One thing I’ve struggled with since spring 2015 when I was asked to take on a role leading our arena management team, and then in 2016 leading our larger entertainment division, is where to spend my time. I have also been asked several times recently about the related global topic of work/life balance.
First a preface – I feel incredibly honored to work with the team I lead. Not because of the role or title or anything that comes with the job. I just genuinely love working with the people I work with. I don’t know if it’s luck or what, but I’ve felt that multiple times in my career – three distinct roles at MGM Resorts and my time in public accounting at Arthur Andersen. In each case, I really looked forward to going to work. There have been times between those periods where I didn’t have that feeling and I’m glad the vast majority has been the other way.
Similarly in our personal lives (certainly mine), there have been times when I have truly enjoyed the people around me and others not so much. So the first thing I often tell people when they ask about the next topic – work/life balance – is be around people you like (family, friends, loved ones, kids when they are behaving, etc.) and find a job or career you can be passionate about. As a bonus, hobbies that give your mind time to breathe and rest from the first two are nice also.
As I mentioned, work/life balance, or what I sometimes refer to as work/life integration, is something several people have asked me about lately. Interestingly, I’ve noted a trend – those who are my peers never or rarely ask me about it (and vice versa), we only ask each other questions about where to prioritize our work time. We must assume that by now we’ve either figured work/life balance out or just given up, like we can’t make adjustments anymore (no new tricks for the old dog). The folks that ask about it are those who are earlier in their career, maybe they are just starting a family and wondering how to manage everything or just starting a new role where they anticipate the hours may get longer.
Here’s the thing I’ve noticed, you have to spend time thinking about time. Every week I try to look ahead in my calendar, it’s usually Sunday, so I’m checking Monday (to ensure the week doesn’t get off to a bad start), that week, and maybe 1-2 weeks forward:
- Where are the weeks with three dinners scheduled? Because I’m going to find the one I don’t need to go to, so I can ensure quality time at home?
- Where am I double booked, or too many back-to-back meetings with no travel or down time (to recharge, since I’m an introvert)?
- What has snuck onto my calendar that just isn’t value add time for me?
- Have I ensured that all my personal commitments – must do like a dentist appointment, or want to do like a Sunday movie with my wife – are included?
One thing I like to tell them that they simply have to look at the pros and cons of work requirements as they move into leadership roles. Sure I’m expected to be “available” pretty much 24/7, but I also have significant control over my time. My boss does not feel like he needs to approve my hour away from work for a dentist appointment, or when I arrange a work trip to meet partners and take a side trip to see family. I also have some control over who I meet with and when; for example, I love having lunch with former colleagues, or current friends (many times those are the same people!). And my favorite time is often when I get to teach, like when we do coffee chats with the staff.
So based on all that, it sounds like I have it all figured out. But I don’t, so here is where I am struggling, and therefore focusing:
- I am not prioritizing enough at work, and with my leadership team. Too many balls in the air, and more harmful, too quick a pace of adding new balls – in other words, we aren’t being selective and critical and disciplined. Action to correct: Next 1-on-1 meeting, all the big and medium projects on a list, and we don’t leave the room until we feel comfortable we’ve “thinned the herd.”
- I sometimes fall into a trap of not respecting my wife’s time at night. If we have an event, or a work function, I mis-judge how long it will take, setting expectations that will lead to disappointment, and I am inconsistent about calling to let her know the timing has changed. Action: Think about each instance before it happens, set time realistically in my calendar, alert her weekly as to what is happening and when, and set reminders to call. I just have to be disciplined, and maybe you have an area in your life where telling yourself to do it just isn’t cutting it. So…look to use tools at your disposal. If the above doesn’t work, I am going to engage one of my team to be my “coach” in this area, and empower them to remind me to leave, or call, or whatever action is required over a period of time until it becomes a habit.
- I am not doing terrible with this next one, but I periodically notice that I am not engaging “deeply” with those close to me – my wife, my friends, my key leaders on my team. Action: Take extra time leaving an interaction. With my wife I noticed it yesterday morning as she was leaving for work, and I was headed to the airport for a three day work trip. I did the same hug and kiss I might give for a “normal” day when we will see each other that night. I realized it was that “perfunctory” goodbye we all often do. But that’s not good enough, and frankly I want to have a meaningful interaction EVERY time we leave and then see each other again. So we stopped, enjoyed just being with each other for a few moments, and ensured we were being meaningful to each other. And I realized that while I don’t hug and kiss the men and women who work for me, some of the lack of prioritization noted above has me distracted when we are talking or working on something – and they deserve all of me, and the best of me. So I am trying to trigger myself to stay in the moment, and doing tricks like putting my cell phone somewhere else when we are chatting.
- Finally, I am still working to integrate hobbies into my time. Maybe it’s the closest thing to a New Year’s resolution for me. So far this year, my wife and I have seen two movies, and I’ve golfed once and gone to the driving range twice. It’s a start. For me, as mentioned above, these things are important as they give me a mental break, something hard for me to find otherwise.
Obviously my problems are not your problems. But what I know is that no one has this figured out and sometimes it helps to see or hear someone else’s story. Even if me and my peers won’t ask each other about it, or when we get together for beers we bitch about other stuff and not our failings in this area, this is a problem for many of us and we need to spend more of our time, energy and focus on it.
So if seeing my problems (and the extent of self-reflection and intentional planning I put into managing my time) helps you, then I am glad to have written this post.