I just finished a long run of travel with a number of leadership lectures along with my continued book tour for "It's Not a Glass Ceiling, It's A Sticky Floor," and I'm getting ready to set out soon on another tour with my new book on the balanced leadership factor. These events are very time-consuming; and while I love meeting and hopefully inspiring people, I know from experience that the events/travel will be exhausting and that I will have to be careful not to let this work shut out the other aspects of my life that are so important.
And I know I'm not alone in feeling this way. Many people I speak with today feel as though their life is a marathon, pushing themselves at work until they have little energy left to focus on their family and friends, their health or even good old fun and recreation. Some people believe that the busier they are, the more important they are and that other people share this perception of them. If you have been working at this kind of extreme pace without taking breaks, be careful! Eventually this can become additive without you even being aware of it and you can actually lose the capacity to get back in control of your life. This workaholic pattern can also result in burnout, physical breakdown and an encompassing inability to focus on the top priorities in both your personal and professional life.
I am very passionate about the work that I do and I'm also wired to be a serial entrepreneur. Consequently, I have to work that much harder to disconnect from my work and commit to my "renewal" retreats such as skiing with family, hiking in my favorite mountains of Telluride, or just spending quality time with good friends. But when I do take these kinds of breaks, I return back to work with a healthy and fresh perspective. I am more creative and better able to tackle business issues.
Beyond my own personal formula for staying focused and energized, there are also many studies that indicate that the more people engage in the multi-dimensional aspects of their life, the more effective, focused, and resilient they will be -- and the more energy they will have!
When I'm coaching very busy executives, I tell them that they will be a much better leader if they take the time to reassess their priories and then rethink the choices they are making. This means taking time to visit those aspects of your "whole" life that are most important to you. If you don't, you will leave it up to someone else to decide what your life will look like!
Here are some great tips for regaining your energy and focus. If you want to learn more about each one, they are explained in detail in my books titled, "It's Not a Glass Ceiling, It's a Sticky Floor" and "Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton."
1) Don't Go Another Day Without a Life Plan: Developing a life plan forces us to think through what we want to accomplish over the course of our life and to set specific goals to ensure our ultimate success. It's a way to determine, and also be clear about, what is really important to you. Do you already have goals set in different aspects of your life? Are you setting your priorities based on them? Are you spending your time and energy in the right places, doing the right things? If you're not sure, you need a life plan!
2) Fill Your Whole Tank: Look at your life in a systematic way -- consider the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. When these four components are in harmony, you will find a flow and doors will start to open. Ask yourself what you are doing daily to nurture these four aspects of your life. If one is being neglected, look at ways to concentrate on it. This will help you to stay focused and intentional about what you are doing personally and professionally.
3) Be Intentional About Having Healthy Disruptions in Your Life: Take periodic breaks from your daily routines at work and at home. Read a magazine at lunchtime instead of working at your desk or run on your home treadmill while you watch the sun rise instead of racing to the gym! This kind of "change of pace" will actually increase your energy and renew your spirit. It also feels pretty darn good once in awhile!
4) Create a Revised Time "Budget" That Reflects Your Real Priorities: Treat the time that you work like you treat your financial budget. As an example, if you want to save more of your money, a financial planner will ask you to look at how you currently spend your money and then help you determine where you are getting your greatest ROI and where you might be able to cut back. Try this same approach with the hours in your day. Looking at how you spend your time each day will show you places where you can gain some time before you even begin to reallocate your attention.
5) Establish Your Boundaries and Communicate Them: Remember that you are the one making changes in how you prioritize your activities and live your life. No one else will set those important boundaries for you. And don't expect everyone to know what your goals and priorities are. It's important to be transparent about what you want and need. This sets healthy expectations for everyone.
6) Build Your Support Network and Actually Use It: Surround yourself with people who fill your tank -- that give you energy just by being with them, inspire you to stay focused on what's really important to you, and provide the moral support you need to keep your priorities straight. These relationships can also help fill any voids you have in your life from an emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual perspective. Reach out and build those relationships with old colleague friends, nieces and nephews, or with new friends you meet at a photography class, at church, on a community outreach board or even on one of those dreaded committees you said you'd never join.
Remember, as human beings we run on energy. Occasionally our tank is drained and we need to fill it up again before we can keep going. It's up to us to maintain a level of full engagement in our lives. The more we do what fits into our life plan, the greater energy we will have, the more creative and focused we will be, and great leaders we will be for ourselves and others!
Rebecca Shambaugh, president and CEO of SHAMBAUGH Leadership, thought leader in leadership and organizational transformation, author of "It's Not a Glass Ceiling, It's a Sticky Floor."