Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in personality profiling and psychometric testing. He is a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London (UCL), Vice President of Research and Innovation at Hogan Assessment Systems, and has previously taught at the London School of Economics and New York University. With those credentials, you’d think the good doctor would have something deep and meaningful to say about work-life balance.
Before we get to the musings of Dr Chamorro-Premuzic, let it be said that work-life balance is one of the great problems of our time. At what point does your balance exceed the necessities of your work? Can you even balance work and life properly, without one affecting the other?
I would consider that I have work-life balance. I work from home, I train hard and I see my wife and daughter far more regularly than I did when working dreary hours in an office environment.
The problem for me was the office environment; the eight-hour day feels like 10, a three-month deadline can be knocked over in six weeks, management in most places disavows autonomy and while they say you can’t choose your family, neither can you choose your work colleagues.
So how do you make a day in the office go faster, or seem more enjoyable?
Well, according to Dr Chamorro-Premuzic you should write with different coloured pens.
Further to that, I would add that if you keep a colouring book by your computer, you could put those different coloured pens to good use. Regress back to childhood and see if you can keep within the lines. Now that sounds productive.
The doctor also believes you should make your New Year resolutions “when the days are longer and warmer”. In London that is obviously in the middle of the year, and you have six months of motivation. In Australia, going by this logic, you’ll be making your New Year’s resolutions in the… new year. How demotivating to have to wait 12 months to achieve your goals.
Dr Chamorro-Premuzic was commenting on research conducted by insurance provider Direct Line, who suggested that modern workers pack so much in to their day, that a quarter of people are too tired to enjoy their activities.
Now that makes sense. However, to help improve work-life balance, the doctor does not suggest that we cut down on activity, instead he suggests that instead of writing a to-do list to make things manageable, we doodle a list instead. For those of us who can’t draw, that would seem like an absurd suggestion.
Perhaps to enable me to remember what tasks I am to do during the day, I should sing them into a glass full of water or just get on the loudspeaker and let everyone in the office know. That way if I forget, I can leave my desk and go around to each person asking them what it is I am supposed to do.
“It can be demotivating to list all of the things you need accomplish in the day. Doodling each task will put a more creative spin on a typically mundane task,” he said.
I do like his suggestion to listen to music. He says a music fix at 11.30am will get you through to lunch. Of course you need to work in an environment where headphones are permitted otherwise 20 people in a small office will be fighting over ACDC or Kanye West.
Sleeping on the wrong side of the bed is an interesting one. If I slept on the other side of the bed, there would be a lot of swearing and an elbow to the solar plexus.
Jogging to meetings is neither conducive to good hygiene, nor productive if you’re a little unfit and can’t speak for 10 minutes.
Finally, reading a childhood book can boost creativity. I don’t disagree with this, however reading a childhood book during office hours will at the very least encourage people to talk behind your back, particularly if it’s a book by the godmother of political incorrectness, Enid Blyton. The worst that could happen is that you would be fired for reading children’s literature when you should be reading an unedited version of a business column.
There are better ways to enjoy work than doodling, writing with different coloured pencils or reading a children’s book.
The key is to find out what makes the day run easiest for you without sacrificing productivity for your employer. Once you’ve done that, work-life balance is easy.
Excerpted from an article originally published in the Sep/Oct 2013 issue of Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine. If you are a subscriber to Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine, you will receive this article in your Sep/Oct 2013 issue of TGR. If you are not a subscriber, click here to subscribe.
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