The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!
Maybe you align with the job description of “I run a business.” You don’t have to be an entrepreneur or even a business owner to make this statement. You simply need to be in a place of authority within your business or organization where, for the most part, you are calling the shots. However, the tables can so quickly turn where you go from running a business to the business running you. How can you tell if your relationship with your business has made this unfortunate shift? Start by looking for these 7 tell-tale signs.
- It’s the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night.
Once your alarm goes off in the morning, what do you do next? If you’re like most Americans, you swipe over from your alarm app right to your email app and start scrolling through all the messages and requests that have come in from the moment you fell asleep to just a few hours later upon your awake. You likely have also checked in “just one more time” on your email before calling it a night. The only break you had was when your body finally needed to power off.
Advice: Reclaim your “off” time and set boundaries for when you’ll respond in real-time. From 6pm to 8am, make it known you are offline and will be responsive during your established business hours. Set up an email auto-responder if you must, or utilize Gmail’s “pause inbox” feature.
*As I wrote just last week, early morning or late night work hours are not inherently bad and can actually be a really powerful habit for productivity. The key is to protect these hours for peaceful work that’s all to yourself so you’re never doing it out of obligation or with the expectation you’re responding to people in real-time.*
- It steals you away from other activities you enjoy.
That yoga class you’ve had to miss for the last few weeks or that coffee date with a friend you declined because you were “swamped” at work – though it may seem little in the moment, these are large sacrifices you’re making over time to put work ahead of pretty much anything else you enjoy. When your work begins to demand you make sacrifices that steal you away from hobbies and friends, you know the ship has gone sideways.
Advice: Schedule the activities you enjoy just like you would work obligations. Do you love hitting the gym every day? Block out that hour and make it a priority. Same goes for blocking out “flex” time in your week for coffee or lunch with a friend. And if you don’t have plans for that time, go do something for you – it just can’t be related to work!
- It makes you make excuses to others.
“Hey can we reschedule, it’s just been a crazy week.” “Can you take the kids to a park tonight while I catch up on a few emails? The day just got away from me.” When these phrases become more and more common it’s time to face the reality that your business is running you.
Advice: Stop in that moment and choose to sacrifice work – not your family or friends. Yeah, you may need to adjust a project deadline or client expectation, but shouldn’t that be the first thing to give before all else? Furthermore, you’re likely to find that the pressure to deliver something that day versus one or two days later really made little to no difference in the grand scheme of things. And those memories with your loved ones will have immeasurable value.
- It demands you make “you” less of a priority.
Do you dread doctor appointments, push off your need for a haircut, or go weeks even months without getting any real exercise all because those things just don’t fit into your work schedule? That’s a big problem because you need to make “you” at least somewhat of a priority in your life. Your physical, emotional, and spiritual health cannot be phoned in or outsourced. You wouldn’t do that to a client, so why do it to yourself?
Advice: Identify what you’ve been putting off as it relates to taking care of yourself. How much time in a week or month is needed to fully address these personal needs? Work is what must sacrifice, not you. Set boundaries, carve out time, and make no excuses for taking care of your most basic personal needs.
- It’s not as fun as it used to be.
Did you used to be fulfilled by work, energized to go into the office each day? How do you feel now? If you’ve gone from feeling like a cheetah sprinting in the wide open to a hamster on a wheel, you know something needs to change.
Advice: Reflect on when you last felt passionate about and fulfilled by work. What were you doing? Who was a part of your team? How can you seek out more projects like this in the future? By answering these questions you will point yourself back on the path of making work more than a means to a paycheck, but passion that fuels your creativity.
- None of your time is off limits – nights, weekends, vacations, holidays.
Are you ever able to really escape work? I think we can tell ourselves lies like, “Well, I’m out of the country and my auto-responder is on so I’m going to completely unplug.” Or, “Work will be so slow between Christmas and New Year’s; I’ll have no trouble finding time to relax.” Has that every really worked out? When your business runs you, it also takes a shotgun seat next to you on every vacation, holiday – even nights and weekends. Worst of all – we’re helping to perpetuate this relationship.
Advice: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t want work to follow you on vacation? Leave the laptop at home and uninstall your email app until you return. This act alone will show you who really is in charge! The people who need you can still get in touch with you by other means, and those unimportant emails and voicemails can go unchecked until your return.
- Your kids, spouse, pets take notice.
And we will finish with the most tell-tale sign yet that your business is running you. And that’s your kids, spouse, even pets taking notice. Quite frankly, they feel like they are low on your totem pole. Your kids may intimidate being glued to the computer or cell phone like they see you doing, or maybe they’ll make a comment like “Mommy, why are you always on the phone?” Your spouse might, at first, joke that they feel like you’re more married to your work than you are to them. But then the reality sinks in that maybe you are – yet that’s not what you want. And your dog whimpering for a walk or your cat who lays on top of your laptop to get attention – they feel it too – your stress and your distraction.
Advice: Always, always make family a priority. Just like you schedule in client phone calls and meetings, and move things around to accommodate their schedule, why can’t you do (at least) the same for your family? Let them be the last people you want to let down. When you shift your mindset, you will shift your behavior.
Do any of these signs ring true for you and your business? If so, consider putting some of the provided tips in place so you can regain control over your workflow and get back to running your business.
Do you have a question or follow-up advice you’d like to provide? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!