How often do you recharge your phone? My guess is that you recharge it intentionally on a regular basis so that it operates well for you at all times.
When was the last time you recharged yourself as instrument? Staying away from the office on weekends and that occasional vacation may not be restoring your ability to perform.
If you feel like you are slogging through mud, if you notice it seems to take you longer and longer to make decisions or to get the work done, this is a signal that you are not recharging effectively.
Time to switch it up.
A simple pause is not a recharge.
Just as an athlete’s body needs recovery time in between training sessions, your brain needs recovery time from performance to recharge. If it doesn’t receive this and you need to perform, you will begin to notice that your thinking isn’t as sharp as it has been in the past. Your performance-to-results-time is getting longer. It may feel like you are pushing a boulder uphill without relief to get the work done. As a result, your stress levels rise, fueling distraction and fatigue. What’s happening? You have set up a mode of operating that systematically depletes the mental and physical energy you need to accomplish work.
How do you redirect this path from impending burnout to recharge?
First, it’s important to recognize that the more you perform, the more you need to devote time to recovery. Second, what you do with that time to recover counts.
Calendar time to recharge and unplug.
Do you make time to recover? Evenings and weekends are places to start. But let’s look at how you are spending your time during those pauses. You are not recharging if you are doing any of the following at those times:
- Scheduling or holding calls or meetings
- Answering or even just checking work emails or work-related texts
- Thinking about projects and work situations
- Experiencing poor sleep and inadequate rest due to concern about an aspect of work
If any of the above situations strike home, it’s time to take some steps.
Break up with work on a regular basis.
1. Create boundaries with technology.
Shut your phone off and put the computer away. Consider carrying a dedicated work phone during workdays and leaving it in the office at night. Do these suggestions make you nervous? This may indicate that you suffer from a technology addiction or unhealthy expectations. Identify what concerns you about closing your virtual doors for the evening so that you can address this.
2. Remind yourself that you need your sleep.
Put your phone on sleep mode before you go to bed or put it in another room, so you aren’t disturbed by alerts and brightening lights. This keeps your sleep uninterrupted and free of the impulse to check right away to see if you should take care of something (most likely work!).
3. Empty your mind of work concerns.
Get a work journal. If you begin to think about work, either getting a bright idea or worrying you might forget something, write it down in your work journal. Put your journal somewhere such as in your briefcase, backpack, other where you will feel confident you won’t forget to take it with you when you return to work.
4. Reconcile that work will never be “done.”
Many live with the false belief that “once this project is complete, my workload will slow down or even out.”
Is that really true?
If you reflect back, you’ll realize this thinking is faulty. If you identify with this line of thought, considering reviewing the time you estimate for various tasks and projects, and how you gauge that you are on time as you work to complete deadlines.
Do some time blocking for these various initiatives to make sure you reserve space for work. You may find that you are optimistic, and that you haven’t allowed for unexpected interruptions and breaks. Identify what keeps you from opening up enough space for your work and readjust.
5. Integrate power-boost breaks on workdays.
Once you have preserved your evenings and weekends from work, examine your workdays for meaningful recharge. It’s tough to focus the entire day without pauses that refresh. And caffeine is not the answer.
Where in a typical workday can you break a few times for a 5-minute “brain break”? During these breaks, get up and move about. Connect with a coworker (on a non-work item such as how they spent their weekend). Meditate at your desk. Do something that allows your brain recovery time.
Infuse meaning into non-work time.
Once you have placed boundaries around non-work life, make this time count.
1. Reconnect well with family and friends.
Connecting with others nourishes your life through relationship. Be choosy about the people with whom you spend your time and make it count. Are you enjoying conversations and creating experiences together? Or are you sitting side by side while binge-watching shows without any mutual exchange?
2. Include fun and laughter.
Take stock of whether fun and laughter are well-embedded in your relationships, pastimes, and general philosophy. Intentionally lifting these up in your life makes a big difference in the quality of your exchanges and your outlook.
3. Revisit your larger purpose.
Take regular time to reflect on what you do and why you do it. How does what you do impact the larger picture of not only the business, but of life? Are you making the impact to which you aspire? Does this align with your life vision?
If you can’t answer these questions, it’s time to seek clarity. Your larger purpose + aligned and meaningful work = your legacy. Make yours count.
Recovery time should be intentional and meaningful. More than just a simple battery recharge, this should be a time when you focus on life priorities and meaning.
I often ask my clients what they want to celebrate at the end of their lives. Never has one said that he wants to leave a clean desk behind, no matter what the cost to his relationships, health, and life.
Rather, clients talk about making sure their footprint has been one of forging wonderful relationships, having positive influence on the lives of others, and helping to make the world a better place. If you identify with something along these lines, it’s time to unplug, recharge, and refocus how you approach your work to invite the space in which you can do this.
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
– Anne Lamott
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.