This week I had the opportunity to work with a client whose primary challenge was dealing with feelings of exhaustion and burnout. He shared with me that he could not remember the last time he broke away from work to focus on planning or reviewing business results.
These feelings were not isolated to work. His self-leadership was suffering as well and it was evident at home. It had been over a year since he and his wife had taken time away for just the two of them. He was coming off of a family vacation, a full schedule of kids' activities, church activities, and just doing life. He was exhausted and his ability to love, lead, and serve people was decreasing rapidly.
After a series of questions it was evident that this leader needed to create more space for himself to reflect, plan, and connect. We worked through his feelings of guilt for not being at the office, taking time away from his kids, and saying "No." to the requests from his faith community.
By the end of our conversation he committed to four important actions to help create space in his life:
- Adopt a Morning Routine that would allow him to start his day meditating on his faith and working out. He had let this slip and found himself grabbing his phone to check social media, the news, and business results first thing in the morning. He admitted that he was anxious, frustrated, and "wound-up" before he even left for work. This was impacting his relationships at home and how he approached his day at work.
- Schedule Thinking Time outside of the office to reflect on the organization, team, and his role as leader. He began to see that taking 30-60 minutes a day to lift his head up from "putting out fires" would provide him the opportunity to see his business from different perspectives and allow him to make better and faster decisions that positively impact the business.
- Start saying No. This was probably the most difficult commitment we discussed because this leader, like so many of us, is a servant leader at heart. His naturally inclination when presented with a request or need is to jump in and meet the need. After making a list of everything he was saying "yes" to, we then made a list of things he was effectively say "no" to because he did not have the time to do them. Unfortunately, for this leader the list of things he was saying "no" to included many of his most important priorities and relationships. He was sacrificing his personal health, relationships at home, and his own leadership growth and development to serve others. While this may sound altruistic, it is not sustainable. You cannot give away what you don't possess and his tank was running on empty.
- Intentionally Plan Time Off. Finally we looked at his calendar and scheduled four quarterly mini-retreats that he and his wife could take to spend more time together (without kids!). These were simply overnight trips into the city, out to wine country, to the beach, and one "staycation" at home. This time away was desperately needed and was something he had committed to doing in the past with his wife, but the craziness of life and work prevented it from ever occurring.
Creating space to reflect, plan, and connect is one of the most important disciplines of an effective leader. If you don't take the time to lead yourself you cannot possibly lead others. I encourage you to take 30-60 minutes this week to reflect on your self-leadership tank. Is it full so that you can effectively lead those you love and serve? If not, what needs to change?