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So You Want to Be Happy At Work? Then Start With Having A Life Outside of Work

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Times have changed, but in my day (that makes me sound ancient!), we had a different mindset towards work.  If you were the first person in the office and the last to leave you were awarded an unseen “badge of honour”.  We also felt that if we did leave on time then we would be labelled as a “clock watcher” or “a slacker”.  People of a certain age still feel that way. However, millennials (or those born after 1990) have a completely different mindset which I believe can cause a conflict within the workplace. 

What changed for me?

I will never forget that awful day when I was sitting in the living room watching my young daughter (about 6 years old) playing with a toy computer and a plastic mobile phone.   I asked her a question and she looked at me and replied: “Not now mum, can't you see I'm working?”  I could hear my own voice in her tone and it was at that point I thought to myself “blimey Julia, you really need to do something about this!”

I was on a mission to become more productive during the day so that I could find time in the evenings and at weekends to spend time with friends and family.  However, if you love your job then you find that it is not that easy to switch off because it does not feel like work.  In fact, it probably affects your family relationships more than it does you, and this is the direction that I was heading.

Working too hard sets a bad example for your staff

In the early days of Green Umbrella, both me and my colleague/brilliant designer, Mark Mundin would often be the last to leave the building.  Sometimes it would get to 8.30pm/9pm and we would convince each other – just five more minutes.  Just because I was staying late, does not mean that my staff should follow suit, but that is what happened.    I am now home every day before 6.30pm so that I can have dinner with my family.  I am pleased to say that Mark also now works fewer hours (however, I do still see the Green Umbrella light on in the early evenings on occasion!).

Tips for having a life outside work, without looking lazy!

Below is some advice to help you work smarter and more efficiently, rather than working longer hours.  These tips will help you avoid burnout and will make sure that no-one questions your work ethic.

Tip #1 – Know your lazy hours!

Around 6-7 years ago I started the process of waking up early.  I have always been much more productive in the morning and getting out of bed at 4.30am/5am most days is now the norm for me.  I know that by 4pm I am pretty useless when it comes to brain power.  I call it my “brain mush zone”.  My colleagues know that they will not get much sense out of me if they ask me something during the late afternoon, therefore this is my dedicated “lazy hours” time.   Knowing my lazy hours means that I now no longer have appointments after 3 pm and I schedule my tasks for my most creative work to be completed before 1 pm.

Tip #2 – Schedule your emails

I am a big fan of scheduling emails as it saves so much time.  Read my eBook “How to achieve inbox zero in five easy steps”.   If you use MacMail then take a look at MailButler.  This is a neat tool that saves lots of time with automation, reminders, scheduling, templates, etc. – I love it.

Why schedule emails?  As mentioned before, I am up early each day, but I don't really want my clients to know that I am emailing them at 4.30am!  I also don't want them to respond until I am sitting behind my desk in the office.  One of my early morning tasks is to clear my inbox and schedule all emails to be sent at 8 am.  This way, I usually have responses by the time I get to the office.

Tip #3 – Take a daily walk

Research shows that getting outside and back to nature for 20 mins a day restores your energy.  I love my early morning walks, and life would not be the same without them.

Tip #4 – Set aside time for family, friends and interests

It is important to not to wait to see what time is left after work before you fit in your family and friends.  For me, it is important to make sure that I carve time in the diary for these activities.  I'm not sure about you, but for me, if it's not in the diary then it rarely gets done.  That includes going to the cinema with my mum, watching my brother in triathlons, having a coffee with my mates, or supporting my daughter in school activities.  It needs to go in the diary!

Tip #5 – Turn off distractions

After a recent exercise (more like a competition with my daughter) on an app called “Moment”, I realised that I am distracted way too much by my iPhone.  I was spending on average 2-4 hours a day on my phone!  How crazy was that?  Rachel (my 14 year old) spent less time on her phone that I did, which surprised me.  Turning off distractions not only made me more productive at work but also made me more in-tune to conversations at home and with friends.

  • Turn off email notifications
  • Remove social media notifications
  • Move your icons around on your iphone once a week.  (It's amazing how much this puts you off picking up your phone)
  • Use an app called “focus at will” to keep you focused at work and eliminate distractions.
  • Simply put a pair of headphones on!  You don't need to actually listen to anything, but it is amazing how many people do not distract you when you have a pair of headphones on!

Summary

If there is one regret that I have in life, it is that I worked too many long hours in the early days of being a business owner.  I missed school sports days, nativity plays and many of those precious moments that you can never get back.  It is not the same watching the videos afterwards.   I can't imagine anyone ever saying on their death-bed  “I wished I worked more hours”.  Here are the 25 biggest regrets in life – what are yours?“.  In this article, you will see that the number one regret is “working so much at the expense of your family”.   Don't be that person.  Life is too short.

 

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