As the jam-packed, often-intense NARI Fall Leadership Summit 2013 wound down, many NARI delegates probably could have used some pointers on work/life balance. Luckily, four NARI members were on hand to provide them.
David Callahan, CR, and Renata Callahan, CR, owners of Callahan & Peters Inc. in Glenview, Ill.,, and Don Van Cura Sr., MCR, CKBR, GCP, CLC , UDCP and Sonia Santos, CR, who own Don Van Cura Construction in Chicago, shared their secrets for striking that elusive balance.
David Callahan suggested that we all need to determine what is important in our own lives. “I remember a time when I worked crazy hours and that felt like something to be proud of,” he says. “But things change, and now I’m more proud of the balance in my life. Everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day—no more, no less. What matters is what we do with that time.”
It turns out that the two couples, who are close friends and often socialize and even vacation together, have given a lot of thought to how to balance work with relaxation. Here are some of their top tips.
1. Choose your priorities.
Whatever you do, do it purposefully, David suggests. “If your life is going to be all about work, make the decision consciously,” he says. “Too many people don’t know there is actually a choice.”
2. Review your priorities as things change.
For Van Cura, review time comes each year during the holidays. “We close down for the last two weeks in December because no one wants us in their house then anyway,” he says. “No matter how crazy the first part of that month gets, we know we have that built-in review period to focus on the coming year.”
3. Make work rewarding by focusing on efficiency.
After years of much longer hours, both couples now typically work 45 to 50 hours per week. The Callahans achieve this goal by working four nine-hour days and then a half day on Fridays. “It’s really helpful to have Friday afternoons for errands or to be able to start the weekend early,” Renata says.
4. Determine how much money you really need.
Van Cura says it’s important to know how much money is really enough. “Our work/life balanced improved greatly when we realized that the business is something to take us to our destination, not the destination itself,” he says.
5. Careful scheduling can actually create free time.
For Santos, careful scheduling means starting with her and Don’s schedules. “When Don calls me into the office to plan the week’s schedule, I fill in all of our personal appointments first, and then we see what’s left for the business. In that way we create balance,” she says.
On a practical level, Van Cura has refined the way he uses Outlook. “I used to fill every hole in my schedule with appointments back to back to back,” he says. “But now I always leave a half-hour between every single appointment, no matter what.”
6. Allot time for family, friends and neighbors each week.
This can be a challenge when one’s business success can hinge on being available and accommodating to clients and potential clients. But it’s vital, according to David: “As remodelers, we’re accustomed to always saying yes,” he says. “I’m proud to say that I now treat my family as well as I do my clients.”
7. Recreation is rejuvenating and essential.
The couples recall a time several years ago when they were discussing a joint vacation to Aruba. Van Cura e-mailed the Callahans a list of reasons why he couldn’t go, although they did end up taking the trip. “Now, all I remember is what a great time we had, but not the reasons why we couldn’t go,” he says. “I think that shows that going was ultimately the right decision.”
8. Physical and spiritual health require regular attention.
These can be all-too-easy to neglect, but both are vital to achieving long-term work/life balance. For Van Cura and Santos, that means “doing the first things first” or making sure that they are taking care of themselves even before taking care of business.
For these two NARI couples, the work/life balance is working, at least for now. And, if that changes, they’ve got a clear vision for rebalancing.–Darcy Lewis
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