Managing Calendar Overload

Posted by: Michelle Conlin on June 16, 2008

info overload pic.jpg

A story in this morning’s Wall Street Journal about packed calendars ruling over executives got me thinking about overload-slayer and SAS Institute founder Jim Goodnight.

SAS was a worker’s paradise—or a smothering corporate daddy, shouted the critics—long, long before the Kingdom of Google. In many ways, SAS was America’s first corporate country club. Long before the doctom “labor crunch” put employee perks in vogue, SAS founder James Goodnight was lavishing money on programmers instead of headhunters. The cush perks followed. It worked: SAS turnover is 4% in an industry for which 20% is typical.

The Cary (N.C.)-based company may compete against Oracle Corp., but SAS employees aren’t asked to mimic their Silicon Valley brethren’s sleep-starved lifestyle. The company has world-class gyms, gourmet cafeterias, a company medical team, on-site daycare, massages, a farmer’s market, car washing, a bank…you get the idea.

Here’s what was most intriguing to me about the company culture, though: Goodnight, a shy billionaire who until 2001 drove a Buick Roadmaster wagon, believes in leaving the office at 5 p.m. sharp. Dinner, he says, should be spent with your family, not at your desk.

So at 5 p.m. every night, the gates to the parking lot close (though of course you can still escape if you leave later). The signal is clear: LEAVE. Paternalism yes. Goodnight is a work-life balance ENFORCER.

When I asked Goodnight why he booted his troops so early—compared to the Silicon Valley workaholic ethos—he told me that he firmly believed that after eight hours of concerted concentration, programmers started to lose focus. They started to make mistakes.

So Goodnight forced them to take breaks by iron-fisting a leave-early culture at SAS.

This is one way Goodnight helped model for his employees how NOT to become a hostage to one’s calender.

As researchers have confirmed, Goodnight knew that downtime—zoning out, lazing around, joking with the family—are as crucial to a peak performer’s performance as work.

Reader Comments

Wally Bock

June 16, 2008 6:38 PM

Great post. I especially liked that line about substituting perks for headhunters. Reminds me of Amazon choosing to spend money on free shipping instead of advertising.

Thomas H

June 16, 2008 7:31 PM

Brava for bringing this subject up. Mr. Goodnight and SAS should be the standard for so many companies. Yes they have an enviable business model but it wouldn't work without dedicated, NORMAL, well-adjusted people.

Robert Alderman

June 20, 2008 12:59 AM

When referring to time management the first thing we must do is change the language. Time is assets to invest in a way which brings you the highest and best ROI. While we may all be different, have a multitude of various skill sets etc. the one thing that we all start everyday with is 1440 assets.
1440 divided by 24 equates 60 assets per hour.
Do a short exercise and see how many assets you actually have to be productive. Sleep, family, driving, shopping, grooming and on and on.How many assets are left to really maximize your day. Next compute how much you earn per week, then per hour, per minute and per second. WOW it is amazing! Now start logging your unproductive times. Endless phone conversations, unnecessary meetings, social bantering, checking your personal e-mail, investments or worse yet reading jokes sent by unproductive co-workers.
Finally it is time for a love affair. YES, that is what I said, a love affair with yourself. Become selfish about your assets. Use them very judiciously so you can be a top performer and yet manage your assets in a way that allows you to take better care of yourself. Being selfish could better be said as self-fullnes. Love yourself first and the success will follow.
Manage your 1440 assets and you will get your life back. AND don't forget when those 1440 assets are gone they are gone forever. Maximize your investment in your own life.
Definition of true success:
Walking into the circus holding your childs hand on a Wednesday afternoon.

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