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Work-Life Balance Strategies With Michael Calam

Work-Life Balance Strategies With Michael Calam

Work-life balance seems to be getting harder and harder, but having a healthy one is essential to maintain a healthy and fulfilling life.

Josh was joined by Michael Calam to discuss how to come up with the best strategies to get your work-life balance right. Michael is a regional manager at Centrepoint Alliance. He works with a select group of business owners and supports them as they move through their business life cycle, from start-up to succession planning.

How to Have a Work-Life Balance

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

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

1.Hard First, Easy Second

project managementThere’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.

I 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

Setting prioritiesWhen 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.

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.

One 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 operate 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 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 work-life balance strategies, 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.


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3. Cut Down Your Work Time

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 those 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.

Take advantage of virtual meetingsYou get these things off your desk to have that sense of completion, so you can go away on holiday 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.

It’s like 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. 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 human elements and most 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.


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4. Find the Best Time to Work

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.

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?


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Bonus: Try Polyphasic Sleeping

Josh here: A lot of people have moments in the day 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!

Polyphasic sleeping is a sleep pattern that involves dividing the typical 7-9 hour sleep period into multiple shorter naps throughout the day. In contrast to monophasic sleep, where individuals sleep for one long period per day, polyphasic sleepers typically take several short naps, each lasting 20-30 minutes, with intervals of wakefulness in between. Some popular polyphasic sleep schedules include the Uberman, Everyman, and Dymaxion sleep schedules.

Proponents of polyphasic sleep argue that it can increase productivity, creativity, and cognitive performance. They suggest that by shortening sleep time, individuals can gain additional hours in their day for work, hobbies, or other activities. Advocates also claim that polyphasic sleep can improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of certain sleep-related health problems, such as sleep apnea.



The Best Book About Time Management

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 About Work-Life Balance Strategies

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. Connect With Michael Calam

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