This is my first post in nearly a month, and that last post was about panicking at work, so I guess you could say I’ve been busy! I’ve been leading some major overhauls at my company which have, predictably, caused some unintended consequences. So between that and spending time with family there hasn’t been much time to blog. Along those same lines I’ve recently had to decide between family time or getting important work done much more often than I’m comfortable doing. Being the leader on these changes and having an international team across several continents and time zones has meant it’s been close to impossible to unplug. It’s also taken extraordinary feats (and overtime) by those in our warehouse to keep us from falling too far behind with all the software and workflow changes, so it seems strange to leave the office before those guys, even if it’s just to go home and work some more.
Before I was married and had a kid I faced these sorts of things all the time and they didn’t bother me that much. Back then I had nothing better to do than to work until midnight each night for the sake of pride and accomplishment, but having a family has changed my priorities dramatically as I think anyone with a family can relate to. So then the question is, are my days of absurd overtime over? Am I not able to do these crazy feats for my employer anymore? Or am I just in a phase right now where I need do whatever it takes to get the job done regardless of it’s impact on my family? Or is there a win/win situation where I can achieve both goals? Being a relentless optimist, I’m going to opt for the third option. So here is my own outline for trying to create a balance with a demanding job. Maybe it might give you some good ideas, and maybe you can even add your own tips to the comments. Lord knows we could all use some help with this.
- Don’t waste time “unwinding”. What I mean by this is watching TV or kicking back with a couple beers when you get home. I’ve fallen into both traps and not only will it make you tired, but it’s not in any way “family time”. You can’t complain about not getting enough time with your family if you’re indulging in either of these things when you could be spending time with your wife and kids, and if you’re tired, suck it up! You can be sure as hell that TV and booze won’t make you feel any more refreshed. It may take some serious effort the first few times, but setting the right priorities will pay off and be beneficial in the long run.
- If there’s no end in sight, work towards a new end. In other words, if your job is going to permanently require overtime and excessive amounts of attention from you, you’re better off finding a new job. Working through a large project like I am is one thing, but if it is the norm to always work all waking hours you’re just going to burn out. Do yourself and your employer a favor and find a better fit.
- Dedicate prime hours to your family and work around their schedule. So obviously most of us work on a fixed schedule, but you can take those extra required hours and spread them out as intelligently as possible. So for example I work from 9-5 but have an hour commute on either end. So I usually wake at 6, go to the gym and am back by 7, then I get an hour to eat breakfast with my family and play with my son. Then when I get home at 6 I take 2 hours to play some more and hang out. Then after 8 I’ll get back to work once he’s going to bed. This is much better than staying late for me so you’ll rarely see me in the office at 5:01 pm. Of course like with any routine I fail at this regularly (especially the gym at 6!) but this is what I shoot for daily.
- Know when your colleagues need you. Last week we were running behind and some sort of injection of energy was needed to get things back on track. For 2 days I helped the guys in the warehouse load containers full of outgoing orders and we smashed our record of shipments in a day. You can’t just bail on your colleagues or employer in the name of family time and leave them to deal with the mess. It’s important to be there for them and make sure they know you’ve got their back. Not just in speech but also in practice.
- Don’t waste time at work. Along the same lines as my first point. You need to use every minute you get wisely. Bring lunch and eat while you work, close the office door to discourage distractions, focus on the issue at hand, and delegate what you can. Are you really not able to get the job done in 8 hours or are you maybe being a hero or a martyr?
- Cherish the weekend. The few hours during the week to spend with your family will only get you so far. You need at least one, preferably both days of the weekend to completely disconnect from work and focus on your family. Don’t let work sneak in and take your focus. You’ll me much more productive on Monday morning if you can pull it off.
You may notice my points are tilted towards the family stuff more than the work stuff. I think that’s because the work stuff seems to come easier to me than the family stuff. To me at least, and I suspect fellow workaholics, to simply keep working away is easier than taking 2 hours off to spend time with your family. So whichever one is your weaker side needs to be the focus of your initial behavioral changes. The other likely comes naturally already.
What other tips can you share on getting through a period like this? I’m a rookie with just a one year old so I’m sure there are more experienced people out there with better insights. I’d appreciate any tips in the comments!