You may be proud of how hard you work and how much work you accomplish. I know I am. But I also know there’s a limit. You and I can’t keep on working, day and night, five-six-seven days a week forever. Eventually, the body will say “enough is enough.”
That’s why I tell my clients, “If you can’t find time for recreation, sooner or later your body will make time for illness.”
Years ago people used to say, “All work and no play make a person dull.” Today, it’s probably more accurate to say that “all work and no play make a person dead.” In fact, Japan has a special government program to compensate widows and widowers whose spouses literally work themselves to death.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find time for recreation. We’re all so busy these days. There’s more work than ever and fewer people to do it. And, to make it even more difficult, companies tend to reward people whose lives are totally out of balance. They’re given more respect and bigger paychecks.
So what should you do if you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, burned out, or off balance?
1. REALIZE YOU’LL NEVER BE FINISHED, AND THAT’S OKAY.
No matter how hard you work, you’ll never get it all done. Even on the day you die, there’ll still be a few things in your in-box you didn’t get to.
Perhaps you were raised like I was. My father always said “First you work, and then you play. Get all your work done, and then you can relax.” While that was fairly good advice years ago, it’s ineffective advice today. You and I will never be done and we must realize that’s okay. It really is.
2. SCHEDULE SOME RECREATION.
It sounds strange to put some free time or fun time on your calendar, but I’ve learned if it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t happen. So plan some time and then take some time for “re-creation” before you end up with “wreck-reation“.
This week put an hour of recreation on your calendar. Schedule an activity that you will do just for the health of it. The only criterion you must follow is that whatever you choose, it must be something that will make you feel re-created or re-energized afterwards.
You should also consider scheduling my program on “Take This Job and Love It! Keeping Your Balance in a Stressed-Out World” for one of your upcoming meetings. To read more about the program, click here.
Of course, some of you will think it’s irresponsible to schedule some recreation. That somehow fun and business profitability are incompatible. Well, then you need to …
3. REALIZE THAT FUN AND PROFITS GO TOGETHER.
As I listen to audiences across the country, the second most frequent complaint I hear is that “the fun is gone.” It’s not like it used to be. There’s more work than ever and fewer people to do it. Stress is up and loyalty is down.
Unfortunately, many managers are guilty of killing fun in the work environment. They say things like, “OK, we’ve had enough fun around here. It’s time to get back to work.” They have the misguided notion that somehow fun and work are incompatible.
Not at all! Fun, profit, and excellence go hand in hand. Robert Townsend, one of the more respected business writers of the 20th century says:
“If you don’t do it excellently, don’t do it at all. Because if it’s not excellent, it won’t be profitable or fun, and if you’re not in business for fun or profit, what the heck are you doing there?”
One of the best examples may be Herb Kelleher, CEO of Southwest Airlines. For years, he ran the most consistently profitable airline in the United States. Even though he had great people skills, and a nose for cutting costs, he was known for his consistent focus on fun. Fortune magazine even named him “America’s best CEO,” noting his contagious, outrageous sense of humor. Kelleher appeared at corporate headquarters dressed as Elvis and on planes as the Easter Bunny.
What’s the point? His focus on fun showed up in the Southwest employees. Flight attendants have been known to organize trivia contests or seated passenger relay races. Attendants have delivered instructions in rap, hidden in overhead baggage compartments, and shared numerous anecdotes.
I remember one Southwest Airlines flight where the attendant showed wonderful creativity. Typically no one listens to the attendant give safety announcements, but this one attendant really got our attention. She said, “There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but only two ways to leave this plane. If you’re smart, you’ll get out your safety instruction card and follow along as I explain.” All of us took out our cards and followed along.
On another flight, the attendant asked if we had heard about Freedom Air, the airline just for smokers. He said on that airline the attendants don’t bother with safety lectures since no one on board seems that concerned about dying. We all laughed, but then we were all ready to listen to the safety lecture that applied to Southwest Airlines.
Does this spirit of fun get in the way of efficiency and profits? Just the opposite. Kelleher and Southwest Airlines demonstrated that a sense of humor helps create a culture of excellence. In fact, Southwest employees are the most loyal in the industry, and the company itself continues to grow larger and more profitable each year.
4. REFUSE TO BE PROUD OF YOUR BUSYNESS.
As Lee Iacocca said, “Over the years, I’ve had many executives come to me and say with pride: ‘Boy, last year I worked so hard that I didn’t take any vacation.’ It’s nothing to be proud of. I always feel like responding: ‘You dummy. You mean to tell me that you can take responsibility for an $80 million project and you can’t plan two weeks out of the year to go off with your family and have some fun’?”
As I tell my coaching clients, “If you aren’t having fun in your work, fix the problem before it gets serious. And if you don’t fix it, go away before you spoil the fun for the rest of us.”