So Many Things Can Kill You, Don’t Let It Be Work

July 1, 2015

The title of this post comes from a friend who had one of those life changing experiences. As we were talking about how it will effect his journey forward, he says “Jay, there are so many things that can kill you, don’t let it be work.”

It is such an important point and reminds me of my own efforts to make sure I keep balanced at work. Here are 3 of my most important thoughts on making sure work doesn’t get the better of you.

1. Vacation

First, you need to take time off. If you can’t decompress and get away from work, the stresses will continue to build. I’ve used the following vacation plan for the last 10 years and it’s been very successful:

  • 3 Long Weekends a Year
  • These are mini-vacations. Whether you make a quick trip out of town or just do something fun around the house, these are quick ways to decompress. I’ve done everything from go to New York City for the weekend to build a table in the garage.
  • 1 Meaningful Vacation a Year
  • For me, a meaningful vacation is a week away from work with my phone and e-mail disconnected. The best vacations were those where I left the country. People respected an international vacation more than a trip near home.
  • The Occasional Mental Health Day
  • Every once in a while, work gets the best of me and I take a quick day off to recuperate. This is definitely harder than most since when work gets the best of me, it’s pretty hard to take a day off. But part of powering through a couple of bad days is knowing that I have a day off to recharge coming up.

2. Watch Out for Others

If you’re a manager, you have a huge effect on the team you manage. When you’re burned out, they’re feeling it. Here are a couple of tips I try to follow to not pass my stress on to them:

  • **Transparency: **If they know that you’re having a rough day, it helps greatly. You’re not just cranky, it’s because you got a call at 3am. You can’t always clue them into what is going on, but I try to explain the situation when possible.
  • **Don’t Practice Trickle Down Management: **When the CFO needs a major revision to your budget, don’t pass the buck to your team.You don’t need to do it alone, but everyone can participate in the additional work. You want to make sure you are actively involved in the project as well. I’ve seen too many managers sit in their office waiting for the team to produce the results.

3. E-Mail

There are hundreds of articles on e-mail, managing your inbox, and productivity. This is much simpler than that. Here are the steps I try to follow:

  1. Only send an e-mail when other people are working. When you send e-mails at 9p, you’re asking for others to respond right away — even if you don’t mean to. If I’m writing e-mails at night, I’ll write them in offline mode and they’ll sync in the morning.
  2. Set boundaries. I don’t have a universal rule for this as everyone works differently. For me, I have my notifications turned off after 8p and before 8a. If I’m looking at my e-mail between those hours, I’m doing it intentionally. Likewise on the weekends. Whatever your rules are, don’t let your inbox rule your time.
  3. Think about the most effective way to respond. E-mail takes a long time to write and can be easily misunderstood. If it requires anything more than a simple set of instructions, pick up the phone to explain it. Going back and forth 6 times to get it right will only increase your stress.

Remember Why You Work

I work for my family. When put in that perspective, the quote is that more powerful. Figure out why you work (beyond shelter, food, and clothing). It helps figure out your rules to keep your sanity. If you don’t feel like your job is killing you, great work. If you feel it is (and it’s your job, not you), consider a new job. If it’s you, drop me a note so we can catch up.

However you work, So Many Things Can Kill You, Don’t Let It Be Work.