The typical CEO works 14 hours a day for 300 days a year, which totals around 42,000 hours annually. Even before ‘work-from-home’ became a global phenomenon, the modern business landscape had increasingly shifted toward one that blurs the line between work and our personal lives.
Today’s culture teaches us that success is getting paid to do what you love, and if you get that opportunity, you must prove your dedication by living, eating, sleeping, and breathing your work. This is true for employees, but more so for CEOs and those in leadership roles.
However, the sad irony is that this systemic cultural push toward overwork not only fails to yield happiness — that doing the work you love is supposed to deliver — but it also leads to its antithesis: job dissatisfaction and burnout. These affect job performance and bleed into your personal life.
The solution to this paradox is just as paradoxical: To prosper at your job and thrive in your work, you must actively find ways to regularly separate from your work. That means leaving the office at the office, even if the office is inside your home.
Not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions.
Take control of your physical space
As a leader, your physical environment can be critical to your team’s connection, ability to feel empowered and excel in their jobs. But at the same time, however, a leader also needs their own space to complete their tasks throughout the day.
When working in the same facility as your team, try moving to a different floor, so you’re still in the same building but not so readily at hand. If your firm is working only partly from home, spend one day a week working from a conference room onsite.
Whether you’re working onsite or at home, take the occasional break to change up your scenery. Go on a walk around the block, or use your lunch break to go on a small hike, weather permitting. This can help trigger an energetic shift in your thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and motivation. You could have a large goal of moving to a different space altogether, or simply rearranging or redecorating your current space.
Rediscover your identity
People are generally different at work than at home, which is usually for good reason. You have a specific job to perform in the office that requires you to be professional, timely, and efficient. Your role defines you because that’s what you’re hired to do.
But when the lines between your identity at work and at home begin to blur, it’s hard to see yourself as anyone but ‘vice president’ or ‘HR director’ or ‘software developer’. It get’s tiring, and soon you’ll find yourself struggling to love your job like you once did.
You have passions. You have hobbies. You even have professional development goals outside of your current career path. Connect with these interests again. Take time outside work to explore other areas that you’ve been curious about for a while. You’ll rediscover the joy and satisfaction you once knew, and continue to cultivate a new identity for yourself. Or, at the very least, remind yourself that who you are at work isn’t the only version of yourself.
Spend time away from the office
Executives typically work as needed, leading them to lose sight of how much they’re working. When you work this way, it’s more difficult to feel comfortable using sick days or PTO. This is counterintuitive to your success and that of the company, as the very act itself of taking time away from the office, for whatever reason, can help refresh and rejuvenate you for when you return.
Leaders often pine for personal time, but fail to allow themselves any. Whether you believe taking personal time sets a bad example for your team or you simply feel too busy to leave, you’re developing a bad precedence for the rest of your company — but, more importantly, yourself. Leaders who take sick days when they need them or go on frequent vacations throughout the year are more satisfied and effective in their work and personal lives. This prevents burnout and facilitates creativity.
The average executive spends close to 58 hours each week on the job, with an average of around 10 to 11 hours each day. It can’t always be easy to get time away — for a hobby or a vacation — with this type of schedule. While you won’t always have control over every aspect of your calendar, you can change how creative you get with the time you have. If you commute to work, figure out how you can spend that time more rewardingly, such as listening to a podcast or carpooling with your kids to school.
The most effective leaders are not the ones who work the most but the ones who work the best. In other words, leaders who maximize their focus, attention, and productivity at work perform better than those who spend the most time at work. It’s not about working harder, it’s about working smarter so that you can live harder.