Downshifting

How to Work Less and Enjoy Life More

John Drake (Author)

Publication date: 01/01/2001

Bestseller over 25,000+ copies sold

Downshifting

The founder of the world's largest human resources consulting firm offers clear guidance on how to cut back on work in this practical guide book.

From the founder and former CEO of Drake Beam & Associates (now Drake Bean Morin, Inc.) the world's largest human resources consulting firm
Offers clear, step-by-step guidance on how to cut back on work-including how to convince employers to agree to downshifting
Details a wide range of practical downshifting options
Real-life stories from successful downshifters provide inspiration and encouragement

Who has never wished to step off the ever-accelerating treadmill of work, just to gain some kind of balance in life? Downshifting is a practical, hands-on guide that actually shows how to move from the fast track to a more satisfying, healthier, less work-focused lifestyle. John Drake, himself a former high-level executive who chose to downshift, details a wide range of realistic, doable alternatives to a work-dominated life. He guides readers through all they need to know and do to make a good living, yet find more free time for themselves and those they care most about.

Organized by level of risk-from such low-risk steps as simply changing work style to bold actions, such as flextime, lateral or downward moves, and shortened work weeks-this book is the first to really show how to put specific downshifting options into action. Using real-life stories of people who have successfully downshifted, Drake reveals how to get past the wistful dreaming and hand-wringing stages to taking decisive, thoughtful steps for implementing real change in your work-life.

Step by step, the author walks the potential downshifter through all the stages of preparation, from examining personal fears and psychological readiness for change to analyzing the impact on loved ones and personal finances. And for those ready to initiate downshifting changes, he provides practical strategies and specific guidelines for selling downshifting plans to the organization, including vital information for determining the approach, timing, and presentation of a downshift proposal. Should the organization reject your downshifting plan, Drake shows how to leave bridges unburned, regroup, and wisely assess your alternatives.

For readers just beginning to contemplate a work-life change or those eager to downshift, Downshifting provides the guidance, tools, encouragement, and proof needed to create a more balanced, relaxed, and fulfilling life.

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Overview

The founder of the world's largest human resources consulting firm offers clear guidance on how to cut back on work in this practical guide book.

From the founder and former CEO of Drake Beam & Associates (now Drake Bean Morin, Inc.) the world's largest human resources consulting firm
Offers clear, step-by-step guidance on how to cut back on work-including how to convince employers to agree to downshifting
Details a wide range of practical downshifting options
Real-life stories from successful downshifters provide inspiration and encouragement

Who has never wished to step off the ever-accelerating treadmill of work, just to gain some kind of balance in life? Downshifting is a practical, hands-on guide that actually shows how to move from the fast track to a more satisfying, healthier, less work-focused lifestyle. John Drake, himself a former high-level executive who chose to downshift, details a wide range of realistic, doable alternatives to a work-dominated life. He guides readers through all they need to know and do to make a good living, yet find more free time for themselves and those they care most about.

Organized by level of risk-from such low-risk steps as simply changing work style to bold actions, such as flextime, lateral or downward moves, and shortened work weeks-this book is the first to really show how to put specific downshifting options into action. Using real-life stories of people who have successfully downshifted, Drake reveals how to get past the wistful dreaming and hand-wringing stages to taking decisive, thoughtful steps for implementing real change in your work-life.

Step by step, the author walks the potential downshifter through all the stages of preparation, from examining personal fears and psychological readiness for change to analyzing the impact on loved ones and personal finances. And for those ready to initiate downshifting changes, he provides practical strategies and specific guidelines for selling downshifting plans to the organization, including vital information for determining the approach, timing, and presentation of a downshift proposal. Should the organization reject your downshifting plan, Drake shows how to leave bridges unburned, regroup, and wisely assess your alternatives.

For readers just beginning to contemplate a work-life change or those eager to downshift, Downshifting provides the guidance, tools, encouragement, and proof needed to create a more balanced, relaxed, and fulfilling life.

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - John Drake

John D. Drake currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Drake Inglesi Milardo, Inc. Prior to forming this firm, Drake founded and was CEO of Drake Beam & Associates, Inc. (now Drake Beam Morin, Inc.), the world's largest human resources consulting firm. He has consulted to many Fortune 500 companies, including AT&T, Atlantic Richfield, Citibank, GTE, Prudential Insurance, Warner-Lambert, and the World Bank.

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Table of Contents




Chapter 1:
Is This Any Way to Live?
Chapter 2: The Work Trap
Chapter 3: What's Stopping You?
Chapter 4: Making the Decision
Chapter 5: Low-Risk Downshifting Options
Chapter 6: Riskier Steps Toward the Life You Want
Chapter 7: Getting Your Organization's Buy-In
Chapter 8: When the Answer Is No
Chapter 9: You Did It!
Chapter 10: Your Happiness Is Up to You

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Excerpt

DOWNSHIFTING

CHAPTER 1

IS THIS ANY WAY TO LIVE?







There’s more to life than work.


OLD ADAGE

WORKING LIKE CRAZY


“I should have left an hour ago.” “Between my job and my family, I haven’t got a minute for myself.” “The money is great, but there’s got to be more to life than this.” Do these statements have a familiar ring? Maybe you’ve uttered the same words yourself. If so, you’re not alone. U.S. News and World Report 1 found that 49 percent of Americans say our society puts too much emphasis on work and not enough on leisure. For many, the idea of leisure is a joke. Gates McKibbin, a former organization effectiveness consultant with McKinsey & Company, put it this way:

The prevailing work ethic in the United States right now demands that people succumb to absurdly escalated expectations of the time and energy that one must invest in work-related activities. The fast pace and pressure to be plugged-in at all times, made possible by the omnipresent cell phones, voicemail, e-mail, laptops, and faxes, fuel the expectation that employees should quite literally be available to deal with work issues 24 hours a day—wherever they are, whatever they are doing.2

The lead article in a recent Barron’s 3 magazine stated that “Glutted with goods, Americans increasingly want ‘feel-goods’—cruises, makeovers, golf lessons, and the biggest luxury of all, free time.”

The good news is that, in the effort to attain more free time, you’re a step ahead of most people. Selecting this book suggests that you’ve probably been thinking for some time about cutting back at work. You have already crossed an important psychological barrier!

In reading Downshifting, you are also making a great start toward living a more fulfilling life—a goal sought by many, but all too seldom achieved. This book is designed to guide you through the steps necessary for converting your fondest lifestyle dreams into reality.


WORKPLACE ENJOYMENT ROBBERS


Today a variety of forces converge on us at work, resulting in increased pressure and incredible demands on our time. Some of these forces are subtle, others overpowering. It is difficult to escape them. I think of these pressures as enjoyment robbers and we are going to explore some of them in this chapter. Quite likely, their presence in your organization accounts for your desire to downshift.


The Competitive Pressures


One reason we are enjoying our jobs less arises from the impact of the global economy. Competitive pressures bring more mergers and downsizing, and with them a double whammy: the fear of job loss on the one hand and increased work burdens on the other. Margie’s story is a case in point:

Margie is a single mom with two children, ages 7 and 10. She works for a medium-sized insurance company that was recently acquired by an insurance giant. Within one month of the acquisition, two departments were relocated some 800 miles away at the giant’s headquarters. While her department of thirty-five was kept in its original location, it was reorganized, and in the process eight jobs were eliminated.


Of course, the term reorganization was a euphemism. In reality, the staff was reduced by eight and the work redistributed among the remaining employees. Margie’s workload now increased significantly, making it impossible for her to leave each evening in time to cook dinner.


Margie feels afraid that if she doesn’t keep up with the new workload she might be terminated. She feels frustrated, too, when working late leaves the children to fend for themselves. She needs the income and is good at what she does, but there’s no indication that things will improve. She wonders if she should start “looking.”

In a nutshell, competitive pressure forces management to get more productivity from fewer people. While such efforts enhance profits, they also make for long, strenuous workdays that can drive conscientious workers into the ground. “I work half-days—12 hours!” is a jest heard in many offices.

How bad is it for you? Check out “Signs of Overwork” for a list of symptoms characteristic of overworked individuals. Put a checkmark before any of those that describe you. If you checked five or more of these items, you’re probably overworked—more than likely, your life is out of balance. It can be dangerous for your health and your close relationships, good reasons to examine downshifting possibilities.

SIGNS OF OVERWORK

___ My family complains about my absence at many evening meals.

___ I bring work home almost every weekend.

___ I have uncomfortable feelings about my strong work focus.

___ At work, I experience frustration about never seeming to get caught up.

___ I often feel best when I’m busy, whether it’s at work or home.

___ I call into work at least twice while away on vacation.

___ I postponed or changed my vacation dates at least once during the past year.

___ I’ve been quietly harboring a desire to work less and get off the treadmill.

___ I feel angry about all that my employer expects of me.

___ Those close to me often express displeasure about my being away so much on business trips.

___ I feel guilty when I leave work on time.


The Corporate Culture


The subtle influences that impact negatively on how we work are often unspoken. These stem from the corporate culture reflected in the example set by those above us. If, for instance, our boss comes in each Saturday morning, or works until seven every evening, these work patterns soon become the unspoken norm. No one in authority says that you must stay late or be present on Saturday morning, but you feel the pressure to do so. In some organizations, leaving early on the eve of a holiday is frowned upon. Whatever the unspoken pressures are in your organization, they will almost always reduce your freedom and increase the burden of your job.


Pressure to Make the Numbers


In many companies work becomes less tolerable because there is constant pressure to “make the numbers.” In these organizations, the implied threat is to make them or else. So everyone works hard to look good now. Never mind what negative implications current actions may have for the future. If you don’t look good now, you may have no future. As one plant manager said to me, “It’s phony and degrading—a helluva way to have to work.”

As consultant to a major food corporation, I can vividly recall stories about salespeople persuading friendly customers: “Order a carload now. You can cancel the order next week.” In this way, many sales managers met their regional quotas. But it was a house of cards, and there came a day some years later when it came tumbling down. The company’s stock value plummeted and another firm acquired them.


Pressure to Serve More Customers


e-Mail now makes it possible for workers to be in touch with far more people than ever before. In addition, with this instantaneous new tool each of your customers or contacts expects a more rapid response than in the days of typewriters and copy machines. Communicating with more people, each of whom expects an instant response, often leads to to-do lists that couldn’t be completed in an 80-hour workweek.


Rapid Change


We have all heard about the exponential speed with which life around us is changing. This often translates into increased workplace pressure. Because change occurs so rapidly, we feel the need to be on top of things. This manifests itself in the need to be almost constantly in touch. Even when we choose not to check in, others take advantage of our accessibility and call us! You know the pressure to keep in touch has to be strong when golfers carry phones in their golf bags or when work-related calls are made or received during a family night out. As getting away from the job becomes more difficult, our freedom ebbs away.

Symptomatic of today’s go-go business world is the growing effort of advertisers to convince consumers that their products will help bring simplicity back to their lives. The Associated Press4 put it this way: “Use of the word simple in advertising may not be new, but marketers say it is becoming more prominent as Americans try to restore some calm to frenetic lifestyles.”


Overwhelming Work Burdens


Many individuals, especially those who work in corporate staff assignments or in the helping professions, find themselves in job situations in which an overwhelming number of tasks confront them. In most cases, they have no control over the workflow; it just keeps coming. Trying harder to keep up seems to attract more work, negating any progress they’ve made. Often, when extra effort is extended, no appreciation is expressed. If you are in a job such as this, you’re in a classic burnout situation. One seminar participant put it this way: “John, I’m so busy that I don’t have time even to think about, much less plan for, downshifting.”

All of these pressures, added to personal ones, can make life frenetic. We work faster, log more hours, eat at our desks, take work home, call in while on vacation, and still fear for our job. Are you angry about it? So are lots of others. You have a right to be upset. And anger isn’t the only consequence of work pressures. Fatigue, loneliness, and diminished intimacy with loved ones are also prices we pay. It doesn’t have to be that way.

That you want to make a change to get more enjoyment out of your personal life and work is natural and normal. Why wouldn’t anyone want more personal freedom to build closer family relationships, improve on health, reach out to others, and pursue activities they enjoy? Sound appealing? If so, come along and I’ll show you how to get off this crazy merry-go-round and live a little!


WHERE WE’VE BEEN / WHERE WE’RE GOING


This chapter discusses the many workplace forces that reduce our personal freedom and are beyond our control. It is unlikely they will go away. For this reason, it makes sense to take greater charge of your life. You can to alter the work demands that rob you of time and energy for family and friends, or for pursuing non-work activities. Given today’s work environment, it is altogether reasonable to seek some relief.

In the next two chapters, we’re going to explore some forces that could hinder your downshifting. It is important to understand these pressures so that you can identify the most constructive ways for overcoming them. After that, we’re on our way to taking some action steps!


Questions for Reflection


  1. What bothers me most about my current job and/or work climate?
  2. If I imagine myself, at 65 or 70, reflecting on my life, what would have been important and what would not? What do my conclusions tell me about planning my life, starting now?
  3. Have I shared my dissatisfactions about my current job situation with those I care about (and who care about me)? If not, why not? If yes, how did they react to my concerns? What does their reaction tell me about proceeding further?
  4. If I had more personal time available, what is one way I would spend it?
  5. How do I stop myself from setting limits on my work?

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Endorsements



"Mandatory reading for anyone interested in a concise, practical approach to solving the delicate work/family balance issues."

—Craig Swain, Chairman, DBM, Inc., and CEO and President, Harcourt Corporate and Professional Services Group

"Whether or not you actually decide to downshift, this book is a must-read. It causes you to examine your life priorities and to understand the magnitude of the tradeoffs you've already unconsciously made in your working lifestyle. Should you choose to take action, John Drake has provided a road map to a more fulfilling life."

—Bob Peixotto, Sr.,Vice President, L.L. Bean

"Do you have the same gnawing feeling about life passing you by that all the rest of us do? John Drake has the cure for it. Spend an afternoon or evening with this incredibly clear, short book and bring new peace and joy into your life and the lives of those you love!"

—John Lucht, executive recruiter and author of Rites of Passage at $100,000+

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