I was recently invited to participate in an executive panel to answer questions from a credit training class comprised of new hires out of college. One of the questions asked was, “What advice do you wish you could have given to your younger self?” Expecting cliché responses on putting in more hours or how to quickly move up the corporate adder, I was surprised to hear the more experienced panelists emphasize the importance of work-life balance.
I think the response puzzled some trainees. Don’t you need to work hard to get ahead? Of course you do, but that’s common sense. It was evident that these experienced panelists never suffered from a lack of commitment to their work. What the panelists were alluding to instead is the challenge of managing growing responsibilities, both at work and at home, as you ascend the corporate ladder.
The first realization you need to come to is “your career is a marathon, not a sprint.” I received this advice early in my career from a mentor in Dallas who recently passed away. I know we all think we’re invincible when we’re young, but working 24/7 isn’t sustainable. At some point it will begin to impact your mental and physical health.
Chronic stress is the “new smoking.” While short term effects can include high blood pressure, poor memory as well as aches and pains, it’s increasingly being linked to long-term effects such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. No matter how successful you are or how much money you have, you can’t buy back your health.
Secondly, we need to accept that there will always be regression to the mean. You can only overwork yourself so long until you begin to realize diminishing returns. To maximize efficiency, we need to know our limits. I frequently see ambitious new hires burning themselves out in an effort to make a good impression. However, they fail to realize it’s taking them an hour to accomplish something that should take five minutes. I’ve also learned that I should look for errors when someone emails me an assignment between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.
Ultimately, what you accomplish is more important than the number of hours you put in. In other words ─ efficiency is key to getting more done. So what steps can you take to be more efficient and achieve a better work-life balance?
Organize & Prioritize: Just as you would make a budget to manage your finances, you should build a schedule to manage your time. You’re only given 24 hours in a day, so you better know where they go. Start by making a list of the tasks that you need to complete. Then, prioritize based on importance and deadlines.
Be strategic to make the most of your time. For instance, being an early riser and getting to your desk before everyone else can provide uninterrupted work time before the endless emails start flying. Similarly, you could hit the gym while everyone else is sitting in rush hour traffic. Build a routine that works for you.
Make Time for Yourself: First and foremost, get sleep. Keep a consistent sleep schedule and avoid caffeine late in the day. Eating right and exercising regularly will also keep your energy level up and avoid many of the aches and pains that come with sitting in front of a computer all day. Working out is one of my favorite ways to burn off stress and clear my head.
Make time for friends and family. Put it on your calendar and treat it like an important work meeting. If your personal life is suffering, it will eventually creep into your work. Even Elon Musk, the busy CEO of Tesla, SolarCity, SpaceX and The Boring Company, purportedly keeps his weekends free for family time.
Build Effective Teams: Micromanaging is inefficient. Instead, empower your team by providing training and the tools they need to stand on their own two feet. Encourage them to take on a leadership mindset, taking the initiative to accomplish what needs to be done and helping their teammates.
Hold yourself accountable for the performance of your team. To foster improvement, provide constant feedback. But remember to acknowledge the good work your team does, not just the mistakes. Also make a point to seek feedback from your team. Maybe you’re overlooking ways to improve a process or where your team may need additional training and support.
Lastly, be cognizant of how you communicate. Sometimes it’s quicker to jump on a call instead of sending countless emails and vice versa. Be sure to use conference calls wisely and keep them as short as possible. They’re more costly than many organizations realize. Just consider the time on the call multiplied by the hourly pay of those on the line.
Jonathan Parker is a regional underwriting manager at PNC Business Credit in Pittsburgh, PA. His team of ABL underwriters complete complex transactions to support refinancing, sponsor-backed leverage buyouts, and management buyouts of public and private companies in a broad range of industries.
He began his career with PNC Business Credit in 2008 as a field auditor in Dallas, TX. He later transitioned to a relationship management role in Dallas, focusing on customers in the oil and gas industry. Throughout his career, Jonathan has remained committed to helping others reach their full potential. Since joining underwriting in 2012, he has trained numerous underwriters who have gone on to excel at PNC and other banks. As an active recruiter for PNC, Jonathan identifies future leaders by participating in campus recruitment events at his alma mater, Penn State. Jonathan has been recognized throughout his career as a top performer. In 2014, he was one of four underwriters in the nation named a “PNC Market All-Star,” an award honoring top business producers in each market. Jonathan was recently named a 2018 CFA 40 Under 40 Award Recipient.