On work/life balance.
NO-NONSENSE CAREER AND BUSINESS ADVICE FROM A MAN AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME.
A recent report from think tank The Australia Institute found that, on average, full-time Australian employees are working six hours of unpaid overtime a week – that equates to $9471 a year per employee and a staggering $110bn, across the workforce, in free annual labour. But, as an acute professional with an eye on future success – you’re already aware that current demands mean slugging it out for longer, and often for little-to-no-reward, to get ahead. So, the notion of work/life balance. Seeking a semblance of equality between professional and personal spheres is, in theory, a valuable proposition, but what’s the reality of such today? Is it attainable for someone eager to ascend the corporate ladder? According to Bouris, Australians need to accept the fact longer working hours are not about to diminish and that the so-called ‘work/life balance’ comes down to a simple, professional choice made early in one’s career. It’s a good ideal, but the question you have to ask is this – do I want to compete with the other people, those who don’t have this balance and who are achieving extraordinary things? If that’s the game you want to play – to compete – then you have to be prepared to sacrifce work/life balance. End of story. This doesn’t mean many of us don’t want it, certainly in years to come we’ll want it, but you need to make that choice and once you’ve done that, don’t fucking complain about it. Before you make that choice, though, talk it through with your partner, your family, whoever it is. You don’t want to be that person who hasn’t discussed the process of the decision to those you’re responsible to in a personal sense – generally speaking, family. And they need to understand the risk here. Make it clear to your partner – crystal clear – so that they don’t then complain. Because you can’t try to achieve great things, and compete with people who are all about work, only to have someone continually pulling at the heartstrings about being home, about not having an Audi, about not being able to have a holiday in Port Douglas like the neighbours. All that will do is destroy you emotionally – which isn’t fair. Maybe sell it this way. Make it clear, in the initial conversation, that you’ll try to take time off whenever you can, or, alternatively, pitch it as a fve-year plan – you’ll reevaluate things at that time and maybe by then you’ll have sold the business or be in a position to take time, but for now you need to concentrate on it, full-time, for that period. My other point is Australians need to suck it up – you’re all going to be working longer and harder anyway. So wear it. The bottom line is we compete not just in Australia, but internationally, and the rules of the global game are such that people in India, China, the Philippines, wherever, are working seven days a week. As a result, we have to be prepared to work longer and harder, and for less money. Failing this, our jobs become redundant – so you either become more innovative, smarter and more productive per hour, or you work longer hours to produce more. Ultimately, we have to become machines, it’s not necessarily a good thing but that’s where we’re headed – and we’re competing against robots too. How I work is to do things in chunks, or blocks. The Apprentice, for example, meant I didn’t have a break, not once, for two months: it’s every day, seven days a week. On top of that I had my businesses and the reporting period. I was bloody busy, but I knew I would be and I ‘chunked’ it out, everything else went by the wayside – friends, family, leisure, pleasure. When I’m in the middle of something like that, I don’t say that I need to take every second Friday for myself or to spend time with whomever – that’s not practical and it’s not the way I work. Then, knowing I need a break, I’ll take a period of time off – like I did last month. I try to average my holidays over a calendar year and then I’m always retrospectively back flling with work. You must do that, otherwise you’ll have a breakdown. For more straight up business and professional advice, catch Bouris’ weekly podcast at markbouris.com.au