In my work as a coach of CEOs I often run into leaders whose hours for
their work-day or work-week would make mere mortals tremble. Last month,
a study with one CEO showed that her duties encompassed 182 hours (in a
168-hour week). They say they have no choice but to work relentlessly, and
unfortunately, they are often right – because if they do not attend to certain
details the enterprise would collapse. Long hours on the job fall within the
territory of any CEO role.
Out of this chaotic environment came a repeated plea: “I am responsible for all
the concerns of people at the office and I look after the issues of everyone at
home. In my 24 hours-a-day, I never get any relief! How do I get a break?”
Now, as a coach, I will show that a busy person has to (a) be more efficient such
as ensuring each item is handled once by them – not three or four different times,
(b) make sure every CEO function is as automated as possible, (c) get help by
hiring more assistants (once, I had 3 executive assistants), (d) create means to
expedite follow-up of tasks, and (e) learn to invoke the three principles of
Realize that someone working full tilt is not going to relax by being told to take a
day off to smell the roses. In fact they are likely to be more stressed out by not
being allowed to address the emergencies they know are accruing every day in
the office. But there are answers for taking that needed break. Firstly, the
solutions lie in finding out what the individual likes to do. Secondly, set out to do
it. Everyone is different of course, but I will talk about some examples I know of.
- Join a business association and begin to participate. This provides a
chance to get involved in something that will be of benefit to you (so you
will not feel you are wasting your time). It also might allow you to solve
an industry problem that concerns your business – one that others seem
unable to address (also not ‘wasting’ your time). Last but not least it may
provide you with sales opportunities – because people always buy from
people, and these people are in your same arena.
- Take a short vacation – a weekend in Las Vega or Mexico. Completely
re-charge your batteries and have fun. You will come back full of vim
and vigour. The $1,000 for the ticket and hotel can be made up in one
day with fresh decisions taken by you when back, more alive, at the
office. (I once flew to Prague from Ottawa for a weekend to stock up on
new wine glasses and crystal. Not only did I have a gas of a time, I
saved thousands of $ by purchasing at the source [Czech is synonymous
with crystal] – more than the actual cost of the trip!) Take a few of these
vacations every year, not just one.
1The three principles of delegating are: (i) Take the risk of assigning the task; (ii) Spend the time
educating the newbie; (iii) Stand back and let the person do it.
- Focus on an arts love you already have – music, dance, visual, etc. Get
more passion into your life. Support a fledgling rock group, join an
opera company and become surprised at the outcome. (Next month I
will run a full-company seminar for a business led by a person I met
during my sojourn with a choir – again more than paying for my
- Get away every weekend. Build (if building can be a hobby for you) or
buy a chalet or cottage and get up there every weekend. No TV
because it is a huge time stealer. Yes, bring your lap top and work. But
work in a fun, relaxing or beautiful environment watching deer sip from
the stream before you.
- Visit distant clients. That is, travel to another city. Even though it may
be all business, it never really is all business as we are continually
exposed to visual stimulations of new places, people and things. You
may work your butt off during the trip but you will still feel refreshed on
your return because of the diversionary stimulation.
- Open a branch office in paradise. Decide where you would like to live
part time that is within a reasonable distance of your office (say 5 hours
of flying time). Then justify to your Board why a branch in Boola-Boola
is strategically wise. If nothing else, the new branch can be the
prototype for other branches you will open in more opportune locations.
Then visit your Boola-Boola branch every month or so.
Now fill in your own list. You can relax your way. There is no excuse.