My husband has never suggested a topic to me before, but this time he knew I could speak from firsthand experience. When I ran my workroom, I had no trouble working only set hours and spending the time I needed with my family and on my hobbies. Occasionally I would do paperwork in the evenings, but it was not a habit for me. When I closed my storefront and moved back home to be a one-person workroom again, I had even more control over my hours and didn't even work a 40-hour week. Although I truly loved fabrication, I never had the same passion for it as I have for what I do now. I have now learned that passion can be a marvelous essential blessing, but it also can destroy you.
WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES?
What are your top three priorities in order of importance? It is my guess that you can rattle them off quickly without giving them much thought. For me, it's God, family and Workroom Concepts. I suspect that most of your answers are pretty close to that. Your business should never be the No. 1 priority. It should be the means to the end of a higher priority.
Next question: Are you really living your life that way? I talk to so many workroom owners who are working six to seven days a week and very long hours each day. I admit that in the beginning few years of a business, you must put in some long hours on a fairly regular basis if you want your business to grow at a reasonable pace. However, if that interferes with your higher priorities, you, as the boss, have the power to reduce the time commitment to your business.
Sometimes it is helpful to make a sign listing your top three to five priorities in order of their importance to hang in your office or workroom. Then every morning or evening as you schedule your day, look at that sign and be sure you are following your beliefs. If God is at the top of your list and you are working on your Sabbath day, then you are betraying not only Him but yourself also. Everybody needs at least one day of rest!
BALANCE YOUR ACT
There are many facets to our lives—spiritual, social, family, private time, hobbies, health, work and any others you can add to the list. All are essential for us to have peace, confidence and strength to live our lives and enjoy them. If even one area gets out of whack, it affects all the others—sometimes unequally.
In the past year, I became aware that my life was very unbalanced. I desperately needed personal, private and play time and I wasn't getting it. My work, as any workaholic who loves his or her job will testify, was all consuming because I loved it so much. What I needed was leisure time totally devoid of work thoughts. That time is essential to rejuvenating and strengthening the mind and body. All other areas of my life were suffering because of that lack.
Now I have found hobbies that not only allow me to express my repressed creativity, but they allow me to totally take my mind to another world where it is refreshed. I look forward to my off hours and am having little trouble limiting my work hours. Now all the other areas of my life are in balance and I am a much more enthusiastic and productive person.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
If you don't get the required rest your body must have, you will be making a sacrifice—one that is invisible at first. Over time, you could destroy your health and possibly your business. Rest is absolutely essential!
If you are constantly exhausted, pay attention! If you are losing interest in what used to give you great pleasure—either your work or your leisure activity—pay attention! If you find yourself getting short-tempered and more impatient, pay attention! Your body and your spirit are trying to tell you it's time to take a time-out! It's time to reevaluate your priorities. That may mean taking a few days, a week or even months off. Yes, you can take time off! If you are a follower of my column, you know that I was absent from this magazine for two months earlier this year. Need I say more?
ARE YOUR PRIORITIES MISINTERPRETED?
That may seem like a strange question, but it is very valid. Many of you believe that saying "yes" to every request is a virtue because you are helping another human being. This is not always the case. If saying "yes" and working longer hours interferes with your higher priorities, then it is a vice. That "yes" must become a "no."
Using your talents for the work you love is not necessarily a virtue. Yes, your talents are for you to use to your maximum ability, but not to your maximum time. I discovered that this was where I was misinterpreting my priorities. I truly believe that the work I do through Workroom Concepts is a divine service. The help I offer to others in this industry is because my God wants me to do that. I had the idea that the more I did of it, the better servant I was. Wrong!
I finally realized that God not only wants me to use my talents, but He wants me to take time to enjoy his creation, my family and my life.
After this realization, I decided it was time to cut back my work hours. Amazingly, I still got done what was absolutely essential and had more time for my other priorities.
What are the consequences of misguided priorities? Burnout! It affects every area of your life, not just your work! It's almost like a disease and too many times it's just plain ignored.
Beware if you become just plain bored with your work. You must take time out to analyze why. It's not always the result of burnout. Sometimes, it's because you really are tired of doing what you are doing and are ready to move on to another challenge, another goal and maybe another career.
If boredom sets in, you loose your enthusiasm and you begin to resent your work. You even may try to get out of doing it. Your performance drops drastically and you may not even be aware of it.
If the boredom is due to burnout, get some rest and recharge. Go to a trade show or take a class. Read some good books that have fresh new ideas. Go visit someone else in the business and spend some time with him. There's nothing like trading war stories to let you know you are not alone out there. Take time off and get totally away from work.
On the other hand, if boredom is due to a real need for a complete change, take some time to start searching yourself to find out what it is you need to be doing. What is it that will turn you on? What is it that can get you enthused and excited again and make you feel like your work is valuable and that you have accomplished something?
Sometimes this step takes a long time to figure out, but the important thing is to realize that it's change that is necessary and it has nothing to do with your workload. Look at it as an adventure. Once you figure it out, then you must make the change if that is what your spirit is craving.
The good news is, if you take the time to analyze your situation, misguided priorities and burnout are temporary. Take charge of your life and make the changes that are needed. Live each day in appreciation of the wonderful world of nature around you, your family and how precious they are, the good things that you have done and are doing with your life and stay in touch with your spirit.
When establishing and understanding your priorities, ask yourself these questions:
• What would I like others to write about me in my obituary?
• What would I like others to put on my tombstone? "I worked long hours to make my customers happy"? "I was a good spouse/parent"? "I helped others"? "I left this world better than I found"?
It takes a lifetime of individual days, lived as though they were the last, to answer these questions. What are you going to do to be sure you are happy with your answers?
Kitty Stein, WCAA, is a 20-year veteran of the drapery workroom field, having owned and operated her own business for 18 years and having taught classes on window treatment construction. Until 1990, Stein and a partner owned a workroom with nine employees. She since has opened her own smaller workroom, Workroom Concepts, that has just one employee. She also does workroom consulting, seminar speaking and is the author of Order in the Workroom available through Draperies & Window Coverings and Price Your Work With Confidence.