It was after a long meeting when he paused and shared, “All I do is work or sleep. Between the e-mail, the phone calls, meetings and travel, I have realized that I live a one dimensional life. Work is my life. I am obsessed, and compulsive about keeping up. And you know what, I never seem to get caught up, especially with the e-mail. I am constantly about 250-300 e-mails behind. It is draining and deeply frustrating.”
The best strategic leaders I have met do not have just a work life. They spend considerable time and energy building and maintaining a very satisfying personal and home life. In reality, they focus on maintaining clear boundaries with work and having realistic expectations about what can get done. They recognize the importance of having de-acceleration zones in their life where they can unplug from work and connect back in with themselves and their loved ones.
This kind of multi-dimensional life requires great discipline. It is not the big choices but all of the little choices that make the major difference. For example, it would be easy to answer texts, e-mails and phone calls during a family dinner. But it sends the message to their family that they come second, and this can back fire over time, especially when raising teenagers. It would be easy to skip an hour of sleep and to start answering e-mail late at night while the family is all asleep. The challenge is that once the e-mails have been sent the mind can not slow down and sleep. It instead focuses on all of the other issues and problems in the company. What ends up being an extra hour turns into two-three hours of tossing and turning in bed as the mind slowly attempts to unwind. Short on sleep the next day, it does not get any better. It becomes a long unbroken cycle of less sleep and diminished capacity to cope, a downward spiral.
This week, pause and review your life. Is it the one you want to be living? If not, rethink your expectations and set clear boundaries between work and home. One dimensional living does not have to be the new normal in the world of leadership.