I had a busy family weekend and needed to get back to a couple of clients regarding important meetings for this week. So, just before I went to bed last night (12:55AM this morning, actually), I sent them both Emails suggesting dates.
When I got up this AM, I checked my Email and BOTH clients had already replied, the first at 2:10 AM and the second at 2:55 AM! At the risk of sounding old, I'm sitting here shaking my head saying, "What's this world coming to?"
In the past (5-10 years ago), I was the one person I knew who worked crazy hours, deprived myself of sleep (and health in general) for the sake of business, and really attached my self-worth to the results of my business. In fact, I remember having taken pride at my "dedication" when others would be astounded by my ridiculous hours.
Don't get me wrong - I'm all for high-production, high-innovation, and a get-the-job-done focus. But I wonder what will happen in the world, when it becomes the norm to check your Email at 3:00 AM! In fact, I wonder how people are doing it? Are they staying up until that hour? Not sleeping at all? Or do they take their Blackberries or Email-based PDAs to bed with them??
As I grew older, I realized that I had to reprioritize my life, or I'd end up dead at 35. I did this by assessing EXACTLY what was important to me (clearly understanding/defining my core values). Business should have been just a means to an end, but instead it was the end, itself. This was because I turned to business to satisfy my emotional needs for acceptance, self-worth, and value to the world. I learned that there's a problem with doing this when you make work the ONLY place to turn for these things. In fact, I had taken it so far, that I was on 3 non-profit boards to try to get even more of what I was desperately seeking.
There is a big problem with this thinking, however: Until a person learns to be "ok" with himself first, he'll search all over for what he thinks he needs to be "ok". Unfortunately, he won't find it anywhere else. He'll find things that look like it, feel like it, and even temporarily fill the need for a while. But none of these will last. He has to learn to become INTERNALLY motivated, otherwise he will become a people-pleaser, doomed to feeling sadness by misinterpreting everyone else's behavior as critical or demeaning to him. This isn't fair to him or the other people and certainly is no way to live a joyful life.
By being "ok" with himself, he is able to be confident of his own decisions, actions, and beliefs while being open to learning and growing from other people. Ironically, by deriving self-worth only from others (EXTERNALLY motivated), he will become a barrier to learning and growing he is so desperately trying to receive. In addition, he ends up using and manipulating others to get what he wants, rather than accepting and embracing others as they are.
Now, I'm working at having a much more balanced life which includes my family time, time with just my wife, time with just my daughter, and my SELF time. I'm happier, and MUCH more productive than ever, because I AM more balanced now. I've implemented Getting Things Done by David Allen, which is a set of tools for helping people become highly efficient and effective in their task management. By doing this, I added structure to my balance and armed myself with techniques I use to manage myself when I get pulled in 50 different directions.
It's a constant struggle, however, to achieve balance. I so often "fall off" and have to "get back on again," but that's fine with me because I'm learning and growing through the process.
I must also add that I wasn't able to do this on my own - I had help from my business coach, Greg Balanko-Dickson, and numerous books, including The Four Agreements, Good to Great, Jump Start Your Business Brain, Getting Things Done, Boundaries, The 9 Things a Leader Must Do, The Secret (DVD), The Art of Possibility, and The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent. I highly recommend all of these books.
My larger concern is that as we "progress" with the benefits of technology, we may be leaving behind some things that we really need, and creating new problems for ourselves. I wonder if there really is a true net benefit to the individual, the family, and the business.
I'd really enjoy hearing your thoughts regarding 24-hour Email, business-based self-worth, and the future of the world with new technology. If you have a moment, just comment on this blog entry.