I felt like I was doing really well. Time management and balance are always a challenge, and some days can be total disasters, but I generally thought I had a good rhythm in managing a demanding job and raising two young children. I exercise, eat healthy, and have a pretty active, interesting life outside of work. There is absolutely no such thing as having it all, but there is having a system that works. I felt gratified, maybe even a bit smug, about the system I had. But then Arianna Huffington called me out.
What she said was that I had only part of it right. In the mix of work/family/self, I was shortchanging all of it by how I defined self. My own time was greatly missing two things: sleep and focus.
I responded to her like most people do: defensively. If there are only 24 hours in a day, it just comes down to math. There is a fixed amount of time I need to work to do my job effectively. There is a fixed amount of time I need at a minimum to spend with my children, husband, extended family, and friends. Self-time is rare, so it’s used very efficiently to exercise, contribute to causes important to me, or on basic upkeep (dentists, wellness, haircuts, etc.). I’ve already cut out anything extraneous like TV, work dinners, girls’ nights out — I almost never do them — so I’m operating pretty lean already, thank you. And besides, I don’t need a lot of sleep and I’m good at multi-tasking.
Fortunately, Arianna Huffington doesn’t back down. And after years of journalism, she knows a good runaround. She also had science on her side. The fact is that anyone who is sleep-deprived is less productive. I think we all know that from experience, but we don’t really appreciate how that plays out. Sleep loss deteriorates judgment. When I look back on mistakes I’ve made — hiring the wrong person, approving something that needed more work, or snapping at someone who didn’t deserve it — they all have one thing in common. I was tired. When I’m tired, I put off tough conversations. And when I’m tired, I’m not the leader, the mother, or the person I strive to be. EVERYTHING suffers.
The other chink in my armor is distraction. I often fall victim to the “always on” culture. When I do unplug from work to relax, too often it means shifting over to Facebook or some other app for entertainment. That’s fine every now and again, but it’s not unplugging. And as I try to teach my children to “look up” and appreciate the world around them, I am not setting a good example.
When JPMorgan Chase partnered with Thrive, I was the first one to sign up for the 28-day challenge. The great thing about the challenge is that you can personalize it. There are four categories: sleep, unplugging from technology, mindfulness, and gratitude. Thrive has asked us to pick one where we need help and challenge ourselves for four weeks to make progress. In that spirit, I’m challenging myself to two (can’t quite shake the multi-tasking yet):
1) Sleep — aim for eight hours of sleep a night. Scientists say people need seven to nine unless you have a genetic mutation, which I definitely do not. My Fitbit says I’m at about six and a half.
2) Unplugging — set aside one hour completely free from devices on weekdays and FOUR hours per day on the weekends.
The catch for me is that I can’t exercise any less — I have to keep up 10,000 steps per day and at least two real workouts a week. I don’t know how all this will actually happen, but there’s nothing like a firm PUBLIC challenge to try to get there. Stay tuned…