“It’s just like a magic penny, hold it tight and you won’t have any/Lend it, spend it, and you’d have so many/They’ll roll all over the floor!” —”Love Is Something If You Give It Away,” a classic children’s song.
The whole point of being more productive is not stuffing even more work into your extra time. American workers have already achieved their most productive levels in history, thanks to the Industrial and Electronic revolutions. One of the core values that drives me, both at work and #OutsideWork, is the belief that the best way to show your love is with your time—both to others and yourself. What does it profit you to earn a million dollars, if you destroy your health and your family in the process?
There really are some things money can’t buy, though you do pay for them in other ways. The coin of this realm consists of personal time—and giving of yourself. Unlike time, though, you’ll never run out of compassion, soul, or love. Like the magic penny in the song, the more you give away, the more you have.
I’m not suggesting you embrace narcissism, but human beings can’t fully value other people or their work if they don’t value themselves and their “me” time. Yet businesspeople of all stripes, from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 CEOs, have trouble reconciling this reality. Whether driven by ambition or unreasonable leaders, they find balancing life #OutsideWork with the demands of their jobs nearly impossible.
Heart and Soul
Like most productivity gurus, I’m a big believer in taking breaks, because they allow you to take care of yourself. Even a brief nap or a half-hour away from the workstation can recharge your batteries and sharpen your productivity skills. So take coffee and lunch breaks and leave your office for a bit. Work on weekends only when you absolutely must, and always take your annual vacations. Even with three children, my husband and I have always arranged a one-week vacation in Hawaii, alone, each year.
When I’m home, I like to structure my day so I can greet my sons when they get home from school, attend their sporting events, and enjoy weekends with the whole family. I also make sure I see my daughter in college as often as possible, and my husband and I have a weekend date night just for us. If I’m going somewhere particularly nice, I’ll occasionally take him along, so we get a working “semi-vacation.”
Making room for time #OutsideWork keeps you physically healthier, too; scientists have proven this repeatedly. Stopping long enough to exercise, eat right, hydrate thoroughly, get a good night’s sleep, and do fun things that keep you sane are absolutely crucial, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out in my books and other writings. Straight overtime simply has too many disadvantages; after eight hours a day, you hit a point of diminishing returns as mental and physical exhaustion take their toll. Worse, it can make you ill. A well-known 2011 British study that tracked 7,095 individuals over 11 years revealed that those who worked 11 or more hours a day were two-thirds more likely to suffer a cardiac event—e.g., a heart attack or a stroke—than those who worked normal hours.
Trim the Fat
Most white-collar workers achieve their historically high performance levels by working harder, but not smarter. Healthy success requires both. The typical daily schedule contains many things you can easily cut. Those of us above a certain leadership level should delegate most of our daily tasks to others anyway, pushing them as far down the company hierarchy as possible. Money also buys time, in the form of personal services like lawn work, housecleaning, and grocery delivery. There are services that will happily do all those for you, freeing up hours per week.
If you’re working more than eight hours daily, you should focus on tightening up wasted time. Accomplish tasks in order of value, avoid spending too much time on social media, and stop answering email as it comes in. Establish an organized time management system, learn to say no to extra demands on your time, and reduce the time you spend socializing. Even a few extra minutes saved per day can get you out of the office a bit earlier, if you put your head down.
When you free up time, use it partly to look for more time you can save, but mostly to reward yourself with much-needed rest and fun. In a business arena where we work longer hours than we have in more than a century, time spent #OutsideWork is never a waste. It’s crucial for your survival as a well-rounded, healthy human being.
© 2016 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.