It was early April 2019. I was a couple of months into the General Manager’s role at my new Club, still very much trying to get to grips with how it all works at my new home and it was right in the middle of the subscription renewals period.
I had been tucking into the GCMA “New Manager Checklist” that I had downloaded from the Member’ Library on the website when the renewals had to be sent and I suddenly found myself looking for the 25th hour in the day and the 8th day of the week.
The staff were already working over and above their expected hours to keep our heads above water and, frankly, to hold my hand through a plethora of things that were very different in nature and practice to what I had left behind in my pervious Club.
I really was enjoying the challenge of a new role, but came to the realisation that to truly be able to do the job I am paid to do to the best of my potential I needed to find ways to become more efficient and definitely more effective.
I was working hard at my desk and often at home during the evenings, but was feeling tired and had that all too common feeling that no matter how hard I was working, the “to do list” was getting longer not shorter.
As is my way for anything I take truly seriously in life I sat down with my notepad and started to write down the things I thought were influences for good and the things that were to the contrary.
Then, as though fate, the latest GCMA Monthly Magazine landed on my doorstep (April 2019 Edition). There, on the inner pages, was a photograph of me proudly standing in front of my new Club’s logo. “Blimey. You look awful” I thought to myself. Now some of those who know me will at this point be thinking “what? You only just realised that” and for that I say a polite “Thanks very much 😊” but all joking aside it was a wake-up call. I went back to my notepad, scribbled out a lot of things I had written down that when I read them back looked more like excuses than reasons for me feeling so drained.
At the end of the process I gave myself some crucial action points to free up time and space in my own mind for the important things – the job at hand and the time I have with friends and family.
In a nutshell I wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle which would give me the energy and focus to keep up with the demands of working for such a busy and prestigious Club in the long term. I had allowed too many distractions to creep into my life, particularly during periods of what were supposed to be rest and recuperation.
Though I have made some smaller alterations, I do hope that by sharing some of the main changes I have adopted for the last 6 months I may be able to help just one person who can maybe identify with what I have described in my opening paragraphs.
Maybe until you read this you hadn’t even realised that you were feeling that way – it certainly jumped out on me from out of nowhere!
1. Dramatically Reduce Digital Distractions
This first bullet point may surprise some people. They still see my twitter account ticking away and I still use Facebook. However, the time, focus and attention I was giving to this area of modern technology – mainly in my “down time” - has been dramatically reduced. Here’s how…
• I deleted a long standing Twitter account that I used for personal use rather than the one I used for work. It took me 5 minutes to deactivate!
• I changed the settings on my remaining Twitter account and Club Twitter account so that I no longer received notifications on my phone for anything other than direct messages. I will see any mentions, likes, retweets etc if and when I choose to log in. I don’t need to be told every time someone clicks “Like” on a post I have retweeted or written.
• I changed the settings on my Facebook account so that I no longer receive notifications of any description on my phone. When I log into Facebook at a time of my choosing I can see these things then.
• On both Facebook and Twitter I dramatically reduced the number of people and business’ I am “friends” with / follow. In doing so I have a far slower moving timeline on both platforms and definitely won’t miss posts from people who I really want to keep up to date with. I went from following 1,200 accounts on Twitter to 188 at the time of writing this blog. I cut down my Facebook Friends from 1,300 to under 500.
• I removed myself from some WhatApp groups I was a part of. You know the ones. You pick your phone up after a meeting and see 180 unread messages – not a single one of them worth reading.
• I started using a great app called “Buffer” to pre load some tweets / posts for appropriate times throughout the week ahead so I no longer had to remember to write it and post it at a particular day and time. One less thing to remember, or more likely at times in our job – forget!
2. Remove Work E-Mail From My Phone
I already know that at least half of the people who read this have already rolled their eyes at this. “You must be joking” is your likely reaction. Well I would have been exactly the same myself before I looked at these things, but having already switched notifications off my e-mails on my phone I found at a regional GCMA meeting that there were a few managers that I both rate and respect who had taken the extra step of removing this communication format from their phones altogether.
I tried it initially for 30 days, and 5 months later I still have no work e-mails on my phone. Naturally you have to put things into place to ensure that emergencies don’t get missed until it is too late such as ensuring the staff and Committee members know how to get hold of you on days and evenings off in the case of emergency.
You can’t just stop replying on evenings or weekends and not let the key stakeholders within the Club know what you have decided to do. What I would say to anyone who thinks this is a step too far would be…. Try it. If you can’t let yourself remove them altogether just yet, take notifications off for e-mails on your phone so that at the very least you only read the sort of e-mail you wish you hadn’t read during your rest periods when you choose to log on rather than your phone beeping the second it lands in your inbox.
3. Exercise – Real Exercise
I had long since abandoned the practice of what I used to preach in my days as a Personal Trainer, so this was something I felt could make a great difference.
I started going to the gym again 3 or 4 evenings a week after work. However, in a short time I realised that if I wanted to make this something that I could keep doing indefinitely I saw this as unsustainable. I value my time at home with my family and this just wouldn’t do.
Rather than give up on this plan, I took a look at when I could attend the gym within my current schedule and reluctantly identified that if I woke up at 6 instead of 7 each day I could get an hour in before work which would leave my home life after work unaffected.
Since June I have carried out this practice and at the time of writing this blog I have not missed a single weekday. I have proven the research that suggests that you have to repeat an action for 66 days for it to become a habit. It now no longer crosses my mind not to get up and go.
Importantly, when I wake up my bag for work has already been packed, my breakfast and lunch are already prepared and sat in a bag in the fridge waiting for me and my gym clothes are laid out ready. All of this reduces the distractions and delays which could prevent me going one day.
By the time I reach work now I am ready to hit the ground running rather than needing at least one coffee to get going.
More recently I have added some road running into my schedule, but importantly I fit these in around times when the other members of my family are otherwise occupied. I hate running with a passion so this has been a good mental battle with myself.
4. Eat Healthily
Again, my diet had become an area where I was not applying the knowledge I had in this area. I assessed why it was that I often made bad decisions regarding my food and a big part was that I was often eating on the hop or grabbing food and going during the day or evening.
Having identified this, I decided to write out a plan for weekdays that would be healthy and ensure I did not get hungry during the working day but also not take up my evenings preparing. I now prepare my meals for weekdays while I am out of the house on a Sunday afternoon.
Over the 6 months I have developed these meals and halved the time it takes me to carry this out to boot. Most importantly with this approach, after listening to a very good audiobook along these lines I learned that by doing this I have removed the decision making element of what I eat throughout the week – the time when I was most likely to make unhealthy choices.
By no means do I feel restricted by this. I have still eaten out several times and not been the guy ordering a side salad with a sardine – far from it. I have still been out for a drink several times, but these are now perceived as teats or occasions to me, rather than almost the norm.
Having started physical training again and eating a healthy diet for the first time in a very long time it is unsurprising that I felt I was sleeping better than I had been. However, upon inspection of my FitBit sports watch it was shocking to me how much more deep sleep I have been getting in the last 6 months than I had been previously.
I make a conscious effort to go to bed no later than 23:00 which will give me at least 7 hours sleep on weeknights. On weekend I sleep until I naturally wake up, which seems to be around 8.5 hours. As you can see with these sleep times none of this is unrealistic or unachievable. I am not suggesting anybody needs to go to bed really early to get good long sleeps in, but I no longer go to bed at 01:00 AM on weeknights – after all I need to be well rested if I am going to continue my run of not missing a single morning session in the gym since June going.
Despite the extra workload physically I feel fitter and healthier than I have for years. I have more “brain time” than I feel like I have had since I was a student at University due to the removal of so many notifications on my electronic devices. I also feel that I am “in the room” a lot more at home than I used to be and that even rolls over into my time at work at times.
Most importantly of all though is that I no longer have that feeling that I am drowning in my “to do” list even if it still has plenty on there to do. I now look at it as another challenge to overcome. Because I am lucky enough to love my job I now feel like I can get back to enjoying the work for the long term again.
None of what I have set out above are either difficult neither are they unachievable. If I can do it from the starting point I was at when I decided to make some of these changes then quite literally anybody can.
Why not give some of the things I have set out a try for yourself? Commit to 3 months of having no e-mail on your phone or take all notifications off your devices.
If you only do one of these things to start with I am confident you will be amazed how you feel so quickly! In a Club Management role it’s important we take care of ourselves – only now that I have started doing so do I appreciate what a difference this makes!