"Frozen" in a Life of Endless Work?

How a Disney Metaphor Led Me to Work-Life Balance

Posted May 16, 2014

By Glen Tibaldeo

Laura and I love Disney. We are one of those loony couples who go to Disney World every year—without kids.

Disney has provided such inspirational messages for all ages through the ages, such as:

  •  “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” The Lion King
  • “If you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” Cinderella
  • “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Winnie the Pooh

And in Frozen, the tenth most successful movie in history and most successful animated feature, “It’s time to see what I can do / To test the limits and break through / No right, no wrong, no rules for me / I’m free!”

Now I’d like to share a powerful Disney quote that changed my life by empowering me towards a life at which many now marvel.

“Make six-figure incomes working from home!” You’ve seen that sign. I’m that guy. I have had a 10-step commute to serve clients around the world for over a decade in less than eight hours per day. I sound like a pompist (I made that up), but I need to be honest to drive these points home. Nonetheless, I certainly did not always have this freedom.

When Laura and my courtship began, we were working for the same ultra-demanding consulting firm and management team on the same project. I would sometimes be seen in identical clothes for more than a day because I didn’t go home. I don’t know what this says about Laura’s values in hygiene and sense of smell, but it’s true. Everyone was putting in crazy hours, but I was the champ.

She got the fastest promotions of anyone in an office of thousands.

I reiterate—same company, project, and management team. We were the Beauty and the Beast of work/life balance. Luckily, being in her life, I got an insider’s look at what she was doing. Determined that I could do it, too, I broke her methods into a formula, which along with this quote, changed everything for me:

"When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way--implicitly and unquestionably." --Walt Disney

Laura's powerful formula basically boiled down to this:

  • Eight hours are more than twelve. Of course, take one day and tell a person to work eight and the other twelve, the twelve person will accomplish more. And these days, you stay late because everyone does it, and it’s expected. But Laura would write down all her accomplishments throughout the day. She read that list at 4:45, making her comfortable with leaving given her production that day. When I tried making the same list, I realized that she accomplished more in eight hours than I did in twelve! Why? All that overtime, over time, made me sluggish and prone to mistakes and rework. I could see it right there on the paper.
  • Schedule what you love after work. Many people make sure to get time with the kids or a workout in early in their day because they don’t know when they’ll leave work. On the other hand, Laura’s really looked forward to working out, and she made a habit of doing it right after work, not before, every day. That incentive pulled her away while the rest of us stayed behind. Find something you really love, and find a way to make it happen right after work.
  • Be careful of precedents. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Start a new job, and your precedents over the first month dictate your image in the eyes of the company. Make it a point in those opening weeks to do everything well and efficiently—and go home. This is an invaluable process with timeless results. But what if you have already set your precedent? That brings me to my next point.
  • Maintain a promotion resumé. Every two weeks, Laura did something I have never seen from anyone else. She took those lists from the first bullet above, scanned it for big accomplishments, and added those to her “promotion resumé” along with their dollar and non-dollar benefits to the company. Lo and behold, at year-end promotion evaluations, she marched the resumé right into the partner’s office, walking out with promotions within a year that took most people three. The “promotion resume” is also a key expectation-buster tool for those of you who have been at the same job for a while. If management reacts to your new-found schedule, just show them the promotion resumé. What’s the big secret to this? No one else does it. The boss 1) has never seen someone’s contributions laid out so neatly and 2) thinks that if you are diligent enough to put that together, you must be the one to promote. It becomes an irrefutable concept.

MBAOnline found that in 1970, average Americans worked 35 hours per week, earning an inflation-adjusted $59,000. In 2012, they put in 46 hours and earned $51,000.

That’s not progress. Make progress. Is work your life? Make life your life. Do that, and like Queen Elsa in Frozen, you can say, “I’m never going back. The past is in the past!”