Finding the balance: Don't let your job ruin your life
Written by Dr. Tasha Eurich
He can’t be serious, Jim thought. Jim been recruited away from a Fortune 500 firm by a fast-growing start-up, and it was his first day. The president of the company had just handed him a BlackBerry and said, “Keep this with you at all times.” Really?, Jim thought.
That Saturday morning, one of the founders sent an e-mail to the senior leadership team. By 5:00 p.m., there were more than thirty replies. Jim soon learned that at this company, there was no concept of detachment from work. He grieved the loss bitterly, and his friends would mock him for stepping out of the bar to check e-mail at 10:00 p.m. while they were out for a few pints of beer. In a matter of months, Jim’s job began to seriously interfere with his relationship with his wife.
One study found that half of employees believe their current workload is unsustainable. As a result, 33 percent of people start thinking about work the moment they wake up and 75 percent think about it until they go to sleep at night.
Luckily, Jim’s story has a happy ending. Less than a year after being handed that BlackBerry, he left the company for a job that allowed him to have a life. But for many, especially in the cold, dark days of February, the concept of a real life outside of work is like a unicorn - it might exist, but you haven’t seen it.
So whether you’re spending too much time at the office or taking your stress out on your family, allowing your job take over your life is a slippery slope of misery. More scientifically, research shows that workers who experience such conflict are less healthy, less happy, and more likely to engage in passive coping behaviors like overeating, drinking, or drugs.
Want your job to stop ruining your life? Here are three tips to end the madness:
1. Stop wasting time at work
More hours at work don’t always make us more productive. Think about a typical day in the office. You arrive, fire up your computer, and answer e-mail. Then maybe you wander down the hall to the coffee machine and leisurely pour a cup of coffee. You run into your friends and discuss last night’s football game. You wander back to your office, start a task, and get interrupted by a member of your team. And on it goes. By the time you leave at 7:00 p.m., you might have had only five to six productive hours. Do you ever wonder if there’s a better way?
We live in a society where the number of hours we spend at work can be a barometer for our self-worth. Because I spend twelve hours per day at work, we think, I must be important and valuable. This reasoning is dangerous and illogical. It is not a crime to do things efficiently; if you can get the same result in eight hours versus ten and spend two more hours with your family, do it!
To get more done in less time, use the One Less Thing Principle. For every work activity, ask yourself:
- Can this activity be focused so less time is spent completing it?
- Can this activity be delegated to another person or group?
- Can this activity be stopped?
2. Harness the power of power breaks
Just like Jim discovered, being tethered to your e-mail 24/7 isn’t a good idea. One study examined the effect of uninterrupted work on our ability to focus. The researchers asked two groups of students to complete a forty-minute task that required concentration. One group simply completed the task. The other group was asked to stop the task and memorize a set of numbers at three points wile they completed it.
The results were striking. Even though the second group spent less time on the task, they performed better. Viewing the numbers served as a “power break”: something that let them briefly turn their attention from the task to something else.
Similarly, power breaks from work help us perform better. Certainty, it’s not easy to take a three-week vacation and lock your phone in the hotel safe. But at a minimum, carve out evenings and weekends to escape your “technology tether.” Perhaps you can’t unplug every evening—then aim for three evenings per week. If you have to work on a Saturday, don’t work on Sunday. Find what works for you.
3. Get moving
There’s a great deal of evidence that exercise reduces stress—in particular, high-intensity workouts have proven effective in reducing anxiety. And recent research suggests that exercise actually decreases work-family conflict. In a study of 476 workers, Russell Clayton and his colleagues found that people who exercised regularly had less conflict between work and home. Why? They argue that exercise can be a powerful way to “psychologically detach from work.”
So, it will pay off to keep your New Year’s resolution to exercise more - not only will you look better in your jeans, you’ll have a more balanced life!
A proud leadership geek, executive coach, speaker, and contributor to the Huffington Post, Dr. Eurich is also the author of The New York Times bestselling book, Bankable Leadership: Happy People, Bottom Line Results, and the Power to Deliver Both. She also helps organizations succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders and teams. Dr. Eurich passionately pairs her scientific grounding in human behavior with a practical approach to solving some of today’s most common leadership challenges. Her decade-long career has spanned roles as an external consultant and a direct report to both CEOs and human resources executives. The majority of Dr. Eurich’s work has been with executives in large Fortune 500 organizations, including CH2M HILL, Xcel Energy, Western Union, IHS, Destination Hotels and Resorts, Newmont Mining, Centura Health, CoBiz Financial, the City of Cincinnati, and HCA.
With an M.S. and Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Colorado State University and B.A.s in Theater and Psychology from Middlebury College, she serves on the faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership. She has served as an adjunct faculty member in Colorado State University’s Psychology and Business Schools. She is also a popular guest speaker at the University of Denver and Colorado State University’s Executive MBA programs.
She has been featured in The New York Times and Forbes and she has published articles in Chief Learning Officer Magazine, The Journal of Business and Psychology among many others. In 2013, Dr. Eurich was honored as one of Denver Business Journal’s “40 under 40” rising stars in business.
Books can be ordered at BankableLeadership.com.
To connect with Dr. Eurich, please visit Twitter.com and Linkedin.com.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.