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Lately, every leader I speak with has told me that they are busier than they’ve ever been, and describe the pace of their life as a little out of control! If you relate, keep reading.
I’m not sure why it feels like life has sped up; all I know is that everyone I speak with seems to be ‘under the pump’. The problem is that our nervous systems are not designed to cope with an insane level of intensity for sustained periods – eventually, the edges will begin to fray. The impacts can include poor work performance, mental-health issues, physical health deteriorating or your relationships fracturing – eventually, your wellbeing will be weakened.
I am a prime candidate for burnout. I love work. I love going hard and putting a big day in, and I have a ridiculous capacity and no off-switch – which is incredibly dangerous if it’s not managed. I learned this the hard way, and I rely on systems, structures and habits to support me.
During most of 2020 and all of 2021, though, I lost my way with my usual systems and structures and didn’t have any holidays or planned downtime. At Christmas 2021, I was limping to the finish line… perhaps you can relate?
So, I made a commitment to myself that 2022 would not be the same, and scheduled a bunch of recovery weeks throughout the year. I know, ‘recovery’ sounds a little dramatic, but a recovery week is about returning to a normal state of mind, health and strength. I was inspired to look seriously at recovery weeks by several people in my life, and also by episode 349 of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, called ‘LeBron James and His Top-Secret Trainer, Mike Mancias’. In the interview, James and Mancias keep coming back to the value of consistency in recovery; I hadn’t realised just how much of a focus athletes have on recovery as well as hard training.
I’m no world-class athlete – and my field is service, not sport – but there’s an intensity about my work that requires me to perform and show up at my very best when serving my team and my clients.
Just like a battery, the human body needs recharging – longer periods of charging, too. A recharge for me is not just about sleep and massage (which are delicious, of course!): it’s also about clearing things up and addressing matters that are taking up mental space and need time and attention.
My first recovery week for this year was at the beginning of April, and knowing that it was coming up in the diary gave me permission to not worry about or give energy to various matters until then, when I’d have dedicated time for them. How I go about my recovery week is important, too. I do everything slowly – it’s a chance to catch my breath and slow the pace of life down a little. As Mike Vance, the Dean of Disney University (famed for its superlative training programs, which set a new standard for customer service), once said:
What breaks have you got planned this year?
Look at your diary over a month and a quarter, and notice how much recovery time has been built into your schedule. Where is there time for slow? Start carving out some time and make it sacred for you. You don’t need to have a plan, or something to do or somewhere to visit – the point is to do whatever you need to replenish your cup of wellbeing.
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