I want to add my voice in this Leading Thoughts to many other voices you have heard on an all-important subject. That subject is rest.
You know how it goes in leadership. You hack away with your axe. You chop and you chop. People admire your productivity. It makes you chop longer and harder. You love hearing about how folks admire you for hacking away so fiercely.
Yet you know what is happening. Your axe is growing dull. Your muscles are tiring. Your mind is fraying. If you refuse to rest and sharpen the axe, you’re going to lose a toe.
Now, in the matter of leadership, the danger is becoming stale. This is your version of the axe becoming dull in the example above. You’ve grown weary. You haven’t rested. You don’t have planned distractions. You don’t take time to be inspired, explore the new, and occasionally let yourself be bored. What happens? Ideas won’t come. Creativity is choked. Your gifts weaken. You are less engaging before your team. Your negative emotions surface. You aren’t leading, you’re reacting.
In short, you become stale.
Get more rest. Here’s how.
First and most obviously, try to sleep more. I’m talking about natural sleep. If you have a hard time with this, increase your workouts. Don’t do work in bed. Just use the bed for sleep and, you know, the other thing. Do what you have to do to protect and grow your sleep.
Second, whether you are religious or not, you have to accept that we are made to refrain from work at least one day a week. The great religions confirm this. Science confirms this. Great performers confirm this. Take one day a week and blow off most everything you do the other six days of the week. No work. Rest. Lounge around. Let your mind wander. Allow yourself to be bored.
Third, remember that Winston Churchill said, “A change is as good as a rest.” In other words, do new things and refreshing comes. Churchill learned to paint. Others I know learned a new sport. Still others took up gardening. Whatever. Do something new that works brain and body in novel ways and isn’t work. Make sure it is something that engages you. If you aren’t losing track of time doing it, you aren’t doing the right distraction.
Finally, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol can rob you of rest. Limit them if this is true. You want to work toward natural, non-Ambien-induced sleep, and natural awake resting without chemical aid. Make the adjustments you need to make until this is possible.
Here is the promise. Do these things and you will find the flow, the zone, the inspiration again. For most of us, too much of what we are good at without rest is the enemy of what we are good at. Tame it. Condition it. Put it in proper boundaries. Then more will come. This is one of the great truths of leadership.
That’s it. Rest well, lead well. Trust me, it’s true. More soon.