Work Life Balance: “What Matters” by Daniel Petre

Success and Work-Life Balance

What Matters: Success and Work-Life Balance

If your work life balance is non-existent, or you work for a company that expects your soul in exchange for your pay – then you need to read this book. Your life doesn’t have to be this way – and this book can help you look at what really matters in your life, and make the change.

Daniel Petre understands the corporate 27 hour day having worked at Microsoft and other large companies. But he chose to focus on his family and his life outside of work, facing criticism from other executives who seemed to resent his choices. This book challenges the practices of office face-time, number of hours worked as the yardstick for reward, office centred social life as well as work, and the only way is up.

Here are some of the insights I gained from reading this book:

  • It is important to figure out what is most important to you, work out how to do your job in the most efficient and productive way and then allocate time to other activities in your life – “be ruthless with your diary” and make sure you have time for the people and activities that mean the most to you
  • Remember that you don’t always have to move upwards in a company. You can choose to move sideways e.g. retrain or downwards e.g. work part-time or take less responsibility. People may criticise you for this, but you don’t need acceptance from your work colleagues. You need to make sure your life is focussed on the right things.
  • Concentrating only on work is a short term view – your employees and colleagues will not be there when you are sick, or need a friend, or when you retire. Those nights out on the corporate expense account are great sometimes, but not every week while your family eats without you and your kids go to bed without seeing you all week.
  • Studies have actually found that changing the way employees are treated boosts productivity more than changing their pay. Motivating people by treating them well is also cheaper – so everyone wins!
  • Sustainable leaders must understand themselves, develop and reward competence, cherish diversity, advocate equity, have the ability to communicate at all levels, have a deep understanding of the organisation, vision and strategy. They must be a human being first, then a corporate executive. They must have perspective – where life has many aspects and work is just a part of it.
  • A life of sustained success has all facets – health, family, wealth, work, social legacy, balance – “people obsessed with work end up lonely, sad, bitter souls”
  • When we were children balance was encouraged – we did lots of different things. Then suddenly we spend the bulk of our waking hours on one thing and nothing else is supposed to matter. We are sucked into this culture and we all want to fit in – but we mustn’t forget what is really important
  • Companies focus on asset maintenance for their machinery – but what about employees as assets? There should be a focus on maintaining people – and we are all responsible for making sure we ourselves are sustainable.
  • Get a reality check now and then. Remember how lucky you are even on the worst day at work. Perspective brings home what is important – your family, your health, your home.

This is a great book that will help you take stock of your personal situation now and reflect on where you are going with your career. You get what you focus on, and if work is everything, then the rest will fall away. Is this what you want?
There are exercises in the book that will help you identify what is important, where you spend your time and challenge your perspective. There are also cautionary tales of people who have had stellar corporate careers but are left with little happiness on retirement.

So, if you are struggling with work/life balance – I highly recommend this book!

If you would like to buy the book, it is available here
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