Running a Shop Operations

Four Steps for Balancing Work and Home

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I had fallen into an unhealthy and unsustainable routine. With the recent acquisition of a new shop, my workload seemed to be double or even triple what it was prior. I was learning the hard lesson that I could not be in two places at once. The wake up call for me came when it started affecting not just me, but those I love, my family.

I was coming home exhausted. I had nothing left in the tank to give them when I got home. All I wanted to do was eat dinner and stare at a TV screen or go to bed early. Neither of those foster a warm home environment. Instead of my wife and daughters being excited to see me come home, I would get questions like, “Dad, are you OK? You look tired!” And I was. I was not leaving anything in the tank for the ones that matter the most to me.

When I realized what was going on I shared it with my business coach and we began unpacking it. He knows me well. Not because he has been my business coach for a long time, but because he has seen it in countless others. I am a classic “Type A” personality. Couple that with being an introvert who is often forced into extroverted roles like leadership, sales and customer service and voila! I often find myself living in the red, deficit spending emotionally and physically.

With my coach I started to realize I needed to develop several new habits that would allow me to not get so depleted. Here are four that we came up with:

First, I needed to be accountable to someone who would check in with me regularly about how I was doing in this area. We agreed that part of our regular coaching call would be a check-in time devoted to him asking me if I was practicing the new routines we agreed on.

Second, I needed some off-ramps toward the end of my day that would allow me to more easily transition from work to home. Typically, I would work right up to the end of the day on things that would drain me: delivering cars, interacting with customers and directing my team. As an introvert, I was going 100 mph on tasks that even extroverts would find challenging!

For me, it was completely depleting at a critical time. My coach encouraged me to trust my team with these tasks while I would attend to less people-intensive but very important tasks like following up on customer emails and gathering and organizing performance data from both shops. These were the kind of tasks that I could do alone, at my desk, quietly and without interruption.

Third, I have a new “coming home” routine. It starts by getting home a half hour before dinner so I can unwind. My wife and I agreed that when I got home I would greet her and my kids and then have about 30 minutes to myself to do something that would help me get my mind entirely off the shop. Sometimes I watch a few funny videos (Jimmy Fallon usually does the trick) or catch up with friends on Facebook. I will typically have some music I enjoy playing in the background, as well.

Fourth, I need at least one full day per week of not working. This may seem obvious and easy to some, but I find it very difficult to completely disconnect. For example, my shop emails come to my phone. So the temptation to check an email on a Sunday is very high. And I usually fool myself into thinking it really won’t affect me. Then I take a peek and there’s an email from a customer with an unmet expectation and I start a dialog in my mind with that customer on why their expectations were wrong, all the extra things we’ve done for free already, the written estimate and pictures that clearly document those scratches were not part of the claim, etc., etc. Before I know it, that one little email that only took me a minute to check becomes the focal point for my day. So for me, having a real free day is hard. But when I do it, I go into the week rested and much more ready to tackle challenges with a fresh perspective on what really matters.

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