It’s the time of year where I ask people about their summer vacation plans. It’s amazing how many aren’t even going to take a full week off. There are many excuses about “We’re in the middle of an important change initiative,” or “Maybe it will be calmer in the fall,” or the completely vacuous, “It’s just not a good time for me to be away.” You’ve got your head screwed on backward if you think that working non-stop is good for your company.
I know that you feel the obligation to perform—if you’re a highly paid leader with dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people counting on you, I sure hope you feel that obligation! The question is, what is going to make you a more valuable leader for your organization and what is actually going to burn you out?
Too many leaders think that they are indispensable and that time away from the business just isn’t possible. I hear lines like these all the time:
“Things are SO busy at work that I can’t afford to go to bed before my inbox is dealt with.”
“This transformation is SO important that I have got to be in every committee meeting.”
“There is SO much conflict that I need to be on hand to resolve issues.”
“This project is SO important that I need to be overseeing every aspect.”
If I grant you that you are the most important, mission critical person on the team, I still don’t come to the conclusion that you can’t take a break. The way I see it, if you’re THAT important, the team can’t afford for you to be less than your best.
If you are working all the time and neglecting your family, friends, nutrition, sleep, hobbies, or community, you are missing the things that contribute to your value and resilience as a leader. Without sufficient time away, your thinking is probably clouded, your temper is probably short, and your body language is probably telling a story that you don’t really want people to hear.
If you’re working without sufficient breaks in your day, you’re getting too close to the issues to be able to spot assumptions, identify risks, and prevent the kinds of problems that stem from unfettered momentum.
If you’re working without sufficient breaks in your week, you’re running on information without insight. You’ll likely be able to manage all the tasks but you’ll miss the bigger messages in how the tasks fit together.
If you’re working without sufficient breaks in your year, you’re not lifting your eyes to the horizon to take in how the world is changing. And if you’re not doing that, you’re missing the chance to hear yourself coming to important conclusions about your strategy, your leadership, and your life.
It’s the breaks from the action that give you a moment’s respite to be able to see the patterns among the points.
A New Mantra
It’s time for a new mantra; one that starts with the assumption that you are a critical asset to your organization and then focuses on how you can optimize that resource.
“Things are SO busy at work that I can’t afford not to get a good night’s sleep.”
“This transformation is SO important that I can’t afford not to get some open time to think and make sure we’re on the right track.”
“There is SO much conflict in the office that I can’t afford not to go have a laugh with my friends and put things back in perspective.”
“This project is SO important that I need to bring in other experts to manage where I’m out of my depth.”
It’s summer. Create the time to have breaks in your day to make the time you spend on task even more productive. Make the time in your week to connect the dots among all the activity bustling around you. Schedule the time in your year to really get away from work so that your brain can be processing important epiphanies in the background. Your organization will benefit from each of these breaks.