Take care of your health. If you don’t have it, you have nothing. You are not useful to anyone if you aren’t healthy. If you don’t like to exercise or swear you can’t fit it in, get something like a FitDesk Fitbike or an under-desk elliptical. Make your phone calls to family and friends while walking around the neighborhood. Incorporate rest breaks into your day where you aren’t staring at a screen, and you’re focused on your breath. We blink less and breathe more shallow when staring at a screen. This can help with anxiety as well as tension in the upper back, neck, and shoulders.
As a part of my series about the strategies that extremely busy and successful leaders use to juggle, balance and integrate their personal lives and business lives, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marcey Rader, a productivity speaker, author, and coach. She is the founder of Work Well. Play More! Her latest book is Work Well. Play More! Productive, Clutter-Free, Healthy Living — One Step at a Time. You can learn more about her at www.marceyrader.com and www.workwellplaymore.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share with us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career?
Ispent the first part of my adult life in different roles in the clinical research industry. After experiencing severe corporate burnout and health issues seven years ago, I started Work Well. Play More! I help busy people climb the ladder or build their business without sacrificing their health. I speak, write, and coach individuals and teams on personal productivity and health behaviors. Topics include focus, time boundaries, task management, email habits, eating for energy, movement opportunities, and stress reduction.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started? What lessons or takeaways did you take out of that story?
I gave a half-day workshop to 100 executives of Emaar Properties in Dubai. I explained the concept of decision fatigue and the benefits of automated decisions, even down to your wardrobe. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs were my examples. One of the men in the audience pointed out that wearing their white dishdasha was decision automation. It was a big ‘duh’ moment for me. I could have used them as examples because 3/4 of my audience was wearing the white robe!
My lesson was to look at my audience and really think of how my words will affect them. It was early in my career, and now I tailor my workshops and keynotes to the groups I am speaking to differently.
What does leadership mean to you? As a leader, how do you best inspire others?
To me, leadership means setting an example, walking the talk, and allowing your team opportunities to grow and live at their best potential. Make decisions for the good of the company, team, or group rather than for oneself. Last year I read the book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, and it changed my management style. Taking extreme ownership and always looking at myself first if a mistake is made is humbling. Still, it allows me to think more upstream on why the problem occurred in the first place. It also encourages employees to take extreme ownership as well and eliminates excuses.
One of my best compliments is that I walk my talk about wellness, health behaviors, and productivity habits. I don’t preach anything I can’t or won’t do myself.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
When I worked in clinical research, Mary-Lynn Fulton was a Vice-President that I worked with cross-functionally, and then as my manager’s boss. When I left to start my own company, I think it was challenging for some of the people I worked with to see me in this new capacity. Mary-Lynn believed in me and what I was doing. She brought me into the current pharma company she works with and has been a great cheerleader for me along the way. Just knowing that she bought into my mission and supported it inspired me to realize I could do it.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main core of our discussion. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your life into your business and career? Can you articulate what the struggle was?
When I worked in corporate, I did it all wrong. I traveled up to 48 weeks a year. I ignored the warning signs of burnout and failing health. I neglected my husband and started suffering from depression. I kept saying to myself that someday when X happens, I’ll slow down. When I get a promotion or when I move into a new house or finish this project…I’ll slow down. There was always something that I was waiting to happen for me to focus on myself, health or relationships. I used extreme sports to escape my job and my personal life.
Eventually, all of those things suffered so much that, in hindsight, I could have qualified for a mental health leave of absence. I had triggered three autoimmune diseases, and I had been in menopause since age 36. I also had a year of marital struggles because I was gone so much and disengaged.
The same year I started my business was when I got diagnosed, and it was a wake-up call. I vowed that money would not be the driver in my life. There was nothing more important than my husband and my health. I now work with private clients to prevent them from getting to the point of no return or struggling with those same issues themselves.
In order to give greater context to this discussion, can you share with our readers what your daily schedule looks like?
Pre-COVID, I still traveled a couple of times a month. I do enjoy that and hope to get back to it again, but with limitations. Never again, will I travel weekly. My routine is a lot like anyone now working from home; however, I am very consistent and have healthy boundaries about my time. I meditate and write in my gratitude journal every morning when I wake up. I work out for about an hour because I know if I wait too long or later in the day, the likelihood of something else will become a priority is high.
I eat a smoothie bowl at my desk, which is my only meal in front of a screen. I work for a couple of hours before my first meeting because morning is my best time, and I don’t want to give my productive hours over to someone else. I want to use that as deep work time. The rest of the day is doing webinars, coaching clients, creating presentations, or writing. I keep 15-minutes in between meetings for biology breaks and transitions.
Most days, I now have lunch with my husband, often on our screened-in porch, so I can be out in nature, which increases happiness, creativity, and productivity. I have a call with a friend or business colleague as a walking phone meeting around my neighborhood. I ride my FitDesk Fitbike if I am watching any webinars or reading long documents.
I finish around 6:00pm when my Alexa plays my transition dance song! I do about 15 minutes of Duolingo Spanish lessons and fix dinner. I’ll go for a walk around my neighborhood or do housework and then read until my husband gets home between 7:30–8:30. We hang out and talk until I go to bed at 9:00pm. I don’t watch any TV during the week, so that helps me get to sleep faster.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life? Can you explain?
In my 1.0 version, I always felt like I had time to ‘fix it,’ whatever ‘it’ was….after I achieved something. When I started my business, it began the same way…after I make my first X, I will hire an assistant. After I hire an assistant, I will stop working weekends. It took a year of that to realize I was my own worst enemy and a hypocrite. I’m now much more balanced and focused on boundaries for both myself and my clients.
What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal/family life.
That’s easy, the diagnosis of my autoimmune diseases and early menopause. I triggered all of that myself based on poor choices.
Ok, so here is the main question of our interview. Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal/family life? Please share a story or example for each.
- Determine what you want your digital boundaries to be. What hours will you accept and respond to texts, instant messages, and emails? Will you be available to everyone all the time, only before 8:00 pm or not on Sundays? Once you determine those boundaries, communicate them with people you are close to and ask them to support you.
- Create clear transitions, especially when working from home and even more so at the end of the day. We tend to work more at home, and our days run into our nights, and the lines are blurry. Even if you are only stepping away for a few hours to hang with the family before you have to go back to work, transition.
My friend Lilly Ferrick has Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off play on her iPhone at 5 pm every day. I have Robert Randolph and the Family Band’s song Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That play at 6:00 pm. That song gets me pumped and makes me want to dance and is my trigger to stop working. Find a trigger to transition with whether it’s a walk, reading a chapter in a book, or taking a meditation or gratitude break. Mr. Rogers was the king of transition. Changing his shoes and putting on that sweater told him he was in a different mode.
3. If you have others working from home as well, whether it’s school or work, get a door hanger or post a sign on the door of your work hours and what time you will take a break. Have them do the same. This way, your kids or spouse aren’t anxious about when they can interrupt you, and you are forced to take a healthy break and check in with them.
4. Take care of your health. If you don’t have it, you have nothing. You are not useful to anyone if you aren’t healthy. If you don’t like to exercise or swear you can’t fit it in, get something like a FitDesk Fitbike or an under-desk elliptical. Make your phone calls to family and friends while walking around the neighborhood. Incorporate rest breaks into your day where you aren’t staring at a screen, and you’re focused on your breath. We blink less and breathe more shallow when staring at a screen. This can help with anxiety as well as tension in the upper back, neck, and shoulders.
5. Schedule a weekly family meeting. We do this every Sunday after breakfast over coffee and call it our 90-Day Vision. We go over our calendars, finances, goals for the month, and project timelines around the house. We say one thing that each person did that week that was amazing. It’s one of the most important times of our week.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Talk doesn’t cook rice. It’s a Chinese Proverb. Talk gets you nowhere, and it isn’t going to feed you. Start boiling that water! I’m a person of action, and one of my biggest pet peeves is people who say they are going to do something and then don’t. I don’t have a lot of patience with dreamers. I prefer to be around doers.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Digital wellness hours. Create boundaries around your devices and focus on the people you are with or even just yourself. We don’t always have to have digital stimuli entering our eyeballs or podcasts in our ears. It’s often in the empty spaces that we can be creative and have new ideas. Schedule phone-free Friday nights, have everyone put their phone away during meal times or experiment with screen-free Sundays.
What is the best way for people to follow you online?
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!