Camper and Nicholsons

Ask The Crew Coach – Our new Leadership Q&A Column

26th Nov 2013

This month our Crew Coach Alison Rentoul talks to a Captain about creating a better work/life balance this winter.


Now that things are starting to calm down a little for us after the hectic season we’ve had, I’m hoping I can get back to having a better work/life balance during the winter downtime period – for myself and for my crew. The trouble is it’s quite hard to wind down and I find myself still working really long hours even though I don’t really need to at the moment. Do you have any suggestions about how I can do this successfully?

Crew Coach:

This is a great question and it’s one that comes up very often for busy crew, so to begin with I just want to reassure you that it’s quite normal to feel this way. Humans are creatures of habit and one of the curiosities of working on yachts is you quickly become quite institutionalised in terms of your work routines and schedules.

Senior crew usually develop ‘workaholic’ tendencies as a natural response to the workload we are faced with, and it quickly becomes second nature to relinquish time off or personal time in order to keep on top everything. Our bodies have an amazing ability to adapt to this pressure by fuelling us with adrenaline to keep us going, making it possible to almost ‘run on fumes’ through the hectic height of the season.

The key thing for you now though, is to recognize (as you have done) that the body can’t run on adrenaline indefinitely – or it will ultimately burn itself out. So it’s time to start swapping those ‘workaholic’ habits for ones that serve you better at this time, when you need to make the most of the chance you have now to rest and recharge your batteries.

Initially it will feel strange to stop work at a ‘normal’ time, shut down your computer and walk off the passerelle to either go home, go to the gym, or spend time with friends or family – but this is the new habit you need to establish. And like any behaviour, it takes a few weeks of practice before it really begins to feel comfortable. Make a promise to do something with a good friend or colleague at your chosen finish time and you will be less likely to let them down than if you were only letting yourself down.

Another great trick is to begin scheduling your down time just as you would an important meeting or essential project. This way your diary can look just as full as it did before, so your busy brain won’t feel guilty about any gaps in your schedule – but your work/life balance is being redressed. Set reminders in your calendar and stick to the appointments you make for yourself. Consider this as important as you would a meeting with your boss – and in fact, it is – as you will only be able to serve your boss to the best of your abilities when your energy reserves have been fully replenished.

Something else that will help you begin to slow down and enjoy this quiet time is to become more conscious of living in the present moment. There is an excellent book by Eckhart Tolle called ‘The Power of Now’ that will really help you with this, as it challenges you to stop living in the future (as many busy people do, always racing towards a point somewhere further ahead when they think they will be ‘finished’) and begin noticing and enjoying what is going on around you right now.

The final piece of the puzzle is to ‘give yourself permission.’ Many leaders develop a kind of martyr-like attitude to ‘holding the fort’ – going to great lengths to ensure all other people are getting the rest and relaxation they need, but at the expense of their own recovery. The fact is you’ll be no use to anyone if you allow yourself to burn out – and prolonged work without recovery eventually weakens even the strongest individual, negatively affecting their judgement, their personality and their productivity.

There are no badges or medals being handed out here. Remember in the airline safety briefing when they say ‘Adults should fit their own oxygen masks before helping children.’ You are equally, if not more entitled to downtime in the Winter than your crew, and when they start to see how much nicer and more reasonable you are when you start taking your fair share of time off, they won’t begrudge it one bit.

So give yourself permission to take this time to wind down now and remember this is just as important a duty and responsibility as is your dedication and commitment to your busy workload in the summer. 

Camper & Nicholsons International provides complimentary leadership training and coaching including a private and confidential hotline for the Captains of our Managed and Charter yachts. For more information about our Crew Development Program and our Crew Coach please click here.

by Camper Nicholsons

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