The Times of London: How is Your Work/Life Balance?
From The Times
November 20, 2007
How is your work/life balance?
You can’t succeed unless your work/life balance is good, says top US life coach
Ginger Cockerham, who starts her “laser coaching” column for Times readers
John Anderson, 44, runs a property development company that he set up five years ago. He is married
with two teenage daughters and describes himself as fit and healthy. “I go to the gym three or four times a
week, have more than three weeks’ holiday a year and scored highly on the times2 work/life balance
test,” he says. “Why, then, do I constantly feel stressed and as if my balance is all wrong?
“I have a fantastic, caring and tolerant wife, a loving family and two fabulous, beautiful and well-balanced
daughters. I am considered a workaholic, but I work partly because of the fear of failure. I regularly work
10 to 12-hour days, usually take work home over the weekend and always work on holiday.”
John’s typical working day
5.30am Wake up. The thoughts are racing around my head as soon as I am conscious. I can’t just lie in bed; I
have to get up.
5.40am Two or three mornings a week I go to the gym. If I’m not, I’ll go through e-mails on my PDA.
6.10am Have breakfast (a bowl of cereal and a protein drink); read yesterday’s paper (I never have time
to read the newspaper on the day it’s bought).
6.30am Shower; get dressed.
7am Leave for the office.
7.10am Arrive at the office. Go through e-mails, work out my “to do” list for the day. The time before 9am
is when I can read contracts and legal documents: I don’t have time to read these in normal working
9am – 7.30pm My day is spent speaking to the people with whom we are doing deals, and moving things
forward. This is a relatively slow-moving industry and I must push people to do things faster. I have
banned a kettle in the office so that we are forced to go out when we want a coffee. I drink far too much
coffee – at least 6 or 7 cups on a normal day.
My job involves driving to sites all over the country. If I’m in the car, I’m on the phone – I don’t want to
waste time making calls in the office that I could make on the move. For lunch, if I’m in the office I’ll get a
sandwich from the cafe; if I’m out I’ll buy one at a service station. I’ll pull over while I eat it but I don’t
have a lunch break as such.
A couple of days a week I’ll have an evening meeting with residents, who could be anywhere in the
country – Scotland, say, or Yorkshire. If I don’t have a residents’ meeting I get home at between 7pm and
7.45pm Eat dinner. If my youngest daughter has cooked, I make a special effort to get home so we can
all eat together. If not, I just heat up what my wife has left for me.
8.30pm Watch a bit of TV. I used to have a glass of wine, but two glasses quickly became three and
before I knew it I was getting drunk every night and waking up with a thumping headache. I was doing it
to destress but I put on a lot of weight, so I decided to stop.
Since John’s company’s success depends on him, he believes that he must “run at 100 per cent” all the
time. John graciously made time for laser coaching and readily answered my questions.
Do you regularly eat meals quickly, “on the run”, or while working or driving?
“Always,” John answered. “I don’t have a lunch break as such.”
Are you impatient standing in lines and waiting for others? “Constantly. People tell me that my impatience
makes me hard to work for.”
Do you drink caffeine in excess? “I drink far too much coffee – at least six or seven cups on a normal
Like so many people today, John is running on adrenaline, a consumptive energy source. He wakes at
5.30am with his mind racing, and gets home at 7.45pm exhausted, with nothing left for his wife and
daughters or for himself.
I asked John if he would take a first step in reducing his adrenaline dependency. He agreed. I asked him
to dedicate one day to accomplishing nothing. John was baffled: “What’s the point or benefit of that?” I
replied: “It really isn’t logical, it’s experiential and requires a leap of faith on your part. It is a commitment
to ‘just be’ for an entire day.”
He requested suggestions, and I replied: “You might take a walk and be fully aware of your surroundings;
or really listen as your daughter plays the piano; or read a book for pleasure alone.” I asked John if he
had his diary available. He was surprised. “You mean you want me to schedule a day immediately?” I
said yes, then asked how he would let me know the results. He said that he would e-mail me after next
Coach’s note: Instead of adding another thing to his overwhelming “to do” list, I suggested something
that will allow John to experience what may be missing from his life. He became reflective as he talked
about his wish to clear his mind of the constant noise. This will be an important first step for him.
Would you like to be laser coached by Ginger? To participate, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org,
with your name, address, phone numbers and a brief explanation of what you do. Participants
must agree to the interview, and Ginger’s advice, being published in The Times, and to pay for the
15-minute phone call to Texas themselves.
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