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FM Frequency: Resolutions For Better Living

Written by Retired Columnist. Posted in Columnists, FM Frequency, Magazine, Retired Columnists

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Published on January 02, 2003 with No Comments

By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP
Published in the January 2003 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

I don’t know about you, but I’m having a hard time believing it’s 2003. While 2001 seemed to last forever (for many reasons), 2002 seems to have passed like a bolt of lightning!

This month, I intended to discuss some of the typical “good facility manager New Year resolutions.” You know what I’m talking about:

  1. I will do a better job with preventive maintenance.
  2. I will train my team better.
  3. I will attend more training myself.
  4. I will improve utilities efficiencies.
  5. I will have clean chiller tubes and cooling towers.
  6. I will not scale up our boilers.
  7. I will not have power failures.
  8. I will not have HVAC down time.

I will not be responsible for anyone on my staff popping a data center “Emergency Power Off” button that shuts down an international company with 12,000 customers……again.

I will not lose my temper with an unsupervised telephone subcontractor if he uses a heat gun right below a smoke detector in a main telephone closet and dumps a bottle of FM-200¨ and evacuates the building…..again.

(Sorry, I started having flashbacks while writing these work-related resolutions!)

But instead of “typical” facility management resolutions, I want to reflect on the importance of personal resolutions for 2003. Now, please let me immediately throw out a disclaimer: I don’t speak from experience. In fact, I will be the first to admit that my work/family life is anything but balanced.

Actually, I see this column as “therapy” for a disease commonly known as “workaholism.” Many of you may have heard of it, while some of you may have even contracted it.

My wife and two boys (ages three and five) can tell you about primary and “second hand” symptoms of my illness that include, but are not limited to: missed dinners; weekends at the office; early mornings; sleepless nights; critical staff issues; extended family absences for projects and conferences; holiday service emergencies; weekend security calls; general irritability; and mood swings and fatigue. I could go on even more about the symptoms, but I think you get the point.

What you probably don’t know is that your superiors most likely took it for granted that you came on board with “workaholism” tendencies, even though you failed to list it on your resume, courtesy of the Monster.com database.

So what’s the prescription for dealing with this awful illness that isn’t unique to facilities management? I’m not an expert, but maybe we can find a cure together.

I have heard (probably in one of those conferences that required a family absence) that we must make our health and personal lives top priorities. We’re supposed to consider why people might come to our funerals one day and what those folks might say. So what if we worked hard and had impressive careers. If we die young or live sickly and exhausted, was it worth it?

Before they toss us in the dirt, will they talk about how our 60, 70, or 80 hour weeks made the boss and the stockholders happy? Or will they remember our existence as wonderful neighbors, colleagues, friends, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and members of our community?

Have you even driven through a cemetery from the 1700s? Have you ever done the math on a headstone and wondered why a person (not killed defending his or her country in time of war) only lived to experience half his life expectancy? (For instance, my dad had his first heart attack at the tender age of 36 and was killed from a second attack at only 42.) Do things like this make you think of your own mortality? They do for me! That’s why I think the New Year is a great time to take personal inventory and see if there are any areas of my life that need changing.

Try this exercise along with me. Tell me what kind of personal resolutions we can make this year to improve our lives. (Now if you run through this exercise every year, please just humor me.

Remember, this is therapy for me, and I’m hoping that writing it down might actually help me stay focused.)

1. I will get a physical.
I actually did this in 2002 and it was painless! Face it men, you know the last physical for most of us was in the military or for high school athletics eligibility! With increasing education and new technology to battle heart disease and many types of cancer, early detection can be the key to survival!

2. I will watch my diet, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
Although I am hot and cold on this one, and I know I can’t function well at home (or at work) if I’m filling up on junk food and drinking too many cappuccinos in the morning and too many adult beverages in the evening. I got marching orders at my physical last year to drop my LDL (bad cholesterol) by 25 points. The doctor says diet and exercise should take care of it, but my response is, oh great!

3. I will take a vacation.
I really screwed up this one in 2002, and I regret it now. Even if I’m not in the financial position to go away, I must remember to take a mental vacation by turning off the phone(s)/computer/pager and staying home.

When was the last time you actually read a book that wasn’t written to help you succeed at work? Take a walk, watch movies, or pull some weeds! Volunteer at your church, a soup kitchen, or read a book to some elementary school kids.

Have you “deferred maintenance” on your home or on a family relationship? Pitch a tent in the backyard and camp out with your kids. Have you told them all the legends of your childhood so they can pass the stories along to their kids?

Taking time off can remind us of what we’re missing when we’re at the office from sunup to sundown five, six, or seven days a week, and it doesn’t have to break us financially in order to be rewarding and invigorating.

4. I will exercise.
Sticking with this one is a challenge for me, even though my wife is a personal trainer and aerobics instructor. Last September, I got a dog from the pound (labrador/border collie mutt) and have been walking him for about 30 minutes each morning, so fortunately I have a head start on this one.

However, I would like to get my posterior back in the gym for some weight training and go back to Tae Kwon Do classes, but time is so hard to find (see next item).

5. I will limit my hours at the office and spend more time with friends and/or family.
As facilities managers, this is our hardest riddle to solve. But it’s probably the most important, since it can impact resolutions one through four.

These first four are pretty straightforward and can be conquered with willpower and self-discipline. Number five is a biggie. How in the world can we possibly keep up with everything if we don’t work 60, 70, 80 hours per week?

I think for many of us, it comes down to the following question/problem: do we have the right people in the right places in our organizations? If the answer is yes, we shouldn’t have such a problem with number five. If the answer is no, I think we have three options:

a. Decide to pace ourselves, reduce our hours, and just do what we can do with what we’ve got. Personally, I see this as a recipe for mediocrity at best, professional suicide at worst.

b. Decide to find another position or enter a field with more steady hours. (Do these jobs actually exist?). Changing jobs might be necessary depending on the situation, but there is a grass is greener element to consider. Let’s not forget though, the next pasture might be even worse.

c. Adjust staffing where possible. If higher quality or quantity is needed (i.e. more staffing budget), make a business case justifying staff changes to get the right people in the right places in your organization.

I’m hoping this is the right answer, because this is where I find myself at the start of 2003. Based on a pretty detailed analysis and business justification (that took most of 2002 to develop and sell to my boss), I’ll be hiring a “facilities engineer” to own many of the responsibilities for which I was initially hired. This is requiring some staff restructuring, but I think it will be valuable in the long run.

My first boss always warned me that if my responsibilities were going to grow, I would eventually need to hire another “Jeff” to work for me. Of course my response was, “Another me? I’m not sure I would like me working for me!” I supposed I’ll find out in the upcoming months. Good luck with your personal and professional New Year’s resolutions. I’ll expect to see you in the gym in a few months, at which time we will declare ourselves well balanced, “recovering” workaholics.

Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.

About Retired Columnist

This expert formerly served as regular contributor to Today’s Facility Manager magazine. His vast knowledge of the facility management profession continues to provide a rich resource for facility managers by way of this online archive.

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