If stress and overwhelm have taken control of your life the only way back is to stop, step back and recharge. That is incredibly hard for leaders to do when they see everything they do as vitally important. The answer is not, as many think, about improving their time management skills. It is about being able to set priorities, of being able to determine what’s most important. It is also about knowing what to stop doing, what to keep doing and what to start doing. You can only do this when your head is clear, not when it is overloaded with lists of what you have to do.
So How Do Stressed and Overwhelmed Leaders Stop, Step Back and Recharge
Let me make the point first that if you don’t be proactive and stop and step back yourself, it will be done for you. There is every chance you will have a physical or mental breakdown that will force you to stop so you can restore your health. It takes much longer to recover from a mental breakdown due to stress and overwhelm than it does to recover from a physical injury. The recharge, if any, will be very difficult.
Here are Some Ideas for the Super Busy Leader on How to Stop.
Start Small – Step 1.
- Begin by taking breaks – morning and afternoon tea and lunch.
- When you have more time at lunch leave the office if the weather is good and you have an inviting outdoor space close by.
- You can only recharge if you remove yourself from screens.
- Leave the office at a reasonable time and be home to have dinner with the family.
- Turn your phone off between 6-8 pm, for example, unless there is an urgent need to have it on. If there is, put it on a sideboard where you can access and hear it ring, but not see what is coming up on the screen every second.
- Find a way to unwind during that time that fits with your family situation.
- Begin to cut back on what work you take home at night and at week-ends and how much time you spend on it.
This is small, small, small stuff. But it is important for it to be said because when leaders are stressed and overwhelmed they can’t even see these very small options as possibilities that will help them break the nexus.
For the super busy leaders who are stressed and overwhelmed it takes considerable psychological strength to actually make themselves take even these small actions. Once they start to make these small changes it takes mental toughness to sustain the commitment.
Move on to Bigger Breaks – Step 2.
- Stop and step back for longer periods of time.
- Slot some holidays into your calendar. Start with a week-end away.
- Put them in your calendar for every 2-3 months.
- When that begins to “work”, organise a week’s holiday away.
During these holidays have designated times of the day you are available to the office or that you phone in. Ideally you get to the stage where you are only contacted in an emergency, or once a day at most.
To enable you to do this, you need to be working smarter than you were before and have systems in place that will see your workplace manage well while you are not there.
What To Do When You Stop and Step Back. You Recharge.
From the small breaks for morning and afternoon tea to the bigger breaks like holidays this time needs to be used in a way that recharges you.
You don’t recharge over morning tea by checking emails on your phone or catching up on social media. You might recharge by phoning a friend, a family member or a colleague as long as it is not about work.
Touristy holidays, where you race from one tour bus to another and one activity to another, will not help you recharge.
So it is important to discover what helps you turn off the adrenaline.
For many people there are certain places that help them do that. It may be
- the beach or the bush.
- an art gallery or the theatre.
- a sporting event or playing a sport.
- learning or playing a musical instrument.
- doing pottery or water colour painting.
When we can find what allows us to stop, step back and recharge, we need to do more of it.
It’s in that space that reflection becomes possible and we can begin to discover what’s really important to us. We can find the bigger “yes” inside us, that helps us work out negotiables and non-negotiables. It’s in that space that we begin to set our priorities. More on that next.
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