Taking a long-term view of things isn’t just good advice for liability insurers writing long-tail casualty business. It also makes sense of property/casualty managers and executives who feel as if their work lives and home lives aren’t in balance.
Apply the 10/10/10 rule, advised Marsha Egan, a former president of the CPCU Society who now works as a leader coach. “What do you want to have accomplished in 10 weeks? 10 months? 10 years?”
A wider lens is not only less daunting, but it also “allows you to set longer term goals that feed your purpose,” she said during a webinar hosted by Insurance Journal’s IJ Academy earlier this month. (Insurance Journal, Carrier Management and IJ Academy are all part of Wells Media Group.) Egan, now chief executive officer of the professional coaching firm, The Egan Group, Inc., was explaining the first of seven strategies to enhance your work/life balance, which is to “get with your purpose.”
Kicking off the webinar with her answer to the question, “What is Balance?” she said that while the answer is individual—it would be different from an airline attendant working nonstop for four days straight than for an insurance underwriter working a typical 9-5 job—”we need to allow ourselves the broader view.”
Referring to the variety of roles each of us try to balance—underwriter, manager, mentor, friend, spouse, son or daughter, parent, swim coach, community leader, charity worker, etc. while at the same time taking care of ourselves—the right questions to ask is, “Am I feeding all of these over time?”
“Balance doesn’t happen every day,” she said. Don’t ask yourself, “Did I spend enough time with my family today? Did I work on my career today? Did I exercise enough today?” she said. Rather than trying to fit it all into one day or one-half day, the better view is the week or the month or even the quarter, she said.
1—Get with your purpose
2—Manage your expectations
3—Manage your time
4—Create the space
5—Manage your Energy
6—Learn to Disconnect
7—Manage Your Attitude
Turning specifically to her list of seven strategies (set forth in the accompanying textbox), and starting at the top with No. 1—”getting with your purpose,” she noted that it’s hard to self-assess whether you’re balanced without knowing what you want to achieve. There are a lot of people who behave like “human doings—they do all day long but they’re not achieving what they want to achieve.”
“When you know what you want to leave behind, what your purpose is, what your priorities are, then you can start to make choices about your balance,” she said, ultimately proposing the 10/10/10 purpose or goal-setting standard.
Start by thinking about the roles you carry in your life. Writing those down can spark thinking about your priorities and goals. Those in turn will help you achieve your purpose. The role of being a good parent for example, may point to a purpose—of raising happy and healthy children—and a goal of spending a specific amount of alone time with each child each week or each month, she said, sharing a personal commitment that her husband made to their children.
Turning to the eye-opening 10/10/10 exercise, she said that when you start taking the midterm and longer views, it helps you crystallize your purpose and priorities. If you say, “In the next 10 weeks, I’m going to lose five pounds”—related to a health goal—that can be a priority and 10 weeks allows you time to work on it.
Instead of “getting caught up in the morass of what am I going to get done today,” a 10-month view can have you thinking about getting education goals, such as getting a CPCU designation or an MBA. Similarly, a 10-year view can spawn thoughts about career goals or goals to travel to places you’ve always wanted to go, she said.
Longer views allow you to set achievable goals that relate to your purpose “rather than the daily goals that many times are someone else’s to-do list,” she suggested.
Indeed, at one point later in the webinar, Egan told listeners that an important part of balance is scheduling time for themselves. That advice came when she discussed the sixth strategy on her list—learning to disconnect. Part of disconnecting is “you scheduling time for you to relax, to read a book, to do what feeds your soul. Without that, the whole concept of trying to achieve life-balance is for naught,” she said.
Offering an analogy, she asked, “When you get on an airplane, what do they tell you to do with the oxygen mask?” Answer: “Put it on yourself first so that you can help others,” she said, explaining that “self-care is not being selfish.”
Leading into the discussion of creating self-time, Egan explained that the overall idea of disconnecting doesn’t just mean unplugging from everything from time to time. More broadly, it refers to to “switch-tasking”—focusing on one role or goal at time. When trying to balance family and career and charity and physical exercise and everything else, “too many people try to keep all the windows open 24/7.
“This does not work for balance. Whey they’re all open, they’re all stressing you,” sometimes to the point of overwhelm. “When you’re working, you’re thinking about time to be with the kids; when you’re at home, you’re thinking about work.” And many people who are overwhelmed “just stop”—they can’t accomplish anything.
The solution: “Disconnect. Go from one to another.”
“When you’re with the family, you’re with the family,” she said, suggesting, for example, that you switch off the iPhone when you walk in the door of your house. Similarly, “when you’re at work, you’re at work,” she said. Give it your “full focus and attention.”
Egan gave a different example of disconnecting during her discussion of the third strategy—”create the space” as well. “Clutter is the enemy” not only in your physical space, but also in your mental space, she said, contrasting the stress level of someone who plans their work day during a half-hour drive on the way to the office to someone who listen to music during the trip. They both may take time to write that list down when they arrive at their desks, but “taking breaks can be useful to the whole idea of balance,” and the related ideas of “making time to do something rather than finding time to do something.”
Egan discussed the other strategies in detail during the IJ Academy webinar which is available on demand here.
Additional webinars are also available, including these: