Ian Hutchinson

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JOHN PETROZZI: Hi. Welcome to Living is Easy. I’m John Petrozzi.

Well, today, we’re privileged to have Mr. Ian Hutchinson from “Life by Design” on the show, talking to us about the holy grail of Work-Life Balance.

Hi, Ian, and thanks for being on the show today.

IAN HUTCHINSON: Yes, thanks, John. Thanks for having me.

JOHN PETROZZI: Pleasure. Before we get started, can you tell us a bit about your company and what you stand for?

IAN HUTCHINSON: I founded the Life by Design about 12 years ago from my living room, and it’s so grown in a very exciting way for us to the point where we also created a system called meCentral.com. So what we do is we consult many business employers, one that actually look after their people. I think, bottom line, what we do is we hope people get more control of their work, their life and their personal finances.

JOHN PETROZZI: Okay. So when did you start the company?

IAN HUTCHINSON: Back in 1997, actually.

JOHN PETROZZI: So it’s actually been going for fairly well now.

IAN HUTCHINSON: Yeah, it has. When I was in the corporate world myself, my dad was a workaholic and I found myself becoming a workaholic as well. What actually happened was I woke up one day, going, “This isn’t really the life that I was trying to design for myself.” I saw a lot of people around me who were great at their work but not necessarily successful in their life. I think to be good at work, you also got to be balanced in life. The two go hand-in-hand.

So I went and studied psychology and creative development and combined that with my business background as well, and we’re doing what we’re doing today.

JOHN PETROZZI: Great. So it’s just like any great invention or idea; it comes from necessity, doesn’t it?

IAN HUTCHINSON: Yeah, I think so. There’s an old saying, “We probably teach what we must need to learn ourselves.” It was certainly in my case a few years ago.

JOHN PETROZZI: Actually, I just came across this term on the internet just the other day. It’s “karoshi,” and it’s a Japanese term that means “death from overwork.” It’s a very real term out there. so if people are having a hectic and unbalanced lifestyle, unfulfilled, the rest is definitely going to affect their health and the way they live, won’t it?

IAN HUTCHINSON: Yeah. And that word comes from the Japanese term; it’s something like [0:02:24] Japanese tragically killing themselves through stress from overwork.

JOHN PETROZZI: Gee, that’s a lot, isn’t it?

IAN HUTCHINSON: Yeah. There are cultural differences, but- you know, Australians are one of the longest, hardest-working nations in the world as well. So I think it’s really huge for us these days. People are realising that “This little life is so quick. How do I get off the bus for a moment? Is this what I really want?”

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Well, hopefully, through today’s conversation, we’ll get a few answers. What’s self-leadership and how does it differ from work-life balance?

IAN HUTCHINSON: I wrote a book, “52 Strategies to Work-Life Balance,” about four or five years ago, and if I was to rewrite it again today, I’ll probably just call it “52 Strategies to Self-Leadership,” because that’s very simply my philosophy of work-life balance. I think a lot of people go, “Gee, I’m being asked to do more with less. I’m really busy at work.” Things are becoming busier and busier.

And certainly, in the work environment, people can look at their bosses and go, “Well, you’re asking me to do all this work and you’re asking me to be more and more productive. What are you going to do to help my work-life balance?” I really don’t think it’s a matter of that. I think it’s that individual’s control a lot more than maybe we’re giving ourselves permission for.

So very simply, if you break it down, just imagine there’s a pendulum swinging back and forth. On one side of the pendulum is work, and on the other side of the pendulum is life. The pendulum in theory should be swinging back and forth to some degree: You work during the week, and on the weekends, maybe, you have life, or you have work and then you have holidays, and it swings back and forth.

There’s different what I call work-life balance personalities. Some people need balance every couple of days; some people can work really hard for six months and have a holiday. So, the pendulum does swing back and forth, though, and the things swinging the pendulum at the top is—usually, for most people—finances. “The reason I need to work and get back over one side of the pendulum is because I need to make the money so I can enjoy my life outside of work.”

There are three key pillars of what I call “self-leadership”:

1.      How can we get more clarity around what I want my life?

2.      How much money I need to make that happen?

3.      How much work I need to do to achieve the money that I need to enjoy my life?

I would suggest that most people aren’t clear about one of those things or align all three of those. For example, we’re going through some times of economic change at the moment, 95% of Australians don’t have the cash flow for their own lifestyle, and here we are, whinging and complaining about our financial situation and getting stressed out about it. But maybe there’s a lot more that we can do to take control of our finances by simply sitting down and doing a cash flow.


IAN HUTCHINSON: I suggest there’s a lot more that we can control than we’re giving ourselves permission for, so it really comes down to self-leadership, “How do I better lead myself? Do I want a life by design or do I want a life by default?” It’s the small things that can make a big difference. So it really comes down to self-responsibility. You can be a victim, if you want, or you can take more control.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Sorry just to butt in there. Do you think things are different now than they were, say, two or three generations ago? Do you feel that people are sort of playing more blame game these days, compared to back then when they had to work to put food on the table and a roof over their head because of different circumstances?

IAN HUTCHINSON: I think we’ve got more choices now, more options, but with that more pressures. By the age of 20, and there’s something like we get 20 million advertising lists of things we should be, what kind of car we should drive, what life we should want or should live. So there’s this whole status or social comparison many people are getting sucked into. Back in 1975, I think it’s something like 5% of people have television in their house; whereas, what’s an important thing these days is like two plasmas, and it’s the minimum for most.

So there’s this increasing cycle of materialism and that increasing social trends. The standard of life is increasing, but actually, the quality of life is now starting to decrease, because this constant trend of trying to sort of keep up with the Joneses and I’m not sure that the Joneses had there on in the first place. I think people are starting to realise that.

I think it’s getting busier and more competitive and we’re in a much more of a global economy, so maybe before, we can simply work 9-5, but now, many jobs, working around the clock, having meetings 11:00 at night for their global network or whatever it might be. So generally, the speed of life is going up, and more and more people are being asked to do more with less. Therefore, it’s having an impact on people’s work-life balance, and therefore, self-leadership strategies.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. So do you think the major obstacle to achieving a work-life balance is actually materialism, because you just mentioned it just earlier on before?

IAN HUTCHINSON: Yeah, I think it’s one of them, and it’s very much so. I think once people realise that maybe money isn’t the be-all and end-all, then, they can actually increase the quality of their life. There’s a really simple exercise that I sometimes get people to do: Write down ten things that you’re most appreciative or grateful for and thankful for in your life, and people write down a whole range of things. Try the exercise, write down the ten things you’re most grateful for, then work out of that list of ten things, “How many are materialistic?” I pretty much guarantee, usually we have between zero and two things on that list. People are materialistic, by their own definition. Reality check is actually the things that are most important don’t cost anything at all.

The other one is “Will you be happier if you make more money?” The answer is “to a certain degree, and then it will plateau out.” Even if you make a million bucks more, you wouldn’t be that happy. Once you’ve got your basics—a place to live and friends and a job that you really enjoy—you’re pretty much content and happy. The question these days, and we get conditioned by society, is “How much money do I want?” I think a more intelligent question these days is “How much money do I need to not be dissatisfied in life?”


IAN HUTCHINSON: But the issue is most people don’t know the answer to their questions, and this is where it comes back to sometimes, even a key obstacle is finances. But how much do you need and how we are taking responsibility for working that out. I think there’s a whole range of other obstacles, and we’ll talk about those, if you want to.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah, that would be good. So, do you think it’s hard to achieve this work-life balance?

IAN HUTCHINSON: Yeah. I think it’s a constant challenge. Most people know what they don’t want. That really is the workout. For example, I don’t want to work seven days a week, or I don’t want to spend a week away with my mother-in-law – it’s easy to work out what you don’t want, but it’s much harder to work out what you do want. I think that’s part of the challenge. Because they love to say “quick,” they constantly are on the treadmill to get up, get dressed, go to work, feed the kids, put them to bed – it’s just a constant “Go, go, go, go, go!” and you have to do more with less, that we don’t have any time or we don’t make time to work out what it is that we really want.

I’m a firm believer in the principle that we never have enough time to do everything. We just don’t have enough time over 160 hours a week. But the key is taking out a little bit of time to work out what are the most important things to you. Again, that’s challenging for a lot of people, because most people aren’t really clear about that. So with the speed of life as it is, yes, it is hard to get a balance, because most people don’t take the time out or have the tools and resources to work out what is most important to them. That is partly why we’ve developed systems that we use in major companies called meCentral.com, which helps them at least get more control of their work, their life, and personal finances.


JOHN PETROZZI: So, is it a matter of asking certain questions to yourself or speaking to someone about it?

IAN HUTCHINSON: Yeah, I think it’s some, and what we’ve asked over the last 12 years is “How do we make it really simple?” It has taken us many years to try and get this thing really simple. Because this whole thing called life is actually quite being complicated and very fragmented for many people, and everyone’s got different versions of it. I studied business management for many years, and I said, “Well, business plans work for organisations. Why can’t we have a business plan for our life?”

Now, there’s a Seven-Step Process that we take to employees groups. The starting point, really, is look at the ten key priorities in life and wrestle through that, if you want, but “What are the most important ones? What are your top three?” That’s almost like the 80/20 rule. As I said, we can’t do everything, but we can do the most important things. What’s most important here is health, love, relationship, family, social, spiritual, contribution to society, financial, hobbies, creativity. With things like that, what are your top three? And how do you currently feel like you’re rating (it’s about out of a score of ten)? What are some strategies that you can do to improve or increase your score in those three areas?

There are systems like goalsunlimited.com you can go to and it will help you work out your top three priorities and they actually have strategies to help you get there and remind you along the way.

JOHN PETROZZI: What was that website again?

IAN HUTCHINSON: It’s called goalsunlimited.com.


IAN HUTCHINSON: It’s a simple website that really is quite powerful.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Do you feel you have a balanced life, work-life balance?

IAN HUTCHINSON: You know, I get that question quite often. “When you speak about self-leadership, you speak about work-life balance. Do you have perfect balance yourself?”  I think the question is very much not just an event you’ve done, “just do it and it’s all solved,” and you take the boxes. It’s kind of an ongoing process, and life is dynamic and it changes and it moves.

Look, I think I’m very lucky because I’ve been starting this whole area, and after many years now, I got to the point where I now have 12 extra holidays a year. I work from home, enough to look over the ocean. But my life still gets out of whack. A part of the key is, I think, first of all, having a priority, “What’s your ideal template? What’s your ideal balance look like?”

Then, another thing we get people to do is map out, “What does a perfect week look like for you?” Imagine it was a 10-out-of-10 week; what would that look like? It’s the same week that you probably live week after week after week, but you want to make sure that you got the balance of those things that are really most important to you in that week. So use that as an ideal template.

Now, you may never ever achieve that ideal week, but you can take some things out of it and do get a balance, “You know, I’m out of balance in the last two weeks; I’ve been on the road speaking,” which, on an ideal week, I get a massage, so I maybe just need a massage. Or my request is when I’m on the road, making sure that the hotel has got a gym, so I’m really getting exercise five days a week; I mean, that’s just me.


IAN HUTCHINSON: But part of it is knowing with clarity what your ideal work-life balance looks like, make sure you’re clear on your priorities, and just block out time in advance to make that happen.

JOHN PETROZZI: So, how can someone who works in a corporate world—a regular employee, clocking on in the morning and clocking off in the afternoon, who feels unfulfilled at work and feels that they’re sort of on a treadmill, possibly not aligning themselves with the values and beliefs of the company, and maybe just not getting along with people at work as well—what simple things could they put in place today or tomorrow to make a change for the better?

IAN HUTCHINSON: We were starting to get in a whole space to your employee engagement, which is really the area specialisation that we work with most companies, how to better engage their people, and probably to start with, before- we won’t have time to get into an engagement today, but when you look at life, there are three styles of living: there seems to be what’s called a “pleasurable life.” That’s like “I could be a millionaire, or whatever, and I could go out and travel, go one weekend, go shopping every second day or go to the movies, catch up and wine and dine with friends every day if I wanted to” – they’re all real quick fixes; they don’t necessarily make you sustainably fulfilled or sustainably happy.

The second style of living is what’s called “engaged life.” That’s when “Am I using the skills that most energise me? Am I using my most important values and my most important interests? Am I living and working a life that’s in line with my personality?” So this is where you really are aligned with what you’re doing in your life and your work. Sometimes, that’s a challenge to find out what those things are, but this is really where the “self-winner” phase comes in. On meCentral.com, there’s a whole career journey there, which takes employees through inter-skills, values, personality, but if you’re living a life and work that’s in line with those key things—skills, values, and personality—then you’re going to have an engaged life.

Then the third phase, which is almost like the “enlightened phase” or “self-actualised phase” in this life is what’s called the “purposeful life.” This is where “I’m living and working an engaged life, but it has meaning beyond just me. I’m having an impact on the community or the world at large, and therefore, it’s taking me from sickness to success and significance.” That’s all good and fun. They’re sort of broad brush ways of living.

But to answer your question, come down to the micro level today or tomorrow, Increase My Job Fulfillment. There are three very quick questions we ask people: Of the skills you most love using, out of a score of 10, how much are you using them at the moment in your work and your role? How challenged are you in a positive way in your work or your role. How meaningful is your work or your role? Then, we get a score out of 30. If you score 25 or above, you’re in the top 10% of population.


IAN HUTCHINSON: Now, if you’re not scoring 25 or above, then the key is brainstorm: What are some skills you’d like to use more of? What are some challenges that would make your work or your role more positively challenging? How can you make your work more meaningful?

Now, usually, by making your work more meaningful, what I mean by that is usually just reframing what you do. So bricklaying, “Well, all I do is I stack bricks together.” But another bricklayer working on exactly the same project may well say, “What I do is I build hospitals and schools for the community.” The second bricklayer is going to have a much higher meaning. That’s by brainstorming “What are some skills, challenges, and how do you make your work more meaningful?” Then, you identify which ones of those you can control, and start implementing those in the coming weeks or coming months.

Usually, we do this in rooms of hundreds of people. Usually, we can get 90% of the room to understand that they can control their job fulfillment a lot more than they thought they could. Usually 40% of them can get in the top 10% of the population. But the key is just having simple relevant tools that can have a huge impact.

So the bottom line is: In an organisation, if you’re getting your people to increase their job fulfillment, then it’s going to have an impact on productivity, performance, and profitability, and it’s also creating a win-win – a win for the individual (they’re enjoying their work more) and a win for the organisation (because they’re having people who are more fulfilled and more on purpose).

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah, I can see that happening for sure. In regards to people having a bit of a look at themselves, what’s the best way to implement change? Like I know the bricklayer can a mental note of “I’m building hospitals to help the community,” compared to the bricklayer who says, “I just lay bricks.” But with their mindset changed, how do you actually implement change? What’s been the most effective way of implementing change from your experience?

IAN HUTCHINSON: The first thing is getting really clear with what you want. Again, most people don’t know. Once we’re clear on what you want, then we get people to work out what the strategies are to help get you there. If you don’t know what you want, you won’t know what the strategies are. Once you know what the strategies are, you’re more likely to know what the obstacles are.

So let’s just say, “Look, I want to fine-tune my work. I need to go back and study. My obstacles is I don’t have enough time to go on and study.” We get people to ask themselves what we call the “what-and-how questions.” What do you need to do to find more time to go and study? By reframing the obstacle into a positive question, you’re more likely to come up with simple actionable steps that you can control. Once you got the steps, then it’s a matter of blocking out time in advance.

That’s what we find quite often, that people go:

a.      They’re probably not excited enough about it in the first place, so they probably won’t do it. I would just call that “they’re not inspired enough,” therefore, finding other goal, finding other strategy. Or,

b.      They’re just, “My life is so busy, I don’t have time to do it.” Well, block out time in advance. With us, with holidays, I’ve booked my third holiday in advance now, so we know where we’re going, just blocked it in advance, or work everything else around it. If you want to go to the gym three times a week, well, block that out in your diary next week that three times you’re going to the gym. If you need to sit down and you want to read more, well, block that time when you’re going to read more.

Now, things might pop up and things might get in the way, another priority might override them, but at least, you can make that call. You want to be organised and structured enough to make sure you’re achieving what you want to achieve in your life, but also flexible and spontaneous enough to be able to pick up opportunities as they come along in the way.

A lot of it is just in breaking them into small baby steps, so small that you can’t pile that up. I call it a baby step if it takes between 5 and 15 minutes to do. so if you want to do your cash flow, allocate 5 minutes in your diary tomorrow when you’re going to download the cash flow and do it, that sort of thing. And it’s just a matter of having a habit and constant reminders, and maybe teaming up with a buddy where you can go through and work together or mentor. That’s why the coaching concept just kicked in the last 10-15 years. But in like Goals Unlimited or meCentral, we have automatic reminder systems that keep you on track anyway.

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s great. It’s good advice, Ian. We’ve almost come to the end of the show. Do you have any closing remarks for us to take home?

IAN HUTCHINSON: Well, look, I don’t know how much time we’ve got, but I’ve got here a list of my top ten self-leadership or work-life balance things. You know, I can do the top ten in 60 seconds.


IAN HUTCHINSON: I can rattle through that, if you want.

JOHN PETROZZI: Perfect. Thank you.

IAN HUTCHINSON: Okay, here we go.

1.      Gratitude – Appreciate three things every day about your life that you’re thankful for and appreciative of.

2.      No email before noon – Try it. One of the most productive things you can do is not even look at your emails. If it’s really important, people will ring you. That gives you a lot of time in the morning, actually, to do your A and B priorities.

3.      The Yellow Pages Index Exercise – Go through the Yellow Pages Index and write down a list of future things you’d like to be doing in your life, and prioritise them as A, B, and C. it will help you get clear on what you want to do.

4.      Do a cash flow – Download a cash flow template and get a financial adviser. It will help you take much more control of obstacles in life.

5.      Have daily priorities – Before you go home each day, work out what the top three things are that you want to achieve the next day.

6.      Block out time in advance – We’ve already mentioned this. In your diary, make sure you’ve got the important things that are looked after in the coming weeks and coming months.

7.      Have a top five family list – What are the top five things that you must enjoy doing, whether it be just for a back-ride or have dinner with friends.

8.      Say “No” more often – Now, I don’t mean that in a selfish way, but very commonly, people will ask you things which is something they can resolve themselves, so quite often, I’ll say, “Sure, I can help you with that, but I can’t do that until next week.” People will usually find a way to do it themselves; sometimes, they’re just lazy.

9.      Exercise to energise – Make sure you’re getting enough exercise, sleep, and eating right.

10.  Design your ideal week – We mentioned that earlier in the program. But what does your ideal week look like? Map it out Monday to Sunday and get really specific with it.

The other key things I’ll say just in closing, John, are:

  • Most people know what they don’t want, fewer know what they really do want, so get really clear about what you want.
  • We don’t have enough time to do everything, but we always have enough time to do the most important things.
  • Make sure that you’re not trying to find time, but make sure you’re being proactive and actually making time.
  • Really, the question is: Do you want a life by default, or do you want a life by design?

JOHN PETROZZI: Great advice, Ian.

And you’ve been listening to Ian Hutchinson from Life by Design. You can find out more information on www.lifebydesign.com.au.

You’ve been listening to Living is Easy. I’m John Petrozzi. Until next time, stay well and stay happy.