In January, my husband and I took a month off TV. No Netflix, no Hulu, no TV news. Our goal was to become more intentional and creative with our evenings—playing games, reading, having friends over, conversing with one another.
Up until January, we were in the habit of watching a few episodes before bed each night. It began to feel like a rut where as soon as we put the kids to bed, we were drawn to the couch like magnets, plopping down shortly after, usually with snacks in hand.
On January 1, we were halfway through The Crown on Netflix, and I thought that tearing myself away mid-season would be tough. Thankfully, our TV-Turn-Off month turned out to be much easier than I expected. Within two days, I mostly forgot about The Crown. We found ourselves playing those board games we’d wanted to play, inviting friends over, reading lots more books, and enjoying our evenings in new and refreshing ways.
In the midst of this, one surprising benefit emerged: we were going to bed earlier, 45 minutes to an hour on average. Instead of feeling the urge to binge-watch one more thing, we simply went to bed when we were tired, and woke feeling more refreshed.
I also felt more freedom in the evenings. Knowing there were different options each night, and challenging myself to try them—cooking something fun and time-consuming, sitting around the firepit, listening to an audiobook while doing a jigsaw puzzle—filled me with possibilities and made me feel more creative in all of life.
The benefits were wide-ranging. We shared longer family dinners with better conversation, invested more time meal prepping healthy food in the evening, and awoke each morning feeling rejuvenated from a solid night’s sleep. I got up without pressing snooze. I finished more books and podcasts. At work, especially, I felt more rested and focused. It was my experience that cutting out TV led to all of this, and ultimately to an overall boost in wellbeing.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of a break from TV, here are some questions to spark your thinking:
Is streaming entertainment cutting into your sleep?
We all know sleep is the foundation for so much in life, including focus, learning, and performance at work. Reducing screen time is almost guaranteed to increase your sleep, both in quality and quantity. You can also think of it from the negative side: sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce performance and productivity. As this article shows, a lack of motivation, focus, and creativity can all be traced back to inadequate sleep.
Do you engage in screen-free recreation activities on a regular basis?
I found it refreshing to enjoy different leisure activities during our TV-free month. Sure, it took a little more energy, but it actually made me feel more energized and engaged with life. The inspirations I’ve gotten while hiking or going for a run/walk outside have led to breakthroughs in my mindset at work. I don’t generally get inspired to make positive change while watching Parks and Recreation (much as I love that show!). Breaking out of my TV rut inspired me and sparked fresh passion in my life.
How much of your free time goes towards TV?
I am not going to say there’s a right or wrong amount of time to watch shows, but I bet you could come up with a number. Are you exceeding it? Imagine you are your Future Self, 10-15 years down the road. How much entertainment would your Future Self want you to be watching now? What else would he/she like you to be doing in your spare time?
In light of all the positive effects my husband and I experienced, I’d encourage anyone to take a TV sabbatical. It may challenge your thinking, shake up your routine, and take more creativity and energy. But it just might lead to better sleep, a healthier mindset, and greater inspiration in your personal life and at work.
I recently had the chance to eat dinner with Horst Schulz, the co-founder of the Ritz-Carlton. Over quesadillas, chips, and multiple orders of queso, he shared stories with those of us at the table.
When this man opens his mouth, you listen. You listen because Horst was the inspiration for the iconic Chick-fil-A phrase “My pleasure,” and he’s also behind the fresh flowers most Chick-fil-As display on their dining room tables. And then there’s the Ritz.
His words challenged and inspired me in many ways, but by far, my biggest takeaway was this statement: “human beings want to belong, have purpose, and be part of excellence.“
If you’re a leader in your organization, here are some thoughts on how to leverage each of these components to improve employee retention and satisfaction.
People want to belong to something. As a leader in your business, you have the chance to provide this sense of belonging to your team. Cast vision for your people. Show them they aren’t just an individual working a role, nor a cog in a wheel, but rather a vital part of something bigger than themselves. Challenge yourself to inspire your team just as much, if not even more, than you push your team to grow. On a practical level, think about your onboarding process. Are you making the process something special? Onboarding is an opportunity to convert new hires into loyal fans.
Hospitality is more than just taking great care of customers. It’s how the team ought to relate to one other as well. Start with internal hospitality. Welcome the team into your organization, treat people with dignity and respect, and they will inevitably begin to extend the same powerful hospitality towards your customers.
People want purpose. No matter if it’s the dishwasher in the hotel kitchen or the marketing manager, make sure every single person knows the “Why” behind your organization. What is your overall mission? What is their specific mission? How is their unique role vital to the entire business? From the moment you onboard someone, be sure to bring them into this conversation and continually remind them of their purpose. Not only will they perform better, they’ll also stick around longer. This is the secret sauce behind the Ritz-Carlton’s extremely low turnover rate, around 20% as of 2014.
Finally, people want to be part of excellence. Hold the team to a high standard, and then celebrate the excellence. Remind your people what great work they’re doing, share your company values with them, and market your brand’s excellence to your people just as much as you would to a potential customer.
There are countless books and resources on leadership, the startling amount of leadership help and management books tells me something: leading people is difficult and we still don’t have it figured out yet. You will not find all of the secrets to leadership in this article, but what I do hope you find are two simple and practical tips that can help you today in your leading.
1) Have a well-defined job analysis. A job analysis differs from a job description in that goes into much more detail about the expectations of the job. It includes:
- The business outcomes the position will produce. This could be productivity outcomes, sales outcomes, customer service metric outcomes, financial outcomes, etc. Make it clear exactly what the job does to help the organization reach its goals.
- Job tasks. What tasks will the person in this job do on a daily basis to accomplish these outcomes? How much time will be spent on those tasks? Understanding these tasks can help you in your recruiting, interviewing, and training practices.
- The skills needed to do the tasks. I hear a lot of people say, “hire for attitude because skills can be trained”; while I do believe in the sentiment of this statement, it’s important that the person has the capacity to actually learn the skills you desire to train.
- Behaviors that will help the person be successful. Is it taking initiative? Doing repetitive tasks over and over? Maybe professionalism? Think through what the expected behaviors are that support the tasks being done.
- Traits. Honesty, humility, confidence, continuous learner…all of these things influence how this person will perform, take feedback, and work with others.
- Compensation/benefits package. Communicate exactly what the person will get for performing this role well.
- Training, development, and evaluation processes. Clearly understand what needs to be trained, how it will be trained, how development will occur, and how this position will be evaluated. Show them their pathway to success.
2) Offer hope and create opportunities for your team. When you lead people, they are going to let you down and you are going to let them down; it’s just the reality of the world we live in. I do not say that to be pessimistic, but to be realistic. Your job as a leader is to provide hope, personally and professionally, to inspire your team towards their goals, and the goals of the organization. When they fall short, teach them, guide them, and help them learn. If they are unwilling, or incapable, of doing such, then you may need to cut them loose. To do this, let me ask you a few questions:
- What two people that report to you do you know the least? Why? When can you spend time with them to get to know them?
- Do you know what these two people are most excited about in their life? Do you know what is currently causing them stress? Do you know what they most look forward to on their drive to work? Do you know what they hate most about their job?
- Have you spent time talking about the mission and purpose of the organization with them? Do they really understand it and are they seeing it lived out in your life every single day? Maybe they’re not living it out because you’re not setting the example.
So there it is, two simple tips that you can apply right now, before Christmas, to strengthen the influence you have as a leader. Always feel free to leave comments and thoughts, as well as questions or other perspectives. I am a student on this journey of leading as well, and look forward to a life of learning how to lead myself, my family, and my team better.
Consider this scenario: your friend is telling you a story, and suddenly you think of something brilliant to add to the conversation, maybe a great story of your own. You start chasing that idea in your mind and thinking what you’ll say and how you’ll say it, and before you know it, you’re hardly listening at all. When your friend finally finishes, or even pauses, in you plunge with your witty/relevant/meaningful remark.
I do this a lot.
Making assumptions, interrupting with my own example, and focusing on what I’ll say next come quite naturally to me.
As a coach, my job is to do the opposite. I need to listen intently, keep an open mind and focus solely on the other person. It’s an area I’m growing in, and I’m constantly surprised by the results. I listen intently to every word. Instead of assuming I know what’s going on, I ask. The answers are rarely what I expect. Maybe the challenge holding someone back is their fear of rejection. Maybe they don’t want to fail. Maybe it’s just too many video games. Regardless, I find that bringing a childlike curiosity into the conversation and quieting the internal biases allows us, together, to uncover what’s really going on.
This incredible privilege—getting into the trenches with the Talent I coach and offering my undivided attention—is shifting my communication outside work as well. Transformative is the best word to describe this change, but don’t assume it’s easy.
Finding contexts when total listening can occur takes discipline, energy, and being willing to create new habits instead of falling into old patterns of interrupting and cutting someone off. It’s easy to let my guard down at the end of the day around the dinner table and not fully engage with my husband’s story about his PhD research or my 2 year old’s repeated, “Mommy, look, what’s that?”
Tuning them out in these family moments means missing opportunities for showing love, offering helpful feedback, or even sharing a good laugh when listening to our daughter. This engagement takes energy, discipline and a special level of discernment. For instance, when I’m at the grocery store with two active, hungry kids, it’s not wise to devote every ounce of attention to the cashier. One kid might escape and climb up a restocking ladder (not that this has happened before, twice).
Yet, when I’m on my own, I can take a moment to ask this person how their day is going and genuinely listen for the answer instead of the near-robotic and mindless exchange of pleasantries. The simple question, “How are you?” followed by a pause and an expectant look at the other person, opens a window and creates a space for them to feel cared about and valued.
I recently put this question to a cashier at Walgreens and she told me it was her first day back after going through a major health issue, and that I was the first person to notice. She said I made her day. The truth is, I hadn’t been to this Walgreens in 6 months and had no idea who she was. But the way I asked the question made her feel so valued, she simply assumed I was a regular customer who had missed her while she was gone.
This is where the magic happens. A question. A pause. Total listening.
Each of us has the power to care for another human being by paying attention to them. How can you use this today to transform your own leadership? How can you use this most ancient of practices to care for those around you? How can this be a gateway to creating an edifying work environment where people feel appreciated?
Tough as it to fully engage, I don’t want to be known for the alternative. Nodding, fake smiling and being mentally distracted all send the message that you’re not worth my full attention.
It’s tempting to think no one will notice if I check out a little during the conversation, but if I can tell when someone’s checked out (and I can tell!), I imagine folks can tell when I do the same.
When you have the opportunity, give the gift of total listening. It will cost you mental energy and it will cost you time. But can you think of many better ways to invest these precious resources?
Try this recipe. It’s so easy! Throw it in the crockpot. It’s so simple! Pinterest headlines make it seem that everything in life can be had with zero effort. From finances (stupid easy budgeting!) to exercise (5 minute abs!) the prevailing message is that we can have everything we want in life—without working for it.
Effort is bad. Ease is good. The quicker the better.
I’ve subscribed to this same mentality, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve told people, “Try it yourself. It’s super easy.”
I used to proclaim 5-ingredient recipes to all my acquaintances. The same goes for exercise, because I’ve long been a fan of the 7 minute workout.
In the midst of racing around and doing everything in the fastest, most convenient way possible, I’ve begun to question just which destination I’m running towards.
I’ve started to wonder whether, in pursuing ease, I’m sacrificing quality. What is being gained aside from a couple minutes?
When I took the time to list some of the most important accomplishments in my life, I realized the common denominator was this: they didn’t come easy. Climbing a 14,000 foot mountain, having children, maintaining a loving marriage—these things all took and continue to take tremendous effort.
Inspired by this revelation, I began trying to do certain things “the hard way.” Rather than buy herbs pre-grown, I grew my own this summer and dehydrated the extra basil, tarragon and oregano for winter. And instead of buying a bag of pumpkin seeds, I hand-picked the seeds out of our Halloween pumpkins so I could clean and roast them for a healthy evening snack. It was slimy. It took time. But the end result, toasted in sea salt and coconut oil? Heavenly.
What does this mean, aside from the fact that I have gotten really into cooking and gardening lately? My point is this: sometimes hard stuff is good. For instance: I have a good job. I’m a coach who gets to invest in leaders across the country. But this job is also hard. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I must read books and pursue continual learning to do my best.
And you know what I’ve discovered? I love the struggle. I’m thankful that it’s hard. The challenge of being a better coach stretches me and allows me to discover new potential in myself I never knew I had.
Ease is a fact of life. We live in an abundant society where we don’t have to grind our own flour to make bread from scratch every day. And thank goodness for that!
Here’s what I’m learning, though. Ease isn’t an end in and of itself. The fact that I had to put effort into something and really work up a sweat can make the end product sweeter. Even more than that, working hard cultivates my character.
My labors teach me that not every urge ought to be instantaneously gratified. I learn patience. I grow to appreciate the work that goes into life’s conveniences, remembering the farmers and the factory workers involved in getting the delicious Cashew Cookie Larabar snack into my shopping cart. In short, a thankful attitude and increased self-control both blossom out of a commitment to hard work.
I leave you with this challenge: do something hard today. Pull weeds. Split wood. Call someone who isn’t easy to talk to and ask how they’re doing. When we do hard things on a regular basis, we become resilient people, better equipped to navigate the inevitable hardships of life, and better able to flexibly navigate rapidly evolving workplaces.
This isn’t a quick fix (do 5 hard things and transform your life!) But it’s a real fix, a slow-but-true fix that can transform not just individuals but all of society into sturdy and hardworking people.
Finally, I want to mention special thanks to Ben Sasse whose new book The Vanishing American Adult no doubt inspired much of this post!
If you’re like me, most of my clients, or hey, Americans in general, you struggle with time. It feels like we’re always juggling too much at once, and there aren’t possibly enough hours in the day to squeeze everything in. In the midst of our busyness, we let certain priorities fall by the wayside. We may have a vague sense that we aren’t managing our time well, but we’re uncertain how we could steward it better.
Do you wish you could read more books, exercise, or meal prep? What about having daily prayer time or listening to more podcasts? What are the important tasks that you intend to do, truly desire to do, yet never actually accomplish?
Again, it comes back to time. It feels like there isn’t enough of the stuff.
The truth is, we are busier than ever. We live in a fast-paced society that is borderline obsessed with productivity, and we can feel trapped in the rat race. But there is hope! Let me explain.
First, I want you to find your phone. It’s probably in your hand at this very moment. Give it a good looking over. This handy little device serves so many purposes. It’s a camera, a GPS, a television screen, an entertainment console. It tells you the weather and the football score and what other movies that actor has been in. Oh yeah, and you can also call people on it!
This device in the palm of your hand can do so much for you, and yet it loves to take.
Do you know how many minutes you are investing in your phone on a daily basis as you scroll through Instagram, create clever snaps, and otherwise find yourself absorbed in your screen? I suggest you find out. Further, I suggest you consider: what is your return on that investment?
I bet if you’re honest, you have no idea on either front. Most likely, you underestimate the amount of time you spend on social media each day. Aside from killing time and offering a temporary distraction, what’s the benefit of so much screen time?
But before you decide this is a condemning blog post railing against cell phones (it sort of is) and stop reading, I want to focus on some encouraging news.
I bet you could find the time, right now, today, to accomplish something you’ve been putting off. Imagine how amazing you will feel when you start that book you’ve been meaning to read, or go for the run you’ve been putting off for weeks. If you simply switch up your time investment and move away from the screen in your hand, you can reap a feeling of satisfaction from accomplishing something.
Here are some ideas to get your media consumption in check and free up time to take care of your health, grow as a leader, prioritize relationships with family and friends, and cultivate spiritual growth.
First things first. Download the Moment App. It’s free. It’s user-friendly, and it tells you exactly many minutes you are spending on your phone each day, breaking it down by time spent per app.
Once you’ve established your baseline use, it’s time to re-assess. For instance, I learned that I typically sign in to my phone 49 times per day. Now that I know the average, I can work on reducing that. I’ve started keeping my phone face down or in a drawer for certain periods of the day. I keep it on silent. Sometimes, I use Do Not Disturb mode to keep distractions at bay.
Moment also reveals what apps you use most, and for how long. Once you’ve seen the results, you may want to consider Step 2: a social media fast.
This type of fast is simple to setup. For instance, when I need a social media detox, I have my husband change the password to my accounts and I take a month off. That’s all there is to it. I recover 15-20 valuable minutes each day that I would otherwise be spending on various social media platforms.
For you, the apps may be different. Maybe it’s Netflix or maybe it’s games. Whatever it is, ask yourself what return you are getting on that time investment? Then, consider deleting the most time-sucking apps or having a friend change your passwords for a specific period of time.
You just might decide (like I did) that a quick jog outside, preparing a home-cooked meal, or finishing the book you’ve been meaning to get through will give you far more satisfaction and joy than the time spent staring into your device.
Time is precious. Let’s use it to move towards our goals instead of advancing through another level of Candy Crush.