It’s 5:00 and it’s been a day. You’ve put out some fires and closed some deals. Tomorrow is already shaping up to be a bear…
But it’s quitting time so you can just turn it all off and pick back up tomorrow. Not so much!
As leaders, we constantly struggle to manage the pressures of business without sacrificing the time we have for our families. It can seem impossible to leave the office and show up at home ready to be present and engaged.
But here’s the thing… It’s not impossible. No matter how busy you are at work, you can also show up every evening fully present at home. When you learn the secret, you will not only be a rockstar at home, your effectiveness at the office will skyrocket.
So how do you turn off the stresses of work when you leave the office, and show up at home fully engaged?
I have spent a lot of time coaching people on this exact issue, and today I am going to share the 8 most effective strategies I have discovered.
Strategy 1: Define the Day’s Success
Your task list is never-ending. You can work 16 hours today and still have just as much work left to do tomorrow. The cycle is inescapable.
To be able to leave the pressure of work at the office, you must adjust your perspective of the task list.
Start each day by looking at your list and identify the 1 or 2 most important things. Flag them in your system as “Today’s Successes”.
Once you have finished those things, you are giving yourself permission to consider the day a success. Sure, there will be other tasks and you will get caught up in the usual distractions… but at the end of the day, you can leave knowing that you accomplished your most important things.
This simple strategy has tremendous power to free your mind of business obligations and engage in your family when you get home.
Strategy 2: Enlist the Help of Your Spouse
If you are committed to being more present when you get home, let your spouse know! The simple gesture of showing that you want to improve can build great momentum out of the gate.
Ask for encouragement and support, and let them know anything they can do to help.
When I started making an effort to be more engaged at home, I was not in a good place. I knew that it was going to be a hard process for me, and I was not going to get it right every day.
I asked my wife to give me a little grace as I was working through it. I gave her and my daughter permission to “call me out” when I slipped. I sure didn’t want my daughter to see that I couldn’t honor my commitment. GAME CHANGER!
Your presence at home will have a big impact on your family. Don’t keep it a secret. Having your family on board will go a long way towards your success.
Strategy 3: Create a Transition Time
When you leave the office, you likely have a hundred things on your mind. You are carrying the day’s frustrations and already thinking about tomorrow’s issues.
My guess is that you walk into a house with a hundred more things going on. You can not make that transition without clearing your mind.
I’m sure you have heard that the first thing a man needs when he gets home is an hour alone. I was given that same advice. In reality, I was stealing an hour each day from my family. I turned it into a free pass to do whatever I wanted. I don’t believe this is the best advice.
You don’t want your family to feel rejected when you walked in the door. They needed to feel that they are the most important thing at that moment. At the same time, you do need the space to clear your head of work and prepare to be at home.
I created my transition time before I got home. Sometimes I would simply sit in my truck and take 10 minutes to pray or be quiet. I would ask God to help me refocus. I still have daily reminders to change my psychological and physiological state and prepare for my family.
Create a small period of time before you get home to transition. Look for a neutral place between your office and home. Maybe your commute can serve as your transition time. Maybe you can find a coffee shop to slip into for 15 minutes or a shaded parking lot to sit in. Use this space to intentionally stop thinking about work and start thinking about your family.
Taking a short window to clear your mind will allow you to be present the rest of the evening.
Strategy 4: Put Your Phone Away
It is almost cliche to say, but you must create space between you and your technology. If your phone is within arms reach, you will not be present with your family.
Start by picking a 1-hour window where you put your phone in a different room. Use that time to play with your kids, talk to your spouse, and engage with your family life.
Set the goal of building up longer periods of time that you are without your phone. Create a life habit of stepping away from your technology.
Strategy 5: Stop Checking Email
Even when you are checking in on your phone in the evening, stay away from email. Turn off notifications and simply refuse to open it after 6:00. Checking your email gets you right back into work mode and takes your focus away from your family.
Strategy 6: Create a Hard Deadline for the Weekend
You are the most productive the week before you leave for vacation. The hard deadline creates a boundary where you must get your things done.
Apply that same concept to the weekend. As you commit to turning off work and being present at home, the weekend becomes a mini vacation. As you approach Friday afternoon, approach it with the same determination to wrap thing us as you would leaving for the beach.
Strategy 7: Find Accountability
There was a point where my life was so out of balance that both my family and my employees were suffering. At our daily team meeting, I wrote my goals on the whiteboard and asked my team to hold me accountable.
They held me to it, and this became one of my biggest motivators to change. They would ask me if I put my phone away at home. If I said no, they would ask me why.
Here is what my list looked like:
|Put Phone Away||23|
|Date Night Each Month||0|
|Mom’s Night Out Weekly||1|
You will see that I wasn’t doing great in all areas, but this was just 2 months in. Over time, I have been a lot more consistent and you will too. Eventually, it will become habit. My wife stays at home with our girls, so I even figured in some time for her to “disengage from work”. She loved it!
As an added bonus, several others joined me in making their own goals. Using shared accountability, we saw some real life change in our team.
When things are better at home, it impacts your entire life. It even makes a positive impact in the lives of your employees. Don’t keep it a secret, let your team know what you are doing and ask them to hold you accountable.
It’s a bold move as a leader, but accountability could be the single most powerful tool you have.
Strategy 8: Put it in Perspective
You can work on each of the strategies listed here, but if you have not defined your “why”, you will likely fail. Many men have their identity tied up in their work, and that is perfectly normal. You spend a significant amount of time at work so, of course, it defines a large portion of who you are. That is not always a bad thing.
So what is the importance of creating a healthy work-life balance and learning to cope with the stresses of the office so you can be engaged at home?
Dr. Meg Meeker unpacks this idea in a great podcast with Philip Rivers. In How To Be A Hero Dad, They discuss three ideas that can transform your perspective of the time you spend with your family. Seeing the big picture is a great way to gain the motivation you need to pull it off.
- Your kids define HERO much different than you do. As a father is is difficult to see yourself as a hero. You likely don’t consider yourself brave or heroic. But to a child, their father is larger than life. Understand that your children see you much different than you see yourself.
- Never take time with family for granted. Your role as a father will bring long-term joy. Your spouse and your children will be by your side long after your job has gone. When you make an effort to invest in family, the payoff is tremendous.
- Whatever you do with your children is magnified. The time you spend with your children has a far bigger impact on them than it does you. Since you are larger than life, a trip to the park once a month with dad can easily be perceived as much more in a child’s eyes.
You can read Dr. Meeker’s blog and listen to the podcast right here.
You have a fixed amount of time in your life. Every moment you spend consumed by work is a moment that your family will never get back. These 8 strategies will help you shift between the two focuses of your life without giving your family the short end of the stick.
- Define the Day’s Successes. Write down 1 or 2 most important things and consider the day a success once they are complete.
- Enlist the Help of Your Spouse. Let them know that you are trying to make a change in your life and ask for encouragement.
- Create a Transition Time. Set aside 15 – 30 minutes during your commute to intentionally shift your thoughts away from work. Show up at home ready to make your family feel like they are the most important thing in your life!
- Put Away Your Phone. Pick a 1-hour window to put your phone away and engage in an activity with your family.
- Stop Checking Email. Turn it off after 6:00. Simple as that.
- Create a Hard Deadline for the Weekend. Set up Friday afternoon to wrap up any loose ends, because you are checking out for the weekend.
- Find Accountability. Let someone else know the change you want to make and ask them to hold you to it.
- Put it in Perspective: Understand why it is important to cope with the stresses of the office so you can be engaged at home.