You are a really hard-working leader. Long hours are often required over extended periods of time. By working harder and longer, you think you are making a dent in the workload.
Yet – have you noticed that there is a point of diminishing return? When you are spinning your wheels yet things aren’t getting done in the timeframe they should? Your head is fuzzy and your body is heavy? Your children don’t recognize you?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a senior executive) to figure out that the world runs on energy. This applies to leaders, too. You only have so much energy to expend, and like a flashlight when the batteries are low, our energy can get depleted, causing our brains and bodies to lose their intensity.
Elite Sports Athlete vs. You
Consider the work of Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz when they coined the term, “The Corporate Athlete” for leaders in today’s high stress workplaces. I recently heard Chris Obst speak on this topic where he adeptly compared an “elite athlete” (in sports) to a “corporate athlete”(you):
- An elite athlete’s workday is 4-5 hours; your workday is 8-16 hours.
- An elite athlete’s career span is 5-7 years; yours is 30-40 years.
- An elite athlete will spend 90% of their time in training and 10% performing; you will spend 5% of your time in training and 95% of your time performing.
- An elite athlete is accountable on the game or race day; you are accountable every day.
- An elite athlete will have an “off-season” of several months per year; you will have an off-season of 2-3 weeks per year.
Ways to Recharge
One might argue, as Chris does, that you are the ultimate athlete due to the chronic nature of the demands on your energy. Some suggestions:
Make taking care of yourself the first thing on your task list: A majority of the leaders I’ve worked with make work their first priority. They’re surprised to find that when they put things that give them energy at the top of their list (exercise, eat well, get plenty of sleep, etc.) they get more high quality work done in a shorter period of time with less stress.
Become aware of energy depletion and take a break: David Rock, in “Your Brain at Work” tells us that brain imagining shows that taking a break works when we’re mentally stuck. Getting away from the intensity for a few minutes can actually charge the brain back up and get things moving. Take a nap, walk, or meditate.
Slow down to speed up: Build reflection time into your schedule. Some of my clients have realized the benefits of regular time, blocked out and kept sacred from distractions, to plan, dream, read, or doodle. It isn’t a waste of time. It works to replenish you.
Make your life outside of work a priority: If your kids don’t recognize you, that’s a wakeup call to pay attention to – they need you and you need them. If you enjoy community work or volunteer work, do some. Reading, hobbies, spiritual pursuits – what re-energizes you? Find out and do it.
I want you to be a better leader and know you want that for yourself too. But spinning your wheels at work isn’t the best way to get there. What do you need to do to re-energize yourself?