Do you work in a job that interests you, stimulates you, and periodically even excites you? I sure hope so! I know I do. And even in what I consider to be my dream job, I sometimes find the demands overwhelming. When’s the next long weekend so I can catch my breath?
If you think of your work in terms of which activities charge your batteries and which ones deplete them, how does the balance sheet look? Are you seeing fewer and fewer bars on your imaginary battery indicator as the week goes on? If so, you’re depleting the reserves that protect you from stress and minimize dysfunctional behavior. You’re wearing yourself down.
The senior people I work with in organizations go weeks, sometimes months tapping into their energy reserves without replenishing them. They feel the weight of their obligations to their teams, their organizations, and their families. They respond by prioritizing everyone and everything above their own interests. They do the bare minimum to meet their own needs and almost never do the things that bring them joy. They think of joy as a luxury not afforded to hard working leaders.
They are wrong.
If you are avoiding doing the things you love to do, the things that bring you joy, you are doing everyone a disservice. You won’t be any help to your junior and inexperienced team if you don’t have the energy to provide the coaching they need. You won’t be any help to your organization in the midst of transformation if you keep slipping into old habits because they are the path of least resistance. You certainly won’t be any treat for your family and friends when you hit the couch at 8:00and zone out for the night.
If you’re playing martyr, give your head a shake. You’re not being a hero; you’re abdicating your responsibility to everyone.
What recharges you? What gives you joy? You might think of it by filling in the blanks in the following “oh yeah, _______. I used to LOVE doing ______! I don’t have time for that anymore.”
For me, it’s all in the creative realm: singing, dancing, making art, writing. I am invigorated by creativity. As the travel in my job increases and as more and more evenings and weekends fill with work obligations, I have to defend fiercely my time for them. Several years ago, I started tap dancing as a way of getting my physical exercise while stimulating my creative side. Exercise and dance: two resilience builders for the price of one!
What is your battery charger? I’ve heard everything from model ship building to running triathlons, to cooking sumptuous food. Resolve to add a battery charger back into your life. Ignore anyone and anything that gets in the way of you doing it (especially the voice in your head that says it’s not a good use of time). Experience the jolt of energy you get from a little joy.
Find it at Work
But don’t settle for that! Trying to fit these activities in at home means they will probably always be stolen moments. To keep your batteries fully charged, find places to plug in at work. For me, writing is cathartic; I love it. As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane ignoring about six movies on the seatback screen that I’ve never seen because a five hour flight is a delicious chance to recharge my batteries by writing. The fact that this is part of my job is a massive bonus.
What opportunities are there at your work to charge your batteries? If you love all things helping, could you offer to mentor someone—an hour spent helping a junior person will fuel you for days. If you love numbers and puzzles, don’t just do Sudoku in your arm chair, offer to do some analytics on customer data. Participate on a charity drive, organize the team’s files saved on the shared network, or implement a walking meeting once a day. Find moments that make your eyes sparkle in each day.
Don’t do yourself and everyone else a disservice by thinking that giving up the activities that bring you joy are frivolous or a waste of time. Invest in yourself so you can add your full value for everyone.