Okay, so let’s talk about how to balance high productivity with free time and with family time. One of the questions that I get a lot from people is, Eben, you talk about all these great ways to focus and eliminate distractions and interruptions, but I’ve got a family, and I work at home or I work a lot and I’d really like more time off with my family, I’d like more time to recover. The good news is that the more time you take off and the more time you take with your family, the more productive you will actually become. Now this sounds counterintuitive, right? That sounds like it doesn’t make sense. The more time I take off, the more productive I’ll become, and the reason why this is true, and you can prove it for yourself very quickly and I’ll tell you how in a minute, is that we’re overworked, we’re working more and more and more hours. We’re draining ourselves, we’re actually overworking and over tasking ourselves to the point where doing more actually gets us less, if that makes sense.
So what we need to do is we need to take control of this addiction to our struggle and addiction to workaholism and take more time off. One of the things I’ve learned from a great teacher named Dan Sullivan, who does a program called The Strategic Coach that you might wanna check out. He recommends taking free time in blocks of 24 hours, where you actually unplug for a full 24 hours, and in his research, what he’s discovered is that the super high performers, the athletes and the entertainers and those that make the big multi-million dollar incomes, that that’s how they live. Actually take these blocks and it’s usually more than 24 hours, it’s days and weeks, where they’re just relaxed, recovering, time off, and then when they’re working, they’re completely focused. Now that’s kind of on the macro level, and on the micro level, one of the things that you can do throughout the day is take breaks, take short, intermittent breaks so that your body can kind of recover and it can rejuvenate itself so that the focus is there for you.
Now there’s another element here that I wanna incorporate, which is the family question because a lot of times there’s an aspect to this, which is hey, I work from home and I do a lot of work at home, and my family’s around. And they just come in and they interrupt me and they think, oh well, you’re at home so you’re probably not really working. Now what I’m going to say might sound a little funny at first, but go with me here. If you really wanna have high quality family time and your family’s around you a lot or calling you a lot, you actually need to train your family, you need to train them that they’re going to get better, more, and higher quality time with you if they don’t bug you all the time. Now, the training with your family is only going to go as well as you do it. In other words, if you’re consistent and you have clear boundaries, and you just persistently keep reminding them and training them and asking them to not interrupt you while you’re focused. With the promise that they’re going to get more high quality time with you if they don’t interrupt you, then the equation will make sense, and they will see the benefits that come from it.
But you have to do it. You’ll notice that most people that own dogs, right, they don’t own the dog, the dog owns them and they do whatever the dog wants to do. In fact, I was – this is funny, I was looking out my window, I live in kind of a high rise building, and I was looking out my window a couple of days ago, and I saw these two people walking down the path together and each of them had a little dog. And they were walking, obviously going somewhere, and the dogs saw each other and started kind of pulling over towards each other, and as soon as the dogs met, the two people stopped, and then the dogs kind of did their thing and sniffed each other, and kind of played a little bit. And the people didn’t really interact with each other, they just kind of watched the two dogs doing their thing, and then after a while, they said, “Okay, come on, it’s time to go.” And in that moment, I realized, wow, that’s really what we do with our families, with our friends, with everyone in our lives. We kind of go along in our life and if they want to do something, we just kind of stand there and go, “Okay, whatever you wanna do is fine,” and I realized that those dogs owned their owners.
The owners weren’t doing it because they wanted it, they were doing it to just kind of – that’s what the dogs wanted to do, and it wasn’t like the dogs were having a relationship or running around and playing or really getting anything out of it, they were just kind of sniffing each other and doing their thing. And the owners just kind of ideally were like, “Okay, whatever you wanna do.” Well, again, family, friends, coworkers, same thing happens. If we let them, they’ll interrupt us and distract us and get us on their agenda with all of our time. Whereas, if we set clear boundaries, we say, “I’m going to work during these times, I’m going to stay focused, but I’m also going to take a lot of time off and I’m going to spend a lot of quality time with you,” our productivity actually goes up. So here’s what to do; right now, get out your calendar, get your family in the room, talk to them, and schedule some time with them. If you don’t have a family and you wanna do it with your friends, schedule some time with your friends, put that time where you’re going to spend high quality, you’re actually going to invest high quality time in your relationships and those you love. And you’ll find you’ll come back so much more rejuvenated. Now make sure when you’re in that time with them, that you’re not checking your e-mail, you’re not looking at your phone, you’re not checking your voicemail, you’re not looking at your computer, totally get rid of that stuff so that you can recharge and you can allow your body and your emotions to do their thing. So if you really want to balance productivity with free time and with family time, then use these techniques that I’ve just shown you. I think if you use them, you’ll find your productivity will start to skyrocket.
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