I'm off for a couple of days with a good friend of mine hiking in the desert, staying hydrated, and talking biz, life, and everything in between. Trekking the trails we've moved seamlessly from topic to topic, silence to chatter, catching our breath to being in the zone--appreciating the present state with every step. Seamless. Nourishing. Good. A couple days to reboot, refresh, and rejuvenate in order to come back stronger and clearer on Monday.
It's not the ideal time. In fact, just a couple of days before the trip I thought it might be a horrible idea. I have a richly scheduled month coming up, lots of things competing for prioritization when I return. Yet despite all the things that pull for my energy and attention - this is the best time.
Why? I'll be all the better for it. And so will the people I lead.
Up here, by the time you realize you're even thirsty, you're already dehydrated.
By the time you need time off or some self-care, you're already depleted (or injured).
I find these ideas apply at any altitude...
When you think it's inconvenient to take care of yourself or take a "time out", you've already crossed to depletion, and that's when you need it the most.
When you think you have to work harder, think harder, push harder, do more, you're likely in resistance, and that's when you need space.
So why not get in front of it? Do it before you even need it.
Sound counterintuitive? Certainly. While we normally wait for the right time to get away, or indulge in a bit of extra self-care, there is rarely a "right" time. With technology, virtual teaming, and the way so many of us work now, the "right" time to "check out" and take care has become harder and harder to identify.
This lack of self-care and "white space" has a cost: burnout, disengagement, depletion, hindered creativity--you name it, it's happening.
So we have to take it. We have to lead our self-care and time off in order to show up well. Even if it's a couple of hours, a yoga class, stopping for a good meal, or a full fledged 5-star vacation, it's up to us to feel into it, decide what we need, and create it.
I generally hear three primary reasons for not taking time off or prioritizing self-care:
- We have too much to do, there's no time for time off or self-care.(You need it now more than ever to optimize space and creativity.)
- We don't have enough to do, the pipeline is low, we need to work harder.(Working harder from a place of scarcity and depletion just creates more scarcity, depletion, and energetic resistance.)
- We're doing so great, killing it with our pipeline, business is humming--we need all hands on deck. We'll address self-care and personal well-being next quarter/year. (This is the time to nourish yourself and your performers so you can continue to jam.)
All of these are common and valid. And... all of them warrant extra self-care.
Our businesses, kids, clients, teams, and life need us fresh, strong, and operating on all cylinders. This means self-care, delight, nourishment, and loving ourselves up are essential to our success--no matter what's happening in our lives and businesses.
So what's your game plan? It may be taking time off, it may be just getting some extra self-care in, it may be just taking a pause to absorb what this all means to you and what you truly need.
After all, self-care and creating white space (or intentional time off) is a leadership skill. Lead.
This article first appeared on the Inc blog on June 1, 2015.