One of the biggest challenges facing American prosperity is the loss of the good old-fashioned work ethic. We all want more out of life. More success, more money, more stuff. But at the same time, we also want more time off for “leisure activities.” In fact, there has been a renewed call lately for the four-day workweek, with the argument that “working less is the key to success.” This question of whether it’s possible to work “smarter not harder” has sparked an array of reactions. But if you were to ask the opinion of professional athletes, pastors, corporate CEOs, former presidents, entrepreneurs, four-star generals, Academy Award-winning actors, and the country’s most successful people, you know they would all advocate hard work and long hours. On the other side of the coin are those that suggest there are shortcuts to success. The question is, should America adopt this type of philosophy? We’ve been working less and less over the last 100 years already. According to the US Department of the Interior, in 1901, Americans worked an average of 58.5 hours a week; in 1929 that average was down to 50 hours; and in 2013 we are down to a mere 39.2 hours a week. This idea of working less, yet continuing to want more, is becoming a dangerous societal trend. No other country has close to the innovation and creativity that America has contributed to the world. Could it have something to do with the fact we have less vacation time on average than most other countries? This article from CNN.com shows that among 40 countries surveyed, only China has less vacation days (21) than the U.S. (25), with countries like Greece (37), France (40) and Brazil (41) leading the pack. Could there be a relationship between this and being an economic superpower? There are a few challenges with society today, but a big one is that people don’t understand what it means to work hard, really hard, to earn success. The successful achiever has consistent work cycles where he is putting in 55-70 hour workweeks over several months before taking a break. It’s these individuals who want to make more out of life for themselves, their families and society. Ask the entrepreneur leading his growing workforce, or the father working two jobs to send his children to college – there is a direct connection between putting in the time and finding success. Here is the basic roadmap to bring back the American work ethic that has built our nation:
Balancing a career and family is a common concern for most individuals. However, it’s important to realize the smallest of changes can produce the strongest of impacts.
I’ve often worked jobs that required evening and weekend hours. The question is: What can we do?
1. Morning Gratitude Moment
When you wake up in the morning, don’t jump out of bed for your workout immediately, or drag yourself to the washroom. Sit up straight, relax, and close your eyes. Say to yourself, “I am grateful for those who support me, believe in me, and are always there for me.” Say this with a deep breath in between each time you say it, and I recommend saying it for a full five minutes. When you open your eyes and look at everything around you—keep that moment of gratitude with you, throughout your day, reminding yourself how you can’t wait to get home to your loving family.
2. Workout Partners
Begin your day by stretching with your family and doing some physical activity together. All you need is 10 minutes. You’ve accomplished a two-for-one: physical activity and family time!
3. Family Playlist
On your shared streaming service, make a playlist of your family’s favorite music. When you take a break at work or feel a negative moment getting the best of you, listen to that music, think about your family, and regain your focus. Music is a powerful voice and has the ability to affect our mindset. Your family playlist will energize you and improve your mood.
4. Daily Phone Call
At least once a day, call or text your significant other or your kids and repeat Stevie Wonder: “I just called to say I love you, I just called to say how much I care.” Let your family know they are always in your thoughts. Even in the face of a big deadline or an important meeting, that moment will relax you and make your family smile!
5. Clarify Your Work Hours & Expectations
Discuss with your boss his/her expectations of you in regards to your time and your position to foster a mutual and clear understanding of your role. Should your role involve evening/weekend hours, and tasks such as answering emails, working from home, or extra time needed for special projects, establish a strategy and discuss with your boss how to meet these expectations so you don’t feel overwhelmed and pulled between your family and your job. If you are a new parent, have family members who require special needs, or have personal circumstances which require attention, bring these up as necessary, so if you have to leave early, there is an understanding of why this is the case.
6. Socializing At Work
It’s common for colleagues to hang out after work. Say yes when your significant other and/or kids are also busy. This will balance things out more. There are times to have beers with colleagues, but there are also times to go home, relax, watch a movie, and simply have fun with your family.
7. Buffer Moment
We all deal with a lot at work and at times might get irritated or annoyed. Remember you are a human being, not a robot, and thus it’s acceptable to have a buffer moment for these feelings. Take a deep breath, zone into your happy place that involves your family, think about how your energy can be used towards something else, and move on.
8. Yoda Philosophy
As Yoda put it, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Don’t try to leave at 6:00 p.m. or 5:30 p.m.; just do it. Allocate the last half-hour of your day to do the following and leave at 5:30/6:00 p.m.:
- For two minutes, take deep breaths, in and out, looking away from your desk, feeling the moment of gratitude you felt in the morning. Turn back to focus on leaving to see your family at home.
- Organize your emails based on what is to be reviewed, what requires follow-up, and what needs a response after your breakfast/snack/meal. Your emails are emails, not a to-do list.
- Write out your to-do list, priorities, goals, and key items for the next day.
- Double-check that you have a water bottle and healthy desk snacks.
- Organize your desk so that your to-do list is in front of you, papers for review are next to your list, and keep a pen ready with blank paper to jot down extra notes. Don’t always rely on your computer; rely on yourself and your mind.
9. Phone And TV-Free Dinner
At the dinner table, leave your phone and turn off the TV. Focus on your family, not on work, and use this as a time to bring all your energy, your aura, and your being in the moment with the people who support and believe in what you do, and love you for the ability to do what you do.
10. Your Work Journal
Keep a two-week work diary: try to track every fifteen minutes of your work time. After that, analyze for, and attack, any inefficiencies! This will import balance in your day and yield a well-deserved coffee break, a breath of fresh air, and time to make your daily family phone call!
Does email control you and take you away from your priority list, and thus your work-life balance? Organizational skills are an important factor in how you balance your day, affecting your work-life balance. Get organized and get happy! You'll find that work-life balance sooner than you think.
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This article was originally published at an earlier date.