As duties and get piled on to us (or we take them on ourselves), we can have a tendency to add them one at a time without really realizing how much we have on our plates. Before long we are stretched beyond our capacity. The weight is heavy and burdomesome and can start to do some damage to us physically and emotionally if we aren't careful.
I've seen this happen to leaders. There is a new project they pick up. Then someone is away so they cover off for them. Before you know it, the responsibilities increase to the breaking point. The catch is however, to be able to grow and learn as upcoming leaders we do need to stretch. Leaders need to take on new things so they continue to exercise their muscles as well as grow new ones.
How do you know when you are pushing it to far? Because honestly, you don't want to snap! Check out how you feel. Are you challenged in a way that makes you feel engaged and eager to sort through it or are you feeling like running away and hiding? Are you getting opportunities to take breaks and recharge or is it pedal to the medal full time? Are you having the opportunity to look at your workload, evaluate it and readjust if necessary or is the expectation that you just stay quiet and deal with it?
Do you feel like this is growing you or hurting you? Because the reality is that muscles grow when we stretch them and they have the opportunity to bounce back. Branches become stronger by holding heavier birds and being blown in the wind. But if pushed too far, damage can happen.
If you are have that feeling of being grown, congratulations. Enjoy, take time to rejuvenate often and ensure you have lots of supports along the journey. However if you feel you are at risk of hurting yourself because your load is too heavy, reach out! Talk to your HR rep or contact your EAP program. If you have a good relationship with your supervisor talk to them. Find a way that you can bounce back. Because after all, work is only a part of your world, and you need a strong healthy body and mind to enjoy the rest.
Often times as leaders we get overwhelmed. The is a lot on our plate with more added daily. The phone keeps ringing, our inbox fills up and people demand our time. The tendency can be to dig deeper and go harder. The belief being that at some point we will catch up and have time to breath.
The truth is, that you may never get it all done. You may never finish everything. You may never catch up. At least not to a point that you are complete. And if you continue to wait for that point to happen you will never get a break.
Take breaks. No matter what, take a few minutes for yourself a couple of times a day. The break does not have to be long. It doesn't have to be fancy. But it does need to happen.
What can you do in five minutes?
- walk around the block
- go to the water cooler
- shut your door and put your head down
- shut your door and dance around your office
- listen to an uplifting song on your iPod
- doodle with some colored felts
- do some stretching of your neck, shoulders and back
- eat a snack consciously
- look at some pictures you have of family, loved ones or other things that lift you up like wildlife or scenery
And remember to breath. Actually, consciously and full of awareness take some deep breathes. It's surprising how many times we are holding our breath throughout the day or just breathing really shallow. Your body needs lots of oxygen to deal with the day to day stress it finds itself in. Breath is key to getting through it.
Time is one of those things as a leader that often slips from our grip. We come in early, and we stay late, yet there is still a string of emails that have not been responded to, papers on our desks that need our attention and people that want their own piece of our time.
Here are a couple of tips for you to try to get a grasp on it.
1) Remember that it is your choice how you spend your time. I know, I know, it can feel like others pull you and the work dictates what you do however ultimately you are in control.
2) Choose how you spend your time by consciously deciding what you are going to do and don't let anything get in your way. It's the same willpower you use to say no to the piece of chocolate cake or that pushes you to work out. If you say you are going to ignore emails and work on a report at 11:00, do it.
3) Acknowledge that little things that seem to "waste" our time are actually important things to be spending time on. Chatting with an employee about their holiday is key to relationship building. Taking a 15 minute walk around the block helps to clear your mind and have you come back to your work refreshed.
Being consciously aware of how you spend your time rather than worrying about not having enough of it will have you feeling less stressed and more in control.
I lead a full life full of love, adventure and growth. Check out my latest thoughts here.
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