Time for a Conversation about Free Time
I have recently conducted research with entrepreneurs on the challenges, fears and frustrations of finding more free time outside of work, and we, as coaches, might want to look at this idea a bit closer.
We are usually engaged to coach around performance and results. What if valuing and using free time constructively caused an increase in performance and results? Would it be worth it? My research says it would.
Let’s first talk about how to introduce the concept. What questions could we ask without directing the conversation? What opening does the client offer that will allow the question(s)? What are they saying, doing or signaling that a question or conversation about free time might be a good idea?
The Value of Free Time
I’ve found that taking more free time outside of work shows others that you view yourself as a priority. It’s the epitome of balance, or as I like to say, harmony of work and life. We all know that a great leader walks the talk, and this is a great example to set for your tribe. For example, many non-North American people take time out each day (sometimes several times a day!) to meet with others for a meal, rest, walk, or coffee break at a sidewalk cafe. Then, they do the same the whole of their weekend. We are quick to judge that they are not working efficiently and yet we envy that lifestyle, waiting to do the same at the earliest opportunity.
Another gem I discovered: Your clients will be more productive at work! Having something scheduled for themselves during or after work keeps them focused on getting as much done as possible by the end of the day. This means moving or canceling unimportant meetings, doing only important, high-priority work (think the Pareto principle: 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the work), and delegating extra work to others. It’s interesting how quickly the necessary things get done.
If free time were considered important, we would move mountains to get there. So, what can we do to help our clients, and maybe ourselves, make free time a priority?
Do you remember the last time you had a few days off or a vacation free of work? Remember how refreshed and full of vim and vigor you were? How ready you were to take on any challenge? It’s available to everyone. The challenge is how to make free time as important as work time.
Coaching for Free Time
Now lets talk about how the challenges, fears and frustrations show up and create an opening for coaching.
Your client is stressed and knows they need time off, but they’re afraid to even plan it, let alone do it. It would probably require a boatload of upfront work to get ready, not to mention the pileup of work when they got back from their break. And, they would not be wrong. Who else can do their job as well as them? Therein lies the opportunity.
This is the time to work with your client on the benefits of free time and the best ways to make lasting changes to allow for more free time.
Consider using dream work or future self-exercises to help them visualize having and enjoying free time. This is not much different from what you might do to help a client visualize success with work related challenges or projects.
If a more practical approach is needed, consider adding free time as part of the goal setting process. It can be linked to the desire to travel, spend more time with family or expand an existing hobby.
There are work related goals that can partner with the desire or need for free time. How can your client advance their career if they feel they are invaluable and the only one who can do the job they are currently doing?
Many of the reasons they come up with can lead to proactive steps they can take now like creating procedures, cross-training others and delegating to subordinates.
Taking free time—even if it’s an hour, a day or the weekend as a mini goal or test—can produce amazing realizations and results.
The next time your client hints in the direction of wanting more free time for non-work-related reasons, consider helping them to prepare for, and enjoy, non-work life now.