For most of us, regardless of our belief system, the holidays are a wonderful time. Its also the time of year when expectations are most out of whack, when we feel the most pressure to balance work, personal life and responsibility to others. Too often, personal life gets short shrift: we’re caught up in closing the 4th quarter and year-end, we’re invited to too many parties, we sleep too little and eat too much. We go through the parties and and meetings, where cell phones, tablets and laptops make sure we’re never separated from the world of work and its demands.
This lack of balance at a time when the world celebrates a season of joy and peace was brought home to me strongly this week. Three days were filled with non-stop negotiations. One day this week was lost to caring for a sick dad and another to doctor and emergency room visits for him – of course I tried to keep up with email, tweets and calls throughout. Then came one day, a free day, in which I granted myself the gift of no email or phone calls – so I could run top-speed through a few stores in search of perfect presents for family and friends. On the seventh day I stopped, shook my head and thought “So where is this work-life balance? What’s up with this hectic madness?”
Maybe, just maybe, leaders should try not to do everything themselves. Rosabeth Moss Kanter makes a convincing case in the Harvard Business Review when she shares, “You can have it all. It just won’t all be perfect.” I’d suggest taking it even further: find ways in which you can remove responsibilities from your to-do list. Delegate. Ask for help. Then try to make the changes permanent, so you have more space to think, reflect and listen on a day-to-day basis.
Here’s 5 things I’m planning to do this holiday season. With any luck, these tips will be part of my New Year’s resolutions too.
1) Disconnect from all your devices at a set time every day. If you have kids give yourself a couple of hours to ensure there’s time for dinner, homework or bedtime stories – whatever is age-appropriate and keeps you in touch with your family and friends. When everyone’s tucked up check your email one last time and make preparations for the day to come. If you don’t have kids, do it for yourself. If you watch TV, turn it off half an hour before turning out the lights. It will feel weird at first but then you’ll realize the world kept spinning, the business survived, and your staff was actually glad for the break.
2) Take a vacation. Seriously, a real vacation with limited smartphone connectivity. A friend who’s had a crazy year just found out he can’t roll over his vacation time – and there’s no way he can peel himself away from work for 15 days at year-end. Everyone loses – he’s stressed beyond belief, his spouse and kids are resentful, and his employer has a mentally and physically exhausted key man working on the thin edge of job satisfaction and productivity. Don’t be that person (and while we’re at it, shame on his management for a huge culture mis-step). Time away from work and the connected world is more than time to recharge – it’s time to rediscover yourself and what’s important to you and those you care for.
3) Delegate. At home and at work, delegate as much as you can. There’s no need for you to clean the house, mow the lawn or go to the grocery store – other people build businesses doing just these things. Sign them up! At the office, delegate what you don’t care about or aren’t good at – it’s a sign of trust and an opportunity for your staff to grow and learn, and the end result may be higher-quality (think PowerPoints and spreadsheets, for example) Focus your energy on what you do best; non-essential tasks should be delegated to others. And resist the urge to pick up your cell and check in on how your assistants are doing. Micromanaging from afar is still micromanaging.
4) Consider getting rid of one device. This is a tough one for those of us who love gadgets and expect to be always-on, but do you really need to be tethered to a smartphone, tablet and laptop at the same time? When you’re watching TV do you really need to be checking email? And let’s not even think about people who pull out their phones to check email when they’re out to dinner with a spouse or significant other. There’s connected and responsible, and there’s rude.
5) Go completely off the grid once a week. Take a day to shut your work-brain off. Observe the world and the people in it. Read, listen to what others say, take a walk or visit the gym. Spend time with family or friends. Work on the book you’ve been thinking about for 15 years. Take a class or simply sit and reflect. Life can be beautiful, but you’ll never notice if you’re checking your email, tweets or Facebook updates.
To paraphrase Dr. McCoy: we’re humans, not machines. My #TChat World of Work Community friends and Kevin W Grossman Judy Martin Cali Yost Tim McDonald and I are dedicating an entire week between radio and Twittertalking about this very important topic. We don’t need to be plugged in all the time to work well. In fact disconnecting from work and social media can make us work better, be more effective, and build deeper and better relationships. Try it, and give yourself a present that will last beyond the holidays – a present of peace and joy.
By Meghan M. Biro,