Rick Chapman doesn’t work weekends. The most “homework” he’ll do is a brief overview of notes on a Sunday night to prepare for an early meeting. It’s all part of Chapman’s philosophy and what he believes are the three ingredients for a healthy balance between a job and home life: work hard, work smart, and play hard.

Chapman is CIO and chief administrative officer for Kindred Healthcare, based in Louisville, KY. CIO Republic interviewed him about his ability to maintain both a busy work schedule and a stable home life. His story, as well as tips and insight on balancing work and home, were culled from a community discussion about balancing work and home life that began in response to Bob Weinstein’s article “Balancing work and family is tough going.”

In this article, we’ll share Chapman’s philosophy, along with member tips, insight, and lessons learned to help CIOs and tech leaders gain perspective on keeping both your work and home lives sane.

Chapman’s tale: Work hard, work smart
Chapman, who has been with Kindred Healthcare since 1997, was previously CIO for Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation and prior to that, vice president information systems for both Galen Health Care and Humana Inc. He said the ability to balance work and family becomes easier as a person matures.

While “stress can motivate you to get things done in a short time frame,” it could also have the opposite effect, he advised. For that reason, he practices—and preaches to his managers—his “work hard, work smart, and play hard” theory.

“There are always times you’re going to work a lot of hours, but working a lot of hours isn’t the measure of how well you’re doing as much as what you do while you’re here,” he said.

TechRepublic member Wayne Mack, a technical staff member at PEC Solutions, Inc. in Fairfax, VA, also subscribes to this theory. He said maintaining a strict 40-hour workweek forced him to learn how to prioritize, delegate, and “limit solutions to what was appropriate and reasonable.” As a result, he said he’s become a better manager and improved his chances of promotion.

Ramp up, ramp down
Chapman uses a practice he calls “ramp up, ramp down” to shift from his workday to his home life and vice versa. As he drives into work, he makes a mental to-do list, thinks about the day’s agenda, and gets his “game face” on so that when he arrives at work, he’s in his “work persona.”

Just the opposite happens on the way home. While listening to music, he thinks about how to spend his evening and transforms himself into his “family persona.” In fact, Chapman sometimes takes a longer, more peaceful route home to ensure the transformation is complete.

“By the time you get home, the first thing you want to do is to have some interaction with your family,” he said. “You want to have something pleasant to say rather than to be a release valve and say something negative where you’re venting from the work carryover. You have to get yourself in the right frame of mind.”

Play hard
Chapman also “plays hard” and encourages his staff to do the same when they’re away from the office.

“You need to find something you like to do that gives you an opportunity to vent some of the frustration you might have gotten at work,” he explained, “whether that’s going to sports events and yelling for your favorite team or playing a sport yourself—or whatever you do for a hobby.”

Chapman is an avid season-ticket holder to Tennessee Titans football games, makes biannual trips to New York City, Chicago, or Atlanta to watch the Yankees, Cubs, or the Braves play, and attends as many local baseball games as possible. He also plays golf and attends the annual Masters Golf Tournament. Chapman also often takes his spouse on out-of-town trips to seminars or professional meetings. He recommends tacking an extra day onto the front or back end of the trips to create opportunities for quick getaways.

“The idea is, rather than having one vacation a year, to take more frequent short trips,” he explained. This helps to turn the negatives of frequent travel into opportunities for fun and relaxation, he added.

Real-life stories from the IT trenches
Some TechRepublic members have devised unique schedules and workarounds to make the most of their home time and family priorities. One member, Ksiegel, said she and her husband alternate shifts to spend time with their 14-month-old daughter. With a two-hour lag between shifts, they’ve coordinated a force of family and friends to keep the system going.

Ksiegel said it takes teamwork, organization, constant communication, and “not sweating or getting upset about the small stuff,” to keep the schedule. Though she doesn’t get to see her husband often, they “make the time count” when they are together.

While that situation works well for Ksiegel, others find the balancing act between home and work a bit more difficult. Member David M. Packman, who occasionally writes articles for TechRepublic, has an ailing wife, young children, and a job that demands long hours—often 24 hours at a stretch. With a down economy and job security at an all-time low, he said the long hours aren’t likely to change.

“Some of us do it just to survive and keep the job…our families depend on,” he said. “Some of us are just dealt the hands we have by fate, and we do what we must.”

Advice for maintaining a balance
TechRepublic member and IT manager Steve_R has a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and is finishing his MBA. He offered these six tips for maintaining a healthy balance of work and family:

  1. Be clear on what is important and manage your time around those things. This doesn’t have to be just family. Make sure everything you do is aligned with those priorities.
  2. Sleep less. People can manage on less sleep than what you might consider “normal.” (Steve does about 60 percent of his studies between 5 A.M. and 6:30 A.M. when everybody else is asleep.)
  3. Remember: Nothing is forever. Things change, jobs change, and children get older and eventually less dependent, allowing you to do different things to be a “good” parent.
  4. When faced with working late, ask yourself what is the worst that can happen if you went home earlier. Really be honest. Is it because the system will explode, or is it because you want to be seen working late? Either is fine, as long as you are honest with yourself and are prepared for the consequences.
  5. From my experience, line managers/CEOs often have families themselves. I suspect many understand the need to balance work/family and may even respect staff for not working all hours. Just be sure to make them aware that you have a family and that that is important to you. Some managers would recognize that this is actually a significant benefit that is likely to keep you from leaving.
  6. Keep the job and career in perspective and be honest with yourself. “You live once and then you die.” While it may seem depressing, it’s a basic truth.

Got a tip for balancing work and family?

Are you a CIO with an innovative way to keep your work-and-home life in balance? Send us an e-mail.