I'm Sorry, I Have an Appointment
A valuable lesson I learned in my career is you have to take care of yourself both mentally and physically; otherwise, you are susceptible to burnout, sickness and a whole slew of other issues that come with being mentally and physically exhausted. For many, taking care of yourself means going to the doctor, but it can also mean hitting a gym class, getting your hair done or whatever activity you need to do to make yourself feel better.
While this all sounds great on paper, it can be difficult to put into practice. Everyone has busy lives, trying to juggle work, family/friends, leisure and that ever-growing to-do list (hello, pile of laundry I'm looking at you!) How do you find a balance between it all? There are many theories on this; however, something simple I've implemented into my life is using the simple phrase: 'I have an appointment.'
I know what you are thinking, it can't be that easy, can it? Yes, my dear, it can. People respect appointments, the term holds certain brevity to it and quite honestly, no one will ever dismiss an appointment you have. For example, one thing in my life that keeps me sane is getting my nails done once a month. It gives me a nice hour-long break in a mobile-free zone where I can have a little time for myself. This is MY time to relax and disconnect from the world for a little bit. While I try to book these appointments post-working hours, there are times when I can't avoid scheduling an appointment late in the day on a Tuesday. When this happens, I place these appointments in my calendar as a simple 'appointment' or mark it as a private event (we have shared calendars in my office). Not once has a co-worker asked me to move that meeting, they respect the appointment.
An appointment is a powerful tool, it seems like trickery using this term for something not medical related, but in our modern working world we need to forget the notion that appointments should only occur when you are sick. The majority of us work too much, often letting personal matters fall by the wayside. Using the appointment method, I've found that in the long run, I'm a more productive worker for taking care of myself and have developed a stronger personal life versus merely focusing on work.
Figuring out what in your life is an appointment is just as important as the event itself. To do this, take a step back and figure out what is important to you; what can you do to make your life better and achieve a work-life balance. For example, I block off in my calendar the hours between 1 pm to 2:30 pm to go to the gym near my office. If anyone wanted to book a meeting with me during this time, they have to ask me. Usually, when people do ask I move it up or back, but it shows a certain amount of respect for them to ask me if they can take up my precious gym time. For me, going to the gym isn't wasting 'work hours,' instead, it's helping me remain focused, it's helping me have some balance in what seems like the never-ending workday, and it enables me to gain an amount of control back over what I'm doing with my life.
Since the days of the 9 to 5 work week seem to be a thing of the past, to build good company culture means you need to be ready to work with your employee's schedules and not against them. No one should be expected to work 12-hour days without some downtime. The best jobs I've been in have allowed me to manage my schedule and respect that sometimes I have personal commitments that I've made to myself. My coworkers respect this "appointment" even if it is personal. An appointment is a powerful thing; learning to use it wisely and effectively has made my life tenfolds easier and has returned that small bit of balance that I've been craving.