My recent rant about 'The Death of Me Time', and a comment from a reader, got me thinking about a new reality. At an intellectual level, I know that complaining about the challenges of finding downtime under the constant demands of employers and clients for your time is not going to make those demands go away. We'll never get that genie back in the bottle. So, how do we make sure that we take time for ourselves, our families, and our sanity? A few tips:
- Commit to Creating 'Me' Time. If you do not recognize the need for downtime, no one is going to do it for you. Your employer will happily let you work 70 hours a week, ad infinitum. At least they'll be fine with it unitl you routinely get grouchy with co-workers and your performance starts to drop off. Then they'll ding you on your next performance review. Commit to setting aside time for yourself, your family, your friends, and your community.
- Delegate. If you have a competent staff, use them by giving them meaningful assignments that you otherwise would do yourself. It build confidence and competence. If you have colleagues, get them involved. Ask your boss to help find additional resources when you're stretched too thin, or to help prioritize what's on your plate. Don't make the mistake of thinking no one can do what you do. You, and your boss, have to be confident the work will get done right when you're away from the job. Also, I subscribe to the theory that indispensable people should be the first to be fired because they represent a threat to the organization. So, don't be indispensable.
- Manage Expectations. Demonstrate that you are not afraid to put in long hours during crunch time. But do not substitute long hours for working smart. When a project or assignment hits your desk, find out when it is really needed. Not everything has to be delivered tomorrow, but you won't know that if you don't ask. And, if a high priority item comes in, let colleagues know that you may be delayed on their work due to new higher priority items. And, don't be afraid to let colleagues and your boss know when you have important commitments outside work that may impact your available time. That won't be a problem if you demonstrate you'll still hit your deadlines.
- Results - Your Way. Ultimately, most organization just want results. When you consistently get results, and things get done even when you take a vacation or leave a little early to attend your child's game or recital, no one will begrudge you some 'Me' time.
- Think Long Term. A career is a journey, not a race. Take the time to enjoy the journey, with enough 'Me' time built in to ensure you are balance in your commitments ot family, friends, career, and self. You can balance work/family/friends, and find success in all facets of your life. By working smarter and committing to 'Me' time, everyone benefits.