leadership incorporated blog

October 16, 2011

Want more downtime? You’ll have to make an appointment.

25 years ago, it wasn’t possible to work this hard.

Without fax, email, and Internet, you couldn’t connect to the information or people you needed “after hours.” Nothing left to do but go home and have a life.

All the blessings of technology have brought us the curse of the endless business day. We no longer have “normal business hours.” All hours are fair game. More and more business meetings happen at 7am and 11pm.

If we’re awake, we’re emailing.

I remember a client who used to say “if you don’t come in Saturday, don’t bother coming in Sunday.” At the time, it was funny and prideful to have these extreme work habits that separated them from the rest of their industry. Now we don’t even have to “come in” to work all weekend. We don’t even joke about it anymore. We barely even think it’s extreme.

And it keeps speeding up. The faster we can do things, the faster we demand things. The more time we can save, the less we have for ourselves.

We think we have so much on our plates that taking care of an email or a meeting in what used to be “our time” will mean we don’t have to take care of it during our already full day tomorrow. We think we have to get it “all” done.

We feel that this is temporary. Just for now. Just till business improves. Just till things calm down.

We believe that if we aren’t responsive around the clock, our clients or employers will replace us with someone who is.

So, how do we live with this? How do we “work to live” in this environment? How do we not work ourselves into heart attacks?

Here’s the deal: This is not temporary. It is not possible to get it all done. And we are not powerless.

We made an appointment to be here. And now we’re making an appointment for what our lives will be like half a year from now. Through our thoughts and actions we lay the groundwork for our future. Whatever we set up now, we’ll be doing harder and faster in 6 months. Whatever we’re doing now will continue to expand.

So if you want to work even longer and harder in 6 months, don’t set any boundaries and keep setting expectations (especially your own) that this is how you’ll continue to work.

The business world used to set our 9-5 appointment for work. The leadership opportunity here is to start making our own appointment for how we work in our future.

How do we do this? By being intentional. If you want more life in your life next year, if you want your work to grow in ways that are sustainable, take responsibility for setting that up now.

Schedule time. Workout time, family time, you time. Time to sleep. Time to work “on” and not just “in” your business.

And honor these appointments the same way you would your client meetings.Follow the same rules. Yes, there are times you’ll cancel with a client— and ways to do that. Follow these same rules for yourself. When you cancel on yourself, reschedule. It’s common courtesy, right?

If you want other people to value your time, you have to value it first.

Here’s the upside: If your best brain time is after dinner and you want to take afternoons off,  you may well be able to create that. You could work at the times that are best for you. And play at the times that are best for you. A blessing/curse of the 24/7 workday is flexibility. And that’s something else you couldn’t have done 25 years ago.

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