestyles. Sleep deprivation affects our health and our
work. Insufficient sleep affects us by reducing performance and productivity,
decreasing alertness, straining relationships and creating mood changes.
One of the major functions of sleep is to
allow the brain adequate time to organize and store information during REM
(dream) sleep to improve thinking skills. The huge amount of facts, thoughts,
feelings and ideas we encounter during the day all require processing and
storage during sleep to allow us to operate at top performance levels. Top
performance requires the ability to:
Work with ideas
Handle difficult tasks
When we are tired from inadequate sleep,
our ability to think clearly, quickly and accurately is strained. Our brain
cannot complete its work properly, and our performance and productivity suffer.
Chronic sleep deprivation results in:
Inability to handle
Inability to comprehend
rapidly changing situations
Tendency to think more
Lost Family Time!
Not having sufficient time with family
leads to stress at the office just like workload and lost sleep. The rush to
get home to satisfy a spouse who needs more of your time or children who need a
parent to be there for care, school work or sports can lead to tremendous
stress. The executives who take their work with them on vacation and even
interrupt vacation activities with work are generating stress for themselves and
their family. Then there is the guilt that sets in after repeatedly
prioritizing work over family.
This stress or guilt leads to the same
distractions as in lost sleep:
What To Do?
Slow Down. Life is simply too short,
so don’t let things pass you in a blur. Schedule more time between meetings;
schedule adequate travel time; schedule planning time; don’t make plans for
every evening or weekend, and find some ways to distance yourself from the
things that are causing you the most stress.
Learn to Better Manage Your Time.
For many people, most of the stress they feel comes from simply being
disorganized -- and procrastinating. Learn to set more realistic goals and
deadlines -- and then stick to them. Only commit to 10% of what you know
you can accomplish. Then surprise those above or around you by over delivering.
You’ll find that not only are you less stressed, but your work will be better.
Share the Load.
Even though we may sometimes feel we’re the only ones capable of doing
something, it’s usually not the case. Delegate! This may require that you
provide some training to your staff so that they are able to accept the
Let Things Go. (Don’t Sweat the
Small Stuff.) It’s simpler said than done, but learn to let things go once in a
while. So what if you do not go to every customer meeting. Learn to recognize
the things that don’t really have much impact in your success and delegate or
allow yourself to let them go -- and then not beat yourself up for doing so.
Take Time for Yourself. You must
have a hobby, sport, or activity that you enjoy doing? Take the time to do it,
even it it’s only once a month. Don’t pass up poker nights with the guys; water
skiing once a month with your friends; hunting with a neighbor; skeet shooting
with your son; play on the town adult baseball league; or simply read a book if
that is your thing. You must take time for yourself or you will surely burn out
like a light bulb.
Explore Your Options.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with your workload, get help from your manager, a
peer or subordinate. Find a peer to handle the Wednesday evening customer
meeting so you can make it to your son’s basketball game. In many cases, you
have options, but you need to take the time to find them.
Sometimes it’s easier for us to allow ourselves to feel overwhelmed rather than
taking charge and developing a prioritized list of things that need to get done.
You can buck the trend. Develop a list. Set priorities. And then enjoy the
satisfaction of crossing things off your list.
Simplify. We too often take on too
many tasks and responsibilities, to try to do too much, and to own too much.
Find a way to simplify your work. Learn to say no to your manager. Many of the
manager’s “orders” are in reality “requests” or “what do you think about.” As
long as you are right and get results you can ignore some of those management
Company Recreation Room. If you
don’t have a recreation room, get one. If you do have one, use it. A game of
pool or ping-pong can relax you and also be just the thinking/planning time you
need to solve a problem. This casual environment can be a catalyst for better
communications with a coworker. Finally, it can be just the thing to reduce
stress, clear the air, or calm down an explosive situation.
Find a New Career. Some careers are
simply more stressful and time-consuming than others. If you need more time for
yourself or your family, now may be the time to explore careers that are less
stressful and more flexible.
Spend Time Away. Take a weekend
vacation each quarter where you completely disappear with your spouse. Take at
least a week long vacation each year with the family. No cell phone, no email,
no computer, no conference calls (your assistant knows how to find you in case
of an emergency; otherwise you’re completely unavailable for the duration of the
Date Night. Have a standing date
with your spouse on the first day of every month (or what ever day/date works
for you). Don’t invite friends; this is to have time alone with your spouse.
If you want to go out with friends, that’s a second date night in the month.
Create a ritual like giving each other a gift ranging in value from nominal /
silly (a whoopee cushion) to expensive / romantic (jewelry). Spend the evening
talking about the previous month and about the month to come, grounding
yourselves in your current reality and changing conditions.
Alternate Space. Have two homes –
one in town and one at the beach. Or, have an alternate home on the boat. They
should have office space which is clearly separated from the rest of the house.
Treat your alternate space as a retreat from the world and, a place where you
can do work away from the office. With this set-up you can plan retreats where
you plan to work away from the office for two days and play with the family (or
just the spouse) for two days over a long weekend (or longer).
Be Fully Present. This is similar to
“Take Charge.” When you are working, be fully dedicated and attentive to work.
When you are playing, be fully dedicated and attentive to play. When you are
with the family, be fully dedicated to and attentive to the family. Period.
investment in personal time, family time and stress reducing activities will
allow you to be more productive when you are at the office. With your
investment in personal and family time you will realize you are more focused,
less stressed, more productive, making fewer mistakes, better organized, and
better equipped to deal with changing business conditions when you are at the
Get Away – It May Be Better For Your Business Case Study
By: Bob De Contreras
We had been working with the CEO of a local
bio-pharma company. We met for regular coaching sessions that were helping this
CEO get more focused and deal better with personnel and growth issues. As is
the case with most growth companies this CEO was traveling extensively around
the country and working long hours at the office. He mentioned that he was not
getting enough time with his family and that he was concerned about the effect
his absence was having on his children.
It’s probably obvious to you that these
thoughts of wife, children and family were impacting this CEOs ability to focus
on his job. Clearly there was an impact on his effectiveness as he was on
travel wanting to be home with family rather than with customer and alone at
night in that hotel room. It’s also not hard to imagine how this CEO felt when
he was at the office late – his mind wondering to family and children. These
were distractions that robbed this CEOs productivity and caused him to have to
spend even more time away from his family.
Hearing the CEOs feelings about time at home
led us to explore his situation in terms of his availability of personal time
for any need. We asked about his hobbies and he said he only had time for one
and that was golf. We challenged him to think harder and let us know of other
personal time activities that he enjoyed or relaxed him. Then it came out. He
has a love of water skiing, he has a top of the line MasterCraft ski boat, and
he has not had the family or the boat on the water for over five years. The
discussion about the boat and skiing brought out visible mixed emotions – a
slight grin when talking about being out on the water on skis and a noticeable
frown when talking about the five years since being out on his boat.
We saw an opportunity to kill two birds with
one stone. We challenged this CEO to get the boat and his family out on the
water twice before we met again in 30 days. He accepted the challenge.
When we met again in 30 days we saw
something amazing – something we had never seem before (well, not very often).
The CEO had a smile on his face and he was walking with a spring in his step.
Not only that, but the entire staff in the office had big smiles on their faces
too. He couldn’t wait to say it… “I got the boat out after our last meeting
and had to fix two flat tires. I checked out the engine and everything seemed
fine. I cleaned it all up – the skis, boat and all the gear. I have had the
family out skiing twice and we have had a wonderful time. It’s great!”
He kept going out on the boat once or twice
per month with the family for the rest of the warm season. It was amazing to
see how many of the issues started to fade away as he was able to boost his
productivity and energy just by getting out with his family doing something he
Find your recreation, enjoy with your
family, and put a spring in your step.
* * *
This CEO is the
head of an accounting firm. She put in the long hours just like the rest of us,
but during tax season, saying she was never home would not be an exaggeration.
She was working weekends and nights. She was always short staffed. There was
always one of the staff who decided to leave during the busy season. It seemed
to her that she would never get a grove swing on tax season no matter how well
she planned for it.
The insult to
the injury was that she was constantly feeling guilty about being away from her
husband and small child. She had to find a way to find some time so she could
be with her family.
She came up
with a plan that could work. Her work took her to the offices of her clients.
She was in the car all day and by her estimate wasting 3 to 4 hours per day in
travel time. We talked about alternatives and she made a tough decision that
turned out to be an easy fix.
She told her
clients that they needed to come to her office for their meetings. Now, this
made sense since all the client data was at her office any way and if they
needed to look at some back-up material is was easily accessed. The transition
took about three months, and now she seldom leaves the office to travel to
meetings. She extended this policy to vendor meetings, networking meetings and
Now with time
in hand, she had to fix the family time issue. We suggested “date night” once
or twice per month for just her and her husband and she added Tuesday golf with
her husband every week.
I’m sure we
don’t need to tell you how this has helped her attitude, productivity, profits
(she was able to consistently sign on 4 new clients per month), and work
quality. And, that guilty feeling is all gone.
Brought to you by:
Bob De Contreras
RTBA | Cary | Greensboro | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park | North Caroliina
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