June 17, 2019
In June 1999 I started a new job with a mixture of emotions.
Excited about the opportunity the new job offered, and terrified that I was out of my depth (imposter syndrome popping up again).
However, I was determined to make it a success. I was prepared to do what was needed (the ‘D’ element of my disc profile coming out here). Head down and just get on with it – make it happen.
For the first 2 months I worked 60+ hour weeks.
The practice of the business was for month end reporting to be completed 3 days after the end of the month; this was a group of three trading companies with a holding company, and the holding company was a subsidiary of a FTSE 250 PLC.
The individual trading companies reporting deadlines were determined by working back from the Group Board Meeting.
Three months into my new job – and to fit in with the group timetable – month end reporting had to be completed a day before month end…
Ok, no problem, just have plenty of provisions in the accounts I thought.
But, a new budget had just been prepared for one of the company’s main projects and the month end reports had to reflect this new budget.
I received the budget the day before the month end reports were due – at 9am.
What happened next is something I am still embarrassed about, almost 20 years later.
Instead of being sensible and arranging for an extension to get the work completed, I worked until 3am ensuring all the reporting was completed. I then drove 40 miles home, slept for 2 hours.
I got up and was back at the office at 7am to print the reports, check, amend and re-print, and prepare for the 9am meeting.
Which went fine.
I then sat through a 6-hour management meeting before leaving for home at 8pm.
What was I thinking!!! How is that normal, how is that acceptable!!!
Because I was so determined to succeed in my new job, I was prepared to work all the hours necessary to be ‘successful’.
Although I never worked this late again (plenty of 15-hour days though), this ‘approach’ to work was consistent for the next 3 years. I refused to accept that I’d miss a reporting deadline and often said yes to delivering work by a certain date as I saw it as a challenge.
And I suppose I wanted the praise and thanks that would come with it.
I compare that to where I am now, and it is a million miles away.
Today I took my children to school, went for a swim, started work at 10.30am, stopped at 3pm to take my youngest daughter ice skating. Then finished off some work later that evening, finishing about 10pm.
Yes, a late finish but not a long working day. Six hours work at the most.
Now, I have a far better idea now of what my priorities are…
And they’re not work.
What made the difference?
I think it was the realisation that what is really important to me is what I achieve personally, not just in business.
Now I haven’t perfected this in any way and there are times when I work more hours than I’d like, but that is an exception rather than the norm. I now genuinely enjoy the work I do.
Making sure I see my children grow up is far more important than making sure a board report is prepared on time.
It took me almost 20 years to really appreciate this.
Lets make sure it doesn’t take you this long.