Sept. 4, 2020

Balancing your Life, an Interview with Dr. Russell Clayton

Balancing your Life, an Interview with Dr. Russell Clayton

This is an interview I have with my friend Dr. Russell Clayton about work/life balance.

Russell's book is entitled In Search of Work-Life Balance. It's an excellent book. Russell writes short, and his insights are simple and profound.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/balancingthechristianlife)

Transcript
Kenny Embry:

In this episode of balancing the Christian life, we talked to work life balance expert Dr. Russell Clayton, about how to bring order to a world of chaos. Welcome to balancing the Christian life. I'm Dr. Kenny Embry. We'll talk about how to be better Christians and better people in a digital age.

Unknown:

Let's go.

Kenny Embry:

Today I'm featuring an interview with a good friend of mine, Dr. Russell Clayton, Russell and I work together at the same university for several years. He's good at research and has devoted a lot of time to the idea to work life balance, emotional intelligence and resilience. He's even written a couple of books about work life balance. I did this interview back in late April 2020. The world was still getting used to the Coronavirus lockdown, and he'll make several references to that. You will also notice that I was still learning what good audio sounds like. And I hadn't gotten there yet. So there's background noise on occasion, and the place where I was recording had a lot of echo in it. I apologize. But I think what Russell has to say, is important enough to bear with some less than stellar audio. I hope it's worth it for you too. All right, I'm really pleased to be talking to a good friend of mine, Russell Clayton, I've known Russell for about 10 years. He's a management Professor with the University of South Florida. He's written several articles for publications like online Harvard Business Review, online Psychology Today, he's written a couple of books on work life balance, but Russell is also just a really good guy and a follower of Christ. He's also a coffee snob and someone who I just enjoyed talking to. So Russell, how you doing, man?

Russell Clayton:

I'm good. I'm sitting here drinking coffee.

Kenny Embry:

Okay, impressed me. What's your background? Why are you the guy to be talking about work life balance, a

Russell Clayton:

lot of people have written a lot of really good stuff on work life balance. A lot of it's really deep into the weeds. What I've been able to do, I believe, is to take a lot of those complicated concepts and make it where people like you and I can process it and actually try to live it out.

Kenny Embry:

Right? Because I think one of the limitations of research is we have very controlled situations where we're trying to isolate a variable to look at one specific thing to see how it affects one other thing or one other set of things. Really, I mean, that's not how I live my life. Is that the way you live your life?

Russell Clayton:

No, unfortunately, it's just controlled chaos.

Kenny Embry:

And to be clear, you're married. You have two beautiful little girls. What's your family life like?

Russell Clayton:

Well, pre Coronavirus or or during Coronavirus, both pre Coronavirus. My wife and I both work. And so we would go to work and then we would come home and have a lot of family time during Coronavirus. We're supposed to go to work, but I go to work in our bedroom. She goes to work at our dining room table. And we get interrupted about every 15 to 20 minutes. Does that sound about right? Yeah, that's about right. Yep, somebody needs a snack or somebody needs there to be a mediator between a disagreement on who gets to play with which Barbie,

Kenny Embry:

you and I have talked a lot about work life balance in the past, we both agree that that's the wrong term. What's a better way to think about this idea of work life balance? Yeah, you

Russell Clayton:

know, balance is a pretty bad way to talk about it. Because that implies that you know that it's a 5050 scenario. And rarely, if ever, do I devote 50% of my time to work and 50% of my time to family, it's always a moving target. I've always been a fan of work life integration, or as a drummer work life rhythm really resonates with me. We have busy seasons, a time like this as we're on, stay at home orders from the government. You know, we're we're having lots of family time.

Kenny Embry:

I agree. I like that a lot, too. I think one of the things that you've kind of started beginning to uncover, especially during this time of concentrated attention, what have you rediscovered?

Russell Clayton:

I have rediscovered that I can get more done in less time. And that sort of by requirement. Because I know that like we've said there's family in very, very close proximity to my quote office these days. You know, my wife and I are having, we're having a knockout our work, because our children are at an age where while they're pretty self efficient and they can do things they can't, they can't be alone all day or the house will get turned upside down. they'll end up having four snicker bars as their lunch or something crazy like that. We're rediscovering that we have to do more with less. And that less being time.

Kenny Embry:

You've written a book on this and you talk about basically different components of work life balance. What do you think are the parts of work life balance that we need to be paying attention to?

Russell Clayton:

You know, it's more than just time. Time is the easy one? Well, it's not the easy ones, the easy one to understand. But I think the psychological aspect is key to this work life balance, or this work life rhythm thing, because it's really easy to just equate it to time and say, Hey, wow, look at me, I'm doing a good job. I've spent an hour this evening with my family. But did I spend that hour physically with them? While I was checking email on my phone? Was I paying full attention to what my kids were trying to tell me? Or was I thinking more about the big deal, the negotiation, whatever it is that you do at work. And so I think that psychological component is almost harder to work with than the time thing, because we are in a position where we can multitask due to technology, but it doesn't always work out for the best, it is very difficult to be fully present. Even when you're present.

Kenny Embry:

That makes a lot of sense. To me, one of the things that I heard a researcher say was, it used to be that we focused all on time, and efficiency. And especially with the digital devices in our lives. Now, maybe the better metric is measuring attention. Yeah, I

Russell Clayton:

think there's, there's some validity to that, am I paying attention. And I have to be honest, and I think you you would echo this too, because we're human, it can be hard to pay attention sometimes. Because there's always something tugging for that attention. And it's really easy for us to just check my email on my phone, and then give in to the urge to respond immediately. Or as soon as I get the email. And a lot of times that comes at me taking attention away from something from my kids from my spouse, from other things that I need to include, besides work,

Kenny Embry:

you wrote a book on this, it was very good, what was exactly the title that

Russell Clayton:

in search of work life balance, a small book with a faith based approach to a large problem,

Kenny Embry:

right. And one of the things in that book is you do a really nice job of looking at the research that's out there and applying it to us. And you look at this from several different perspectives, you do talk about time, and you also talk about attention. But that's not all you talk about. You know,

Russell Clayton:

I think one thing that would be pertinent for us to discuss as part of your your podcasts is the aspect of spiritual well being. And I don't know that, that that's an overly technical term for someone that's a theologian or a philosophy person. At the end of the day, it's what it means is our relationship with God, the way the book is set up is, everything in the book is supposed to help you with your work life balance. And it's meant to be sort of a buffet, there's six or seven tips, I think in there of things, strategies. And you know, you can pick and choose, it's almost like going down a buffet line, you can say, Oh, well, that one, that one sounds good. I think maybe I'll try this other one. The only one that's a non negotiable is the spiritual well being component or the relationship with God. And I think a lot of people miss that, with respect to this concept of work life balance. But if we're just being transparent, it's the one that I struggle with absolutely the most, you know, the exercise component, I can do that one, I can put on my gym shorts, and do a little bit of exercise. But it's that spiritual well being that's, you know, takes more focus some more effort. That's, I think that's the key there.

Kenny Embry:

I completely agree. Because I think one of the things that you kind of make in the book, the point is you make in the book that I really agree with is if you focus on that first part, that relationship with God, which basically starts choosing values for you than the other values, rest, exercise, taking care of your body, taking care of your relationships. If you are anchored in that relationship with God, those things aren't any easier. But they certainly become priorities for you.

Russell Clayton:

Yeah, I absolutely agree, Kenny, that you know, sort of starts the dominoes falling. And I like what you said that it essentially helps you choose your values going forward, there's just so much opportunity and we can be incredibly selfish with our time and our resources. And if I'm working on my relationship with Christ, then I'm going to be more attuned to what his will is for me. You also know

Kenny Embry:

the research on this. What do you think most people would be surprised about when it comes to the research on work life balance?

Russell Clayton:

I think people may be surprised at some of the outcomes of a lack of work life balance, or set another way work life balance. I think a lot of people, if you just look at it very surface level would say, Okay, I get it. If If my work and my home life are in conflict, then oh, I guess it just means that I'm stressed. Okay, I can handle stress, right not to minimize the impact that stress has on us. But I think some people would say, Oh, well, that's the outcome is I'm going to have some stress. Or maybe they take it even one more step and say, oh, okay, well, maybe I'm just not going to have as high quality of relationships. But the research shows us some pretty eye opening things. And I think one is that people who who struggle with this work life balance thing. There was a study that showed that they have a higher BMI, meaning, in short, they weren't as healthy. And that just kind of blew my mind when I came across that study. Now, is BMI, the best predictor of health? No, it's not that it's what those researchers had to work with. But what they found was that those who were struggling to find this rhythm between work and life had a much higher BMI, meaning they were less healthy than those who had sort of figured it out. And I think that's one of the outcomes of this conflict, that people would be surprised and say, Ah, oh, my goodness, I had no idea that existed,

Kenny Embry:

right? Well, I'm gonna go back to your book again, because in your book, you basically do outline several different aspects of work life balance, the first one being, obviously relationship to God. Second one being physical exercise, the third being emotional intelligence, the fourth being time management, the fifth being career management, the six being resting, and the seventh being finances. I think you're right, I think all of those basically integrate with one another. Which ones of those do you think are the most important? And which one of those do you think, are the ones that probably people are overlooking?

Russell Clayton:

I think that's a loaded question. It's going to vary from person to person. I think one that a lot of people overlook is rest. we're bombarded with messaging. I remember back at the time when I was writing it, Russell Wilson, the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, he had just achieved his success as a Super Bowl champion. And he he made the comment several times, there's no time to sleep, you always got to hustle, you always got to be working. And I love Russell Wilson, I love the platform, you know, he uses this platform for God. But I disagree with this no time to sleep. I think we're missing that. Now. As we get older, we find more time to sleep, I think because our bodies kind of forced us to but you know, I think if there were a younger listener, someone with a young family in their 20s or early 30s. there absolutely needs to be rest to rejuvenate to reprioritize. I think that one's overlooked. I think that one of the things that people may be could overlook as well. Could be the career management piece. Does God want us to provide for our families? Yes, I believe that he made man to work, but I believe people sort of missed the boat. And they just simply find the job that is going to pay them the most when you and I've sort of had this conversation before talking about the golden handcuffs, and being locked into something simply because it pays us a lot, you know, and I've had to even do a little bit of soul searching on that as well. Is this idea of Can I do a different job, a different career even. So I think that one is overlooked as well.

Kenny Embry:

Let me go back to the resting because I think that is such a powerful point. One of the things when I go back to especially the Old Testament, the idea of the Sabbath, how God basically said, Okay, guys, stop working, don't do anything. And focus on me. And one of the things that strikes me is there's a lot of power in that. What is the power of rest in your opinion?

Russell Clayton:

Yeah, and I love everything that you just said there. I wish, I wish you would have written that and included it in my book. I think the power of rest is this idea of recharging, and forcing us to not do anything. And that's really hard. Again, many of us I feel like are built that we have to keep going, going, going. And sometimes I'll even feel guilty but night to just sit down and watch a TV show. Because I feel like you know, man should not be grading should I be writing? Or researching? Should I be doing something work related, instead of just stopping?

Kenny Embry:

One of the things that I think you and I have talked a lot about is the importance of identifying your values. And I think the problem here is we know the right answer. And we also know that we don't live it very well. And so there's that disconnect between what we knows, right? And what we're doing. What's the challenge here? Why aren't we naturally living the values that we say we espouse?

Russell Clayton:

I guess, I have to say, it probably comes back to our relationship with God, our spiritual discipline, I know the right answers. I know, what's a sin and what's not a sin. And I know that goes way beyond values, right? Because sin is pretty black and white. So why is it so hard to pursue things that are congruent with that? I gotta say, I think it's my relationship with God.

Kenny Embry:

very much based on that. What do you think it means to be good? Oh, wow.

Russell Clayton:

Jesus says, Seek my kingdom first. I think that's probably a good place to start for, for me and you as Christ followers, you know, now that would be a different answer for someone that doesn't have the same fate as we do. But seeking His kingdom and aligning everything we do with that.

Kenny Embry:

What's your biggest struggle you think?

Russell Clayton:

I think my biggest struggle is the one that I outline is the one that's most imperative in the book, which is the spiritual well being. I'll tell you right now, with this stay at home, lockdown that we're in my typical schedule has just been thrown out of whack. And one of the things that I've seen go first is my spiritual well being my time with God. There's never a time here, when I'm alone. There's never a time here, where there's not something going on. And I've allowed a notice that word, I'm pretty intentional there. I've allowed it to be crowded out.

Kenny Embry:

I think one of the things you've alluded to there's, it's something that you and I would call locus of control. I don't think most people know what locus of control is, if you had to explain what that concept is, what is it? And how would it benefit us as Christians to take back our locus of control?

Russell Clayton:

Yeah, so, you know, broadly, you either have an internal locus of control or an external locus control. And I always when I talk about this with students, I use the example of a test or an exam, someone who has an internal locus of control, and they failed, they failed the exam, would say, Ah, man, you know, I that's on me, I just didn't study enough, put the blame on me. versus an external locus of control, the student would say, well, that's not my fault. The professor made the exam too hard. Where did the blame just go? One person accepted it, the other put it on someone else. And I would say for a believer is having this internal locus to know that I control spending time with God, yeah, it's on me. If we could all come to the realization more, and put the blame game on us when appropriate.

Kenny Embry:

I think you kind of hit on something there as well, which is, locus control is one of those concepts where it is a bias toward In my opinion, the fact of the matter is people will get devastating diseases that is outside of their control. But the way they react to those diseases is completely within their control. And I think one of the things that happens to us is there are people who gravitate toward if something bad happens that somebody else's fault, and I need to find the blame for somebody else, external locus of control, or something bad happens. How could I have done this better? How can I do With this better, and I think what you and I are probably saying here is people who keep on looking for external people to blame are probably not very healthy are probably in a very serious victim mentality and are probably not going to advance anywhere. Do you agree with that?

Russell Clayton:

Yeah, I certainly think there's some merit as to what you're saying. And I like the the the tie there between locus of control and victim mentality as I'm going through this Coronavirus lockdown. And to to clarify, I don't have Coronavirus, but I'm at home on lockdown just like everybody, I am subject to an external force, which is basically the government say and stay at home, right. But I am fully acknowledging that I'm not handling it quite as well as I wish because I am allowing myself to not spend time with God, I am allowing myself to get frustrated, because I get interrupted every 30 minutes. So it is me I'm fully aware. And so instead of saying, you know, oh, what was me I'm a victim of all this. I, I think I'm making strides because I'm saying, nope, Hey, come on, man, you're letting this do this to you, you got to stop it.

Kenny Embry:

That's exactly right. One of the things that you and I, we were both a member of a dissertation committee, or the student had a fabulous research project, she was working for the military. And her job was to teach soldiers how to be more resilient. That was a project that meant a lot to me. Because one of the things that I came away with from that project, was really appreciating that there are people who are put in dangerous and difficult circumstances, and they don't freak out. And they find a way through it, not by blaming anybody. And let's be clear, there are people to blame. There are things that are outside of your control. But focusing on the things that you can do, that, to me was one of the most powerful lessons I learned when looking at her study.

Russell Clayton:

Oh, yeah, I agree. Again, I think it's good that you reiterated that there absolutely are things that we can place blame on, right. But it's our response. It's how we handle it is how we frame it. If we're just being real honest with each other. I can tell you and I yesterday, I got incredibly frustrated several points during the day, as I was trying to work. And it was because of interruptions. I allowed my response to be negative, because if I were reframing it in a positive light, I could say that those interruptions were two very beautiful, precious kids that I love dearly. And that that's just a function of the times we're in right now of all working from home. I allowed my view to be negatively framed, versus in resilience. There's this idea of positive reframing. I allowed myself to say, Well, you know, what was me I'm being interrupted here at my job. The positive view, as I kind of later on in the evening, kind of snapped back into, into shape, so to speak, was kind of twofold. I still have a job in this crazy time when we're at 22 million new unemployed people. So that's not to knock anyone that that has been impacted by this. But I still have a job as of today. And I have two beautiful healthy children that came in interrupted that job where I'm still drawing an income. I believe, if I would have just framed it positively from the beginning, there would have been much less frustration. There wouldn't be any blame I wouldn't have. Everything would have been better for that two or three hour stretch there.

Kenny Embry:

Thank you. Yeah, I completely agree. Okay, Russell, what's your advice for people who are trying to get back into balance?

Russell Clayton:

Yeah, I think the best piece of advice is for for each person to buy 10 copies of my book from seriously, I think what I would say is do a little bit of homework, look for those strategies that are going to help you cope. And I think cope sometimes is a negative word, but it can be incredibly powerful and an extremely positive. No one is going to help me cope because we are as a nation under a considerable amount of new stress, right, I'm 41 year roughly the same age, we've never experienced anything like this in our lives. This is a new stress. And so finding out what is going to help us cope for me, I'm having to get off social media, because it's just littered with arguments and negativity. And in the early days of this pandemic, I found myself getting really caught up in it. And then that, in turn, put me in a bad mood the rest of the day. And guess who I took it out on the people that I'm holed up in a home with. So for me, I learned I've had to shut down the social media and be very attentive to the inputs that I'm allowing into my brain because I was just allowing it to make me just a ball of negativity. And that manifested in me being frustrated all day, every day at my home. So I think for your listener is understanding what are some of those things that we can do? some strategies? Maybe they are things I've talked about in my book, maybe they're not, but doing your homework, and figuring out what's going to help me during this time.

Kenny Embry:

I really appreciate this conversation. I really appreciate your perspective on this. I think you're exactly right. If somebody wanted to reach out and make connection with you, how would they do that?

Russell Clayton:

Yeah, the website is work life insights.com. And that will take you to a continuing education firm that I've just recently co launched and and from there, you can contact me. And I'd be happy to answer any questions. You can go to Amazon and just search for in search of work life balance that that will take you to the book. So yeah.

Kenny Embry:

Well, that was my interview with Russell. As I said earlier, he's a great guy. And I really appreciated his vulnerability. For the next episode, I've got an interview with Wyatt Taylor, who's responsible for an interesting digital strategy at a church up in Kentucky. Wyatt understands better than most the power of online communication. It was a great conversation and I'm excited to introduce you to him. I don't know what your week looks like, but I appreciate your taking your time with me and thinking through some ideas about being better Christians. So this week, let's be good and do good.

Russell Clayton

Russell Clayton is an author, speaker, and college professor. He earned a Ph.D. in business administration with a doctoral minor in psychology from the University of Mississippi.

Dr. Clayton has had the privilege of speaking to and leading workshops for several non-profits and professional organizations. In addition, he has been recognized for his contributions in the college classroom by being awarded the 2020 “Mid-Career Distinguished Educator Award” by MOBTS.

Dr. Clayton’s insights have been published in the Harvard Business Review and have been mentioned in such popular press outlets as NBC News, Fox News, and Fast Company. His latest book is Balancing Life.