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Work-Life Balance Strategies With Michael Calam

How do you make sure to balance work and life? We talked to Michael Calam from CentrePoint Alliance about work-life balance strategy.

Work-Life Balance Strategies

Michael Calam is a regional manager at Centrepoint Alliance. He works with a select group of financial advisers to help them to grow, adapt and perfect their businesses. He partners with business owners and supports them as they move through their business life cycle, from start-up to succession planning. 

Key Points:

How to Avoid Procrastination

Why You Don't Get Things Done

How to Cut Down Your Work Time

What Is Your Best Time to Work

How Your Sleep Affects Your Productivity

How to Have a Work-Life Balance

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself 

How do you make sure to balance work and life? 

Michael: At the end of the day, you've just got to pay attention to yourself and your own personal cues. If you're finding family is getting missed out or you're disconnecting from your friends and always chasing those work goals instead of spending that quality time with friends and family, that's always a great indication. Also, just checking effectively your own stress levels is probably the easiest way to keep track of where you're at.

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Stress and Success

Michael: Stress is a subjective matter. Different people have different tolerance and thresholds for it. If you look at some corporate CEOs, for example, Elon Musk, they thrive on a level of stress which would kill most mere mortals. You've got to identify what's right for you. Linking it to work-life balance is this whole question of success.

Success is also subjective because for one person, that could mean dying at your desk, earning a million dollars a year after three failed marriages while for someone else, it could be working three days a week, maintaining maybe a lower income stream, but with a focus on quality of life and friends and family. It's so subjective so the stress leading from that also becomes very subjective.

Time Management Strategies to Try 

How can you improve your time management skills?

1. Hard First, Easy Second

Michael: There's so much literature and tools out there about effective time management. A lot of people have published a lot of work and made a lot of money from quoting on those subjects. But there are a few key rules.

project managementI have to check myself on a regular basis because I know I have all the human failings in that respect, but I do make a conscious effort to try and stay on top of these things.

The first one is the procrastination element. Now that's getting the hard jobs out of the way. I remember a real key moment for me was years ago I read a book called Eat That Frog. It says if the first thing you got up every morning and did was ate a live frog, after that, everything else would be easy in comparison. 

Human nature is that we tend to gravitate towards the easy jobs. We want the easy tasks, whereas the hard phone call, the hard discussion, that challenging bit of work, and the unfamiliar piece of work that we'll have to find our way through are the things that we need to strive to get off the list first. If you've got those done early in the day, everything else becomes much easier in comparison.

I feel better if I've done some sort of workout first thing in the morning. I'm not saying that's going to be the hardest thing I'm going to do every day, but that's a little bit of time where I feel that sense of satisfaction. 

For some people, a simple measure like getting up and making the bed every day gives them a sense of order or a sense of accomplishment that they've set and trained a series of motions throughout the day where they've made their environment controllable. It's whatever works for you.

The best advice I would give is just to find those elements that you need to achieve and get out of the way first up. Even if you procrastinate for the rest of the day, you've ticked off that box. 

2. Know Your Priorities 

Michael: When you have the desire to put things off and find the easiest path, you can also simply identify your top few priorities for the day. My list of tasks may be 200 long, but I regularly ask myself, if everything else got interrupted for the day, what are the five things that I need to actually complete (not work on) this day.

If I'm writing a book, I'm not going to get that done in one day; if I was a serious writer, I'm going to get 10 pages of my book written.

Identify those outcomes that you want and make them achievable. They have to be things that you can achieve.

You've got a lot on your plate. IT doesn't have to be one of them when you have dorks. 

You jump in your emails first thing in the morning and you might spend an hour on your emails. And then, you do the same thing around lunchtime. You don't sort of sit on your emails all the time. Is it interesting that when you go on holidays, you can smash through like 300 or 400 emails in just an hour, but normally it would take you like two hours a day to get through them?

Michael: That's a great observation of the human condition. It's like the ability to cram before an exam. We can go three months knowing we've got an exam coming on, with minimal productivity on a daily basis. On the night before, we're capable of enormous feats of concentration and human endurance. That's common for so many people. At the end of the day, it's about triaging and prioritising tasks.

Setting prioritiesOne of the key things in identifying what work you're going to work on on any day is striving to be always operating at the highest level of operation. 

If you're the CEO of a company on a significant salary and you're spending your time doing work that the lowest paid admin staff member could be doing, then you are almost stealing from the organisation. It's time theft.

All of us are exactly the same in terms of our days and how we spend our time. The highest achievers in life are those that are always striving to be operating at the highest possible potential. If they're fortunate enough to be in a situation where they have other members of their team to be passing other tasks along, either internally or externally, through outsourcing to other members of the team, but also then encouraging each of them to be operating at the highest level. An example of that could be a presentation due for the board⁠—if you're the CEO, should you spend your time formatting?

However, if you're in that procrastination space, you can spend hours doing that because it's far easier to do that than it is to actually write the hard numbers on the company's performance. But again, in order to get the most out of your time so that you can circle back to getting that work-life balance, find the work that only you can do. Get that done and pass the other work onto other members of the team who can then perform those tasks.

3. Cut Down Your Work Time

There's something called Parkinson's Law, which is the outage that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. I think it relates very closely to toothpaste.

When you get a new tube of toothpaste, you don't put a pea size on your toothbrush. You put it lavishly, a whole caterpillar on that brush. And then you realise that there's nothing much left in the tube, yet you make it work, squeezing that tube for the next two or three days, making sure that tube is lasting the distance.

That is what we need to think about. I think we should flip our mind and pretend the tube is nearly empty. Let's pretend we are fatigued and there have been distractions the entire day and we get the CEO report out of the way. How about we just start with it instead of cat videos on YouTube? 

From doing things for days to doing things for hours or just minutes. We can help!

Michael: The Parkinson's Law is interesting because we have a lot of ingrained behaviours around this work week. We're kind of conditioned that when we go into our 9-to-5 jobs, we have to occupy that 8 hours of the day. As a result, we work to fill it, and that's a behavioural symptom of that environment.

If you look at the countries or even the corporations that have tried 4-day work weeks, they are seeing the same level of productivity. Similarly, the amount of work that is completed within most offices in the two weeks leading up to Christmas would be on par with two or three months worth of productivity at any other time of the year.

You get these things off your desk to have that sense of completion, so you can go away on holidays with a clean conscience. If we all operate at that level of activity throughout the course of the year, most of us would probably be capable of working two-day weeks and still hit the same level of production.

Take advantage of virtual meetingsIt's like the meetings. An amazing phenomenon we've seen over the last couple of years with the implications of Covid and the necessity for people to work remotely is many people switched to Zoom or Teams or any video type of meetings as opposed to face-to-face meetings. 

A virtual meeting generally only needs to be somewhere between half an hour to an hour. But if those same meetings were conducted face to face, they tend to be much longer than that.

I think part of the rationale for that is if you've taken the time to go somewhere to see someone, there's almost this need that you've got to justify being there for that period of time. A personal reality for me is that there are many times that I could probably conduct the work I need to do with an individual within half an hour. However, I feel compelled to take it over a longer period because there are the human elements and a majority of us are striving for human connection and building those relationships.

If you're looking at efficiency and your work-life balance, you should start to question all of these things. If meetings can be done remotely without travel time, then do it. With the time you spend in the office. If it's possible for you to get your work done in 4 hours, then be satisfied with that.

4. Find the Best Time to Work

The efficiency of the placement of the 4 hours is also important. If I wake up 3 hours earlier, I'll get the equivalent of 10 hours more work done because I've got no one sending me emails and there's no other stuff that's distracting me. 

Michael: It's like those few hours after lunch. I'm a morning person, but I'm not actually jumping out and straight onto the laptop to work. That's bad. Do something for yourself first to get yourself in the right place. I like to work out. It helps me to coalesce my thoughts for the day ahead and then I jump in. And that period of productivity up until lunchtime is my most powerful period.

Interestingly enough, I make cold calls to advisers who I think might be interested in joining our group. I time those calls generally on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon because more people are willing to be interrupted after lunch. Just anecdotally from my own observations, a cold sales call before lunch will generate a response of "Look, I'm busy. I've got too many outcomes to achieve."

After lunch, people tend to settle into this mode where they may be productive and getting things done, but they're more than happy to be interrupted.

Focus on sales, marketing and other important aspects of your business while our dorks turn your IT into a utility. 

If you're going to examine your work-life balance and if you're the owner of a business that's not dependent upon the front door being open and walk-ins, ask yourself how was your time best spent? Is it trying to provide the appearance of working from lunch until 5 pm just to justify your existence? 

Or are you far better off spending some time with your family or doing the things that are important to you, and then returning to the workplace later?

Identify what's right for you, but be prepared to challenge these beliefs and behaviours and long-held processes within the corporate work environment.

Bonus: Try Polyphasic Sleeping

A lot of people have the midday or just after slum, where you sort of feel like your mind is not working as well. Polyphasic sleeping was world-changing for me. Find out if it's for you! 

 

The Best Book About Time Management

What would be the book that was your biggest influence or resource for people who want to start getting ahead of time management?

Michael: There have been so many resources over the years, and I'll actually circle back to Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy because I've worked in a few roles that have involved having hard conversations with people. Historically, I personally had that tendency for procrastination. That book was a real game changer for me.

Ask Michael Calam

Michael CalamMichael Calam is a regional manager at Centrepoint Alliance. He works with a select group of financial advisers to help them to grow, adapt and perfect their businesses. He partners with business owners and supports them as they move through their business life cycle, from start-up to succession planning.

 

Connect With Michael Calam

 

Passionate about making a difference in the lives of the people around him, Michael uses his experience in mentoring, coaching and change management to challenge business owners and financial advisers to ultimately achieve their goals. 

On Business Freedom 

What is freedom to you? Why do you do what you do?

Michael: I remember I left Suncorp, took a redundancy and started my own business for six years. I wish I had taken a mentor or coaching during that time or before I went down that path because I didn't know what I didn't know. I now have a job where I'm consulting other business owners.

There were so many mistakes I made which could have positioned my business so much better than it did. It did all right, but I grew tired of the industry, which is why I sold that particular business. But I think if I had got the appropriate coaching and mentoring during that period, it could have been so much more. 

I know the challenges I faced in being self-employed—managing my time, managing procrastination, managing sales and marketing—so I want to help other people.

That's a really noble cause because it's something bigger than you. These people could do things that they couldn't have done without your guidance. And once they've done these things, they could be building better infrastructure, better lives for everyone. 

Michael: At the end of the day, if you can go back to the reasons why you're in your particular field of business and then make it work for you so that you have a better quality of life, it's far easier for you to maintain that passion for what you do on a day-to-day basis. 

When what you do at work is impacting your personal life, there's a couple of competing priorities and you're going to hit stress in your life, which is ultimately an unsatisfactory situation for anyone.

If you have any questions for Michael, make sure to jump across to our Facebook group or leave it in the review on iTunes. Stay healthy, stay good. 


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