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How to create work-life-balance?

Deadlines, targets, crises...life at the workplace is never easy. Particularly if you’re the top boss. Two head honchos tell us how they maintain their work-life balance.

health and fitness Updated: Jan 30, 2010 18:46 IST

Work-life balanceRahul Johri

Senior vice president & general manager, India, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific.

Being the boss: As boss, the buck stops with you. The basic starting point is that you have to be very clear about what you want. You have to run an efficient place. Everyone in my office knows what he or she has to do. If you walk into our office late in the evening, you’ll find very few people here. If I see a junior person working late, I ask him, ‘Don’t you have a home to go to?’ I myself have never worked beyond 5.30 pm in my life. I’m home by 6-6.15 pm. I think if you work late, you’re inefficient. Even if I’m travelling on work, I’m always back by Friday.
Delegation of work: That’s key. Everyone talks about delegating work but ends up doing all the work themselves. If you have trust in your people, you don’t have to be there to personally supervise everything.
Planning: This is the most important thing. It pays to have a pretty stringent system. At Discovery, we plan months in advance. For example, the Shah Rukh Khan show, Living With A Superstar, was conceptualised in July 2008, shot in 2009 and will be aired in 2010. From my perspective, 2010 may have started but I’m already in 2011. I’ve already moved to the next level.
We try to minimise to the maximum the element of surprise. But this is life and surprises do happen. In a crisis, I will lead the charge myself. No one should ever feel I’ve left the team alone. One of my first bosses taught me this: if someone under me has made a mistake, then 60 per cent of the blame is mine.
Decision-making: I don’t keep decisions pending. You can’t say I’ll think it over and get back to you. You have to take timely decisions. If you delay, then things pile up.
Targets and objectives: You must have clear-cut well-defined objectives. And the targets have to be achievable. I believe in the principle – hit the iron so hard that it becomes hot.
Blackberry use: I have three loves of my life – my wife, my kids and my Blackberry. I used to switch off my Blackberry at night. But now I keep it on. If I get a mail at night, I respond. So yes, I suppose you could say that though I claim I don't work beyond 5.30 pm, that’s not strictly speaking true. But my phone doesn’t beep when I get a text message. I will respond to smses, but on my terms.
Relaxing: I try and do yoga thrice a week. In the evenings I go for a walk. There was a phase when I went on a diet and lost a lot of weight, but now I've given up my diet. If I’m stressed, I just go for a walk. It clears my head.

Amit Burman
Vice-chairman – Dabur India Ltd and chairman - Lite Bite Foods
Being the boss: As the vice-chairman of the company, it is my responsibility to make sure that the company does well and is prepared to meet any kind of challenge.
Discipline: I try to start my day early as I feel that an early start gives me a heads up to get a lot of work done. So I reach office between 8.30-9 am and leave between 5.30-6 pm. That is the policy for my staff also. I don’t encourage them to sit late in office or work on weekends, as I completely believe in spending quality time with family.
Planning: Planning or organising is the key word for me in order to avoid unnecessary stress. If you are organised, you can minimise your stress levels. I always maintain a ‘To do’ list on a day-to-day basis which I follow strictly.
Crisis management: You have to be prepared for rough weather. I prefer to involve more people than just the top-level management during a crisis. I firmly believe that lower-rung employees have a better insight in the solving of any problem. I still remember this incident that happened in Bangalore a few years ago when we were carrying out a sampling activity for our juices in a school. After drinking the juice, the kids also ate sweets from some other organisation and unfortunately some of them fell ill. The school authorities put the blame on the agency that was doing the sampling activity for us, filed a legal case against them and also got the media involved. As the owner of the brand, it was my responsibility to get things under control as soon as possible. This meant not just taking care of the media but also ensuring that the agency people (they were all college kids) were bailed out as they were completely innocent.
Blackberry use: Unlike most people, I am not addicted to my Blackberry. I usually avoid using it when I’m in a meeting and once I reach home, I switch it off.
Family time: I am a complete family man and love spending time with my wife and two kids. My daughter is very fond of football, so it’s nice to sit together and discuss that and other activities they are involved in. I avoid going out on weekdays. If we have to, I leave only after the kids have been put to bed, around 9.30 pm. Saturday night may be party time, but Sunday is again reserved for the family – we usually go out for lunch or watch a movie. I also believe in taking short breaks from work, they are very rejuvenating.
Relaxing: I am a big workout freak and I need to work out every day for at least an hour. I have my own personal gym at home, so every evening from 7-8 pm I do a mix of cardio and weights. I am also a trained pilot and enjoy flying.

— Veenu Singh

Work-life balance
Work-life balance is a term that is commonly used in organisations to describe a balance in various aspects of one’s life. The simplest, easiest to use and most effective tool that could help you create balance in various aspects of your life is a tool called Wheel of Life.

I use this when I coach senior executives. The Wheel of Life helps you consider each area of your life in turn and assess what’s off balance. And so it helps you identify areas that need more attention.

Let’s create a Wheel of Life right now. Take a piece of paper and draw a circle. Now divide this circle into various areas of your life, profession, primary relationship, social life, financial life, spiritual life and physical fitness level. If there is any other area that is important to you, please add that also.

Take each of these segments and grade your satisfaction level on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is not satisfied at all and 10 is extremely satisfied. If you think you are really satisfied with your career, give it a score closer to 10. Once you have done this, you can decide which area you need to improve to have more balance.

You might give a low score to playtime and hobbies and yet you may decide not to work on that, but instead work on health where you have given yourself a fairly high score. That’s fine. This tool just helps you to visually see the various areas in your life and your satisfaction level in each.

It is always good to pick just one area to work on rather than try to do too many things at the same time. Once you have decided the area that you would like to improve on in the next six months, write down three things that you can do which will make a difference in this area. If you have decided to work on health, you could join a gym, start taking morning walks or begin a new diet.

You will soon notice that anything that you do in one area will have an influence in the other areas. For example, if you are working on health, you might want to reduce the time you spend in the office, or if you are working on your career, you might want to improve your relationship with colleagues. The secret is to prioritise and do one thing at a time.

What is that one thing that you could do now that can create a huge difference in all areas of your life? And what is stopping you from taking that first step right now to make a difference in your life?

– Santhosh Babu, hypnotist and life coach