Sustainable leaders find space. Do you feel like you are always working working working, with little or underwhelming fruit? Does your workday leave you feeling tired, ineffective and unfulfilled? This is actually very common in leaders and their teams. Sometimes we have to slow down to speed up; and build some white space into our hectic schedules. But finding that space is sometimes quite difficult.
We are not wired for a sprint; we're built for a marathon. Like all good runners we have to pace ourselves if we want to win. As the great piece of racing advice says, "to finish first, first you have to finish".
Our physiology is built so that under stress we operate closer to the 'fight or flight' part of our brain, further down the brain stem. We stop operating effectively in the frontal cortex, where our ideas, creativity and higher thoughts are active. This is why we have great ideas and an almost constant stream of schemes and dreams, once we've relaxed on holiday. Or that good idea that comes to us in the shower. Imagine how well we would operate if we were de-stressed and activating our full brain capacity in our everyday?
So how do we do this? Build in micro-breaks, stop, take a walk, refresh and the enhanced brain function can help you complete tasks, have ideas, treat people better and be kinder to yourself.
Be centred and relaxed whenever possible. What do you have in your day that helps centre you? Maybe that's walking the dog, exercise, meditation, prayer, reading a novel, finding some quiet space.
Whatever you have in your world that helps you centre, find some peace and be your authentic self, do more of that, schedule it in. Think of it as an important appointment, not self-indulgence.
One of the busiest times of my life was when I was doing my MBA. We were literally in the middle of having three kids under three, restoring an old house that someone should have really put a bulldozer through, and I was doing my first true turnaround leadership role. It was a crazy busy time and yet my wife and I look back on that time as not only highly productive but incredibly rewarding. To put this slightly in context I have to admit I did marry very well and have been truly blessed over the last twenty nine years with Helen. However, given the amounts of pressure and work at the time it could have easily been quite different.
One type of space I found very useful in maintaining momentum and energy was the old, but I think incredibly practical idea, of setting aside one day a week to rest. The notion of a Sabbath day off is clothed in all sorts of religious extremes and yet I have found it to be eminently practical and effective. It’s a part of our Judeo-Christian cultural heritage. When I made the choice to have one day of rest set aside the other six became much more productive.
You may think it is time wasting, but actually you're banking productivity and creativity to be more effective at whatever you do. Our lives are built on foundations. Have time for the disciplines of life. Look after your Body Soul and Spirit and find some space. You’ll be an eminently more effective and sustainable leader if you do.