I’m pooped, I’ve worked just about two months straight, literally – on call each day and night and just trying to get ahead of a very big wave. I was and am grateful for the experience but am certainly feeling it today. Yesterday was the first real day off I’ve had in what feels like a long time, realistically it’s been about nine weeks. I think having the rest yesterday has slowed me down today. Once you stop, then you feel tired. Once you stop, then you feel like you can’t do much more.
The mental lethargy is sizable. I am cognitively slower and somewhat vacant in terms of conversational ability or other levels of engagement. I intent to rest a bit this week, work more this weekend, then a bit more rest and a bit more work which will bring me to the operational close of this project. That means some down time and then a regroup for lessons learned and close out activities. I appreciate working hard and then having a break. When you run your own business there aren’t many breaks you can take that don’t pose some sort of risk – usually financial risk because you have to keep bringing in the business. The other sometimes ‘unseen’ risk is capacity – mental, emotional and physical. We all need time to rebuild and rest. We all need time to refill our tank to take on our next challenge.
If I don’t take a bit of a break then I will become increasingly impatient, frustrated, lethargic and vacant. I will not be on my game. Any athlete knows that rest is a big part of any training regime. That over-training exists and can be debilitating. That poor nutrition and lack of sleep affect performance. So why do we think it’s different for us?
I’ve been doing this kind of full court press work for about 20 years, and have learned some lessons – I take a water bottle with me, everywhere. I pack protein bars and granola bars that can fit into my day pack. I buy bags of mini carrots and I don’t drink too much booze. I go home early, I exercise when I can and I sleep as well as I can – which admittedly is the hardest of all the take care tactics. I do these things so I can perform my best throughout the most intense times of the project. I do this because my lag time and recovery are shorter if I take better care of myself during the chaos. I do this because I remember what it’s like when I don’t do it and how that affects my attitude, my delivery and my recovery.
As leaders, we need to rest our brains and our bodies. We need to ensure we are ready when our chaos hits and when we are needed. If you are constantly burning the candle at both ends and not planning any recovery time it will absolutely affect your performance at some point. Maybe at work, or at home or both. First you have to recognize that lack of good care affects you, then you make decisions to improve, then you try, then you try again.
We are the examples – how and when we look after ourselves is important and imperative to what becomes acceptable for your team. Maybe you need more help? More time? More money? More food? More vacation? More faith? Or maybe you need more discipline to take better care of yourself?
I am not a pro at taking care of myself, but I’m better than before. And ultimately, isn’t that the goal? To be better because even a little counts.
Excuse me while I go take a nap.