Work Life Separation

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We get a quick note on the weekend.

“Sorry to bug you about work on a weekend, but I need…”

Or a text late at night.

“Hey, sorry, I know it is late, but can you send along…”

And there was an email early in the morning.

“Sorry, this is last-minute, but can you give us a call right away…”

These requests were simple. They took just a few moments of our time.

We enjoyed being able to respond. It didn’t even feel like work.

There was a time when we thought we needed work life separation.

There was a time when we thought this divide was important.

There was a time when work felt like work.

Over the past few years the work life separation wall has slowly been dismantled.

Brick by brick, the need to be distinct and have boundaries has faded away.

The work life separation wall has become a smeary, messy, blended tapestry.

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When our work, and life is about helping others, both happen at interesting hours, times, and moments.

It doesn’t feel like work. It isn’t distinct from our life. It just is.

We live and work at weird hours when there is a need. There are no office hours.

We aren’t counting the days until we retire. We just live.

We live and work in various locations, and at various times.

We meet the needs around us throughout our entire journey.

There is no longer a need for the work life separation.

The absence of that artificial barrier sets us free.

 

Here or There?

“Are you here or there?”

The question seemed simple enough. The originator was concerned with geography and location.

“We are glad you are here.”

A simple statement. An appropriate welcome to a meeting.

“When will we be there?”

One of the most common questions in (my) life.

Somewhat fixated on the original question, my mind kept bringing it forward.

“Are you here or there?”

Are we present in the moment or always looking for some other distant event?

“Are you here or there?”

Are we distracted when I should be focused on those people or events right in front of us?

“Are you here or there?”

Are we enjoying the ride or impatiently hoping the destination will come?

“Are you here or there?”

By focusing on this question, maybe we can become less distracted.

By focusing on this question, maybe we can be more present in the moment.

By focusing on this question, maybe we can remind ourselves of the journey.

“Are you here or there?”

The answer may just change the (your) world.

Recovery Days

Life can be hectic. Work can be demanding. Our schedules fill up with commitments. This endless sea of activity will take its toll.

Our bodies wear down. We become sick.

Our creativity decreases. We go through the motions like empty shells.

Our relationships suffer. We react instead of respond to others.

What is the solution? Since no progress has been made on the Super Secret Bonus Day, the solution requires some discipline.

During a much-needed get away with some amazing friends, we discussed possible solutions. The consensus was clear: Recovery Days.

Recovery Days are days that each of us has to put on our calendars periodically that allow us to gain back energy (rest), creativity, and connection. These Recovery Days become more important during seasons of our lives that require more creativity, more commitment, or more hours.

Striking this balance can seem impossible. Don’t wait too long, or until your calendar is already packed. Once your calendar is full, it is too late. As your calendar begins to fill and commitments are piling up, find the space for a Recovery Day and lock the day. Honor the commitment to yourself in the same way you would for a client or customer.

I just scheduled my first Recovery Day for June, right after a busy two weeks. Go ahead and schedule your Recovery Day today. Imagine what your work, creativity, and relationships may look like when you have recovered. You may find yourself ready to take on that next challenge, and who knows, it may just Change the World.

Time

Yesterday was the first day wearing my watch in almost two years.  This watch had been sitting dormant because of its need for some major repairs.  For most people, a watch is just a way to keep track of time, but this watch is something different (or at least it was supposed to be different).  This watch and I have been together for 20 years.

A few short days after graduating from high school, I woke up each day in the Navy. Every day was planned, structured, and dictated by someone else.  Days were long, routine, and blended together and I never wore a watch.  There was never really a reason to wear a watch when each day was someone else’s and you were just along for the ride.

But as my four-year journey was coming to an end, I began to think.  Maybe spending all that time at sea gives you time with your thoughts that the average person doesn’t normally have in life…or maybe it was just breathing all that salt-filled air.  My thoughts were filled with plans, ideas, and goals for life.

One of the first things I did upon my return (besides rushing down to start dating the woman who would ultimately become my wife) was to buy myself this watch.  It took a while to find the right watch.  Something nice, but not too nice.  Something that would last, and stay in style.

Eventually, I found the watch I was looking for and in an overly ceremonious way, purchased the watch.  After unwrapping it, and placing it on my wrist, I told myself something as it rested there for the first time.

“Your time is now your own, and this should be a reminder to make the most of it.”

This reminder helped me through harder times ahead, through college exams, moving and changing jobs, and periodic failures in life.  The reminder was present at amazing times of our wedding, kids, first houses and jobs, and establishing a life together.

Yesterday as I drove to work, sat in meetings, went to a parent-teacher conference, shopped for school supplies, and came home, the watch was there.  Periodically while glancing down at the movement of the hands, I was reminded of my words to myself so long ago.  It was as if for a moment, I was receiving a reminder and a challenge from my 22-year-old self.

“Your time is still your own, are you making the most of it?”

Learning to Say NO!

(Image Courtesy of Sharon Young: Thanks Sharon!)

Learning to say “No” is not always easy.  People ask us to agree to things all the time.

“Will you help out on this committee?”

“Can we get together soon?”

“Will you watch my kids, paint my house, be my friend, volunteer your time, follow me and my cause, buy crap from my kids (well you get the idea).”

I am beginning to hear what I call the “soft yes” in response to these multiple requests. The “soft yes” isn’t really a yes, it is a “no” veiled in terms that are our attempt to politely decline, but we don’t feel comfortable saying it.  I find myself doing this at times and recently this is what I am hearing:

“I guess I can.”

“If I have to.”

“Maybe…”

“Okay.”

How many times have you agreed to something where your heart really wasn’t into it, and you would have preferred to say “no”?  In striking a balance between your life, your work, your family, and just being you, there will be things you need to say no to.  You cannot be all things to all people, and the over-committed life is not a pleasant one (for you or for those around you).

Where do we start?  In his book, Magnificent Mind at Any Age, Dr. Daniel Amen states that the inability to say no (or impulsively say yes) creates an overwhelmed state where you become immersed with other people’s priorities that distract you from your own goals. He offers us a way to reply and encourages us to learn the following phrase when someone asks us to do something:

“I need to think about it.  If I want to do it, I will get back to you.”

Wow.  Simple yet effective.  That one phrase may help bring needed balance to your life. Be prepared, if you have been on “automatic yes” or “soft no” and still agreeing in the end, this may feel strange to those around you.  It is funny, just recently I realized how much I have been giving a “soft no” to someone who has been trying to get together with me, but the truth is I should have just said no instead of stringing them along and rescheduling the meeting.

Try it out, let me know how it works.  This may bring some needed balance to your life, and let you find yourself, not just serve others.  Use it well, and let me know how it goes.  I have a hard phone call to make, but it would have been easier if I had used this phrase in the beginning.

“The art of leadership is saying no, not yes.  It is very easy to say yes.”  Tony Blair

Collective Challenge Day 9 (a new week, a new opportunity)

For those of you keeping track there was no post for Day 8.  I took the day off to rest because I was tired.  I hope each of you took the day off, rested, and are ready for the upcoming week.  Taking a day off, a day to yourself is important.  This rest is not only important during this collective challenge, but important in our lives to maintain ongoing balance between our work and our life.

Recently at work, a few people from another department were heading to lunch together and saw me in the parking lot.  They shouted out to me.

“What is the deal with that SKOOK sticker on your back window?  We noticed some members of your team have it too.”

“It is a long story, come and find me later.”

They found me later that day.

It all started a few years ago.  My team and I spend a lot of time in the car driving all around New Hampshire.  Just north of Franconia Notch there is a road sign.  It reads: Skookumchuck Brook.  To give you some perspective it is just under 100 miles from my house.

Over the years it became a ritual when you passed that sign to stop, snap a photo, send a message, or call the team and yell “SKOOK!”  SKOOK was our way of saying, “hey, I am 100 miles from home, but working hard, finding opportunities, and most likely putting in extra hours to make this happen.”

Everyone who received the message would chime in with encouragement and sometimes a little taunting, and it became a little club, or almost a subculture.  We would notice the times of these messages: 6:00 AM meant someone was on the road around 4:00 AM, 6:00 PM meant that someone still had a few hours until they were home again.

Striving to be a SKOOK on the team meant you thought about each day, how to make a difference, and how to maximize the opportunities right in front of you.  Being a SKOOK required a little more effort, a little more dedication, but the reward of knowing that each of us was giving their all to a cause larger than ourselves made it worth it.

After about a few years of this, I was searching the web and found a website that sells SKOOK stickers.  Apparently Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania (the Coal Region) has a nickname: SKOOK.  And they sell merchandise!  And from that moment forward we have stickers on our cars.

There is another week before us.  We have a choice.  We can let the time pass by like any ordinary week, or we can try to be a SKOOK.  We can make the choice to see each day, each hour as an opportunity to make things happen.  An opportunity to make a difference.  Let’s get out there and earn our stickers!

Work

Work.  Sometimes it can feel as if life is passing you as each day blends into the next.  I was talking about this a lot with a friend when two events happened.

1.  We got to participate in a creative event where people are encouraged to use their creativity.

2.  An invitation came to do a talk on work life balance.

The enclosed video was the result.  I hope you enjoy it.

Credits:  

Photos (all the good ones):  Iain Young

Song:  Work, by Jars of Clay