Respect your 'me' time and you'll improve your health and productivity

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As my hours of exercise went up, my hours of work came down – but my productivity and impact at work rocketed.

I always like to think I give 100% to everything I do. For most of my career I thought the best way to do this was to work every hour I could. I would look back proudly after any given week and I think: “Wow, I have worked 70 hours this week. Amazing.”

But let’s be clear, it is the opposite of amazing. The only way I could personally do this was to make sacrifices in the really important parts of my life so my family, health, rest and play time took a back seat to work.

This led to increased stress, which then led to more alcohol to help me relax at night. I was then not sleeping, waking up grumpy, having a bad day, getting more stressed and drinking more! This meant my weight ballooned and I was doing nothing but working, drinking wine in front of the TV and comfort eating. I like to think of this as the downward spiral.

Running out of time?

Almost by mistake, two years ago I set out on a path that has fundamentally changed my life and my perception of what giving 100% means.

Ceridian has an amazing charity called The PayBack Foundation, and to raise money we run various events. For 2014 we decided to do ToughMudder. So on Boxing Day 2013 I put on my trainers and went for my first run in years. It was not pretty; I managed less than 2km, had a red face full of snot, and felt quite bilious! With the target of ToughMudder in my head I went out the next day and the next day and the next. By March 2014 I was running three times per week and could just about manage 5km. In parallel with this a remarkable number of things started to happen, which I now call the upwards spiral:

  1. I was sleeping like a king
  2. I had bags of energy every morning
  3. I hardly ever felt down or depressed
  4. I had more focus and clarity of mind
  5. I was unconsciously drinking less alcohol

All of this spurred me on to pick up my training and over the next 12 months I started to slowly up my running distances and frequencies while also completing the ToughMudder in one piece and raising money for our charity.

The less is more algorithm

This is where it got strange. As my hours of exercise went up, my hours of work came down – but my productivity and impact at work rocketed. I also got more time with my family, and my weight dropped making me feel better in myself. All of this then acted as a catalyst for even more positivity and meant;

  1. I was happy 99.9% of the time
  2. I was never really stressed
  3. I was working a normal amount of hours per week
  4. My relationship with my wife was the best it had ever been
  5. I was able to spend quality time with the people I love

In this time I was promoted at work into a dream role that I love, and I am doing more impactful work in less hours while having a fulfilling life outside the office.

As my fitness levels have increased, the fears, doubts and stresses that used to plague me have dissolved into something much more manageable. This means that my mind is able to focus on the right things and I work so much more effectively that I spend less time doing the wrong things. Exercise, healthy eating, time with family and quality breaks away from work mean that the time I do put into work is more impactful, more effective and importantly more fun.

For those of you reading this that work crazy hours, do one thing for me right now. Turn off your computer, slip on your trainers, go outside for a walk, jog or cycle and you might just surprise yourself with what happens to you this year.

Rick Norgate, is director of HR Solutions at HR Most Influential partner Ceridian. He provides leadership and strategic direction for Ceridian’s commercial and implementation approaches. Last year he was awarded 'Senior Manager Impact' award by Ceridian

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