Mindful leaders know their capacity. We should know what we're capable of and obviously what we're not capable of. We all have a level of capacity that if breached, at least lowers our operating potential, and at worst can lead to a dangerous cycle into stress and burnout. We're all capable of working hard for a certain amount of time. I work with some particularly strong-minded entrepreneurs have an incredible amount of resilience and strength, but even they have their limitations. If we're aware of our capacity we can manage it appropriately, which leads to long term effectiveness, consistency and sustainability.
It's good to be mindful of life’s seasons and the priorities that inevitably accompany them. Apparently, there are important things outside of work, or at least that’s what I’ve heard. I had 20 years of lots of travel and rescuing businesses, some in an incredibly distressed state, geographically spread and in need of urgent attention. Life was obviously busy in that environment and during that time I had three children, moved countries, completed an MBA and did numerous other time-consuming things. I know what it is to be busy. I know what it is like to have unreasonable demands placed on me. Unless we manage ourselves and are mindful of our capacity, it's almost inevitable that we will run into a wall.
I am very fortunate and blessed to have married a wonderful life partner in Helen, an incredibly capable and a wonderful person. We had an agreement that when I took a new role, I was able to be released for a season to almost solely focus on getting momentum into the change that was required. But a few months in, there would always be the inevitable tap on the shoulder; the reminder that if I wanted to stay married and stay connected to my children, that things would need to change. I jest, but there was a serious side to those interventions. It's very easy to get wrapped up in what we do, find our identity in our work and drive ourselves beyond our capacity.
There are seasons of life we need to be mindful of, but also micro-seasons even in a day. Those who know me well will know, I am not a morning person. I do not get up at 4:00 o'clock in the morning, run a marathon, do 1000 push-ups, 20 self-affirmations, and meet the seemingly unattainable criteria, that is popularised around how to be successful. I like to ease into my day fully caffeinated. But I know I am highly productive in the late afternoon. I use that time to aggregate pieces of work, that will take full concentration and have a level of creativity, it's my most productive few hours.
Leo Tolstoy, in War and Peace, wrote that the two most powerful warriors are patience and time. We all have limited time, we all have the same amount of time. We all have more time than we think, if we and mindful of it. Work in a way that is productive for you, given your capacity, given your constraints, given your abilities, and your circumstances. Take the time to consider before you act. We would be wise to give ourselves goals and tasks but ones that sit within our capacity to deliver. And don’t forget to celebrate the small wins, it's good for the soul.
I have a friend who went through burnout and literally took years to recover. A wonderful guy, full of empathy serving those around him, and it cost him his health, amongst many other things. Now he teaches others to be mindful and to operate with high EQ. He knows the price of operating outside his capacity even when it was motivated by altruistic outcomes. So be very mindful of your capacity. Being effective is the ability to do the right thing at the right time and recognising our capacity to do so.”