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Sunday, 27 January 2013

Working Really Long Hours and Proud of it? Do Yourself a Favour and Give it a Rest!

“All work and no play etc.” is one of those old adages which have become almost unnoticed as they sweep by.  Like most of these old sayings, there is a great deal of truth and common sense in it.

The world in which we live seems to be going faster and faster; perhaps it becomes even harder to catch up with what is happening around us. 

It constantly surprises me that leaders seem to look upon long hours as something macho; something to be proud of but without thinking about the reasons for working like that or the possible unforeseen implications.

I have had people say to me, proudly, that “I am first in the office on the morning and last out every night”.  So what?  If that is you, ask yourself what you have achieved in that very long day.

What has happened through the day which, frankly, you should not have been doing, and what have you been doing which other members of the team should have done?

It is not a bad idea to keep a journal for a week or so during which you work in your normal way, logging exactly what you have been doing and for how long.

Then go through the log with a large red pen and strike out all of those tasks which other people should have been doing or worse, didn’t contribute in any meaningful way to the success of the business.  It is a shock to see how we waste time, effort and emotions on something that is irrelevant or useless to us and/or the business.

This can be a salutary exercise but it really does demand scrupulous honesty or it will be pointless.  In any case, keep it to yourself – the idea is to adjust your working lifestyle to achieve optimum performance. 

We demand that of our people; why not of ourselves?

It is fair to say that a time log will throw up a range of anomalies in the way that we operate and can lead to a truly dramatic change in our working lifestyle.

Of course, it will demand action on your part to make sure that you change so another log will help after a short period just to monitor how you are doing.

I recall the story of a Vistage member who was doing the obligatory 70+ hours a week with virtually no time off for holidays or even short breaks.

His family life was beginning to show strains, as it would, and, worse, he was beginning to have health problems.  Fortunately his doctor laid down the law and told him frankly that unless he slowed down, the end was predictably nigh.

He took it on board, did the logging exercise, reduced his hours to little more that 20 a week and, lo and behold, he discovered that he was more productive, did everything that a leader should do, was happier and a better person at home.

Long hours do not make for great performance; get over the macho image and work smarter.  Work on that log for a start and surprise yourself.

As Vistage speaker Walt Sutton says, “One of the most important factors in the working life of a leader is “get a life”. 
Take time out to smell the roses.
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