I am a transformed workaholic who sacrificed my physical, emotional and social health to get ahead. I used to work 60+ hours in the office followed by many more hours out of the office. I don’t do that any longer.

What changed for me was a mentor, Ken Waldron, who was CEO at a $250 million North American manufacturer and distributor of siding and windows to contractors. The company was owned by a private equity firm and I was their EVP and CFO. Ken mentored me by example and by words. He truly walked the talk. He told me if you can’t get your work done within 40 hours per week as a CEO or CFO, you either have the wrong people on your team or you do not trust them, or both. I didn’t heed his words. I proceeded to continue my ways of working crazy hours, many of which were in the office and many not, but Ken’s words stuck with me.

Things didn’t change until I got divorced (and a main contributor to the divorce was my work schedule and not being present in our relationship because I was always thinking about work). That’s when I started to consider Ken’s wise words. At the time, I was the president of Roth Bros. Inc., and I had two kids, ages 10 and 8, that were with me half of the time with me as a single parent. Through all of that juggling, Ken’s words were a path to survival for me.

Not only did I survive, I thrived, and so did my business.

In the hopes of saving a few marriages as well as preventing other CEOs from working themselves into ill health, I offer all you workaholics some advice based on what I did to redefine my relationship with work in a way that let me take back my life while still growing my business:

1. Realize you don’t have to be in the office

Your mindset has to change to allow you to work outside the office on your own terms. As CEO, you get to decide where and how you work. You, as CEO, have to give yourself permission to work outside the office. Some people really struggle with this but the benefits are huge. I only worked in the office, on average, two days a week. I worked the rest of the time out of the office. Yet I was always accessible, stayed connected to people and customers, and was very responsive to people who needed me. My motto was very few good things happen in the office.

2. Schedule your time wisely, and don’t let it schedule YOU

I scheduled all my recurring staff meetings on the same day each week. I held individual focused meetings each Monday with all eight of my direct reports and then selected a few high performers within the company to meet with to learn what they were up to. The other day I was in the office, I made sure I walked around, was visible and accessible, asked questions and listened. This was my “culture reality” check day.

3. Practice focused thinking

Redefining my relationship with work enabled me to spend time “on the business” and not “in the business.” I spent at least four hours outside of the office each week doing focused thinking, without interruption. At first, I couldn’t last 10 minutes without getting distracted by checking email or looking at my cell phone. But, as time went on, I got better at it. I kept a thinking question list and wrote down things like: Do we have the right people in the right places? Do we have the right strategies? How can we get better? Are we living our core values? What are we missing to grow faster and what new areas should we be pursuing? This focused thinking time proved to be invaluable and shaped the decisions I made to grow the company (which increased earnings by a factor of 5). The other benefit I got from focused thinking was a calming of the non-value added distractions that we all struggle with. I definitely could not have done focused thinking in the office with all its distractions!

If you as a CEO can put advice like this into practice and redefine your own relationship with work, you will reap several benefits, including:

  • You’ll reduce CEO burnout and all the negative health issues that come with it.
  • You will empower your team to make decisions.
  • You will create an environment for focused thinking.
  • You’ll increase your ability to be present in relationships.
  • You’ll take back control of your time.

Don’t those benefits appeal to you? I hope they do! Now it’s time to start practicing focused thinking and redefining your relationship with work.

If this kind of redefining of your relationship with work resonates with you yet you’re not sure how to move forward, let’s connect to discuss it further.