By Michael Gunther

It’s interesting that since I returned from my sabbatical I’ve been more conscious of my time and how I’m spending it. I’m not just talking about my time at the office, but my time in the other areas of my life. In Europe there is a philosophy of “work to live,” but here in the U.S., I’ve always participated in the general philosophy of “live to work.”

I look at the millennial generation which seems to have embodied the “work to live” philosophy (on the clock from 8 to 5—maybe less—in order to participate in all the other things they enjoy in life). The baby boomers with whom I’ve spoken to seem to struggle with this concept. They often say that this younger generation doesn’t work very hard—they think back to their career building years of putting in 60-hour work weeks to get ahead. It was just a basic expectation.

But, is it the time that really matters or the output? I remember early in my career, one of my bosses, Mike Rowe, stated he didn’t care how many days I worked as long as I achieved my goals. He wasn’t suggesting that I work seven days a week, but he was suggesting that if I could get my job done in 3 or 4 days a week he would have no problem with me having extra time off. I must admit, he was ahead of his time.

As a business owner or leader, do we need to readjust our thinking to focus solely on outcomes versus hours worked? I realize some roles require coverage forty plus hours a week, but I wonder if focusing on the goal achievement aspect of someone’s role as opposed to their time spent would yield better results. Isn’t it true that a well-rounded individual (i.e. life balance) is going to be more productive and satisfied in their role then a person who feels life is passing them by as they are toiling away at the office?

I look at my own role and realize that starting my day at 7:00 or 7:30 in the office and sometimes going until 6:00 or 7:00 at night doesn’t make me the most productive or happy with my life. I am also reminded when working with business owners and leaders that they are often waiting for the big “pay off” that will allow them to create the personal life they really want. They believe that working harder now (at the expense of family, friends, and health) will afford them the opportunity later to enjoy the good life—and yet, the good life is passing them by. Simon Sinek has a great quote: “we can make up for lost money, but we can’t make up for lost time.”

What changes does one need to make in order to implement the “work to live” belief system? I would conjecture that it requires a mental shift more than a physical shift. A change in how you view your job, your life, and what is really important. I also think it requires learning how to operate differently—better delegation, time management, and letting go of things that really don’t matter—on top of getting really clear on what you want out of your life, not just what you want out of your business.

In writing this article I’m also reminded of the book from National Geographic called Thrive by Dan Buettner. The author’s research evaluated cities and communities from around the world to determine what  factors created happiness and long life. Surprise, surprise, it wasn’t working more hours or accumulating more wealth. It was your sense of purpose, community connectedness, and solid personal relationships that mattered most. I think we all inherently understand this, but to live this way takes a true leader willing to go against the typically belief systems of “live to work.”

Bottom Line

I’m not proposing that you and your employees suddenly stop working hard to achieve your goals, but I am suggesting that you include life balance and personal goals as part of the mix. It truly is about working smarter versus harder, and I would recommend doing a monthly or quarterly check in with yourself and your team to see which way the “work to live” pendulum is swinging.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. 

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