Most leaders that we know don’t sit still for long. They are always on the go. Moving from meeting to meeting, fielding phone calls, and responding to emails. They are busy doing things to improve their lives and the lives of others.
Leaders are driven to accomplish and achieve, it’s a significant part of what has brought them to the leadership table, but this tendency often comes with a shadow side where leaders begin to struggle to turn the work off. Tasks and projects drift into the evening and creep into the weekends. Work becomes all-consuming, to the detriment of other things.
Many of you may believe we’re headed down the path of talking about how this trend impacts family, friends, relationships, and even personal aspirations. While those things can and do suffer when we don’t take time to rest from work, we’d aiming to address another challenge—overall productivity wains when we don’t take time to rest.
Research by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee cited in Harvard Business Review suggests that leadership, even though it fulfills us in many ways, also has an insidious effect that often, over time, leaves our bodies and souls feeling drained. It’s only when our bodies and brains are rested and refreshed that we can perform at our optimum capacity. When we are rested, we are a better listener, more patient, an open-minded learner, and less stressed and anxious. Feeling refreshed helps us be more creative and more productive. In other words, feeling rested and refreshed helps us be better leaders.
The benefits of rest and renewal only come through practice. Below are a few suggestions to help implement rest into your life and to encourage your team to use as well.
Get Some Sleep
In his compelling article, “Sleep Well, Lead Better,” Christopher Barnes, professor of management at the University of Washington’s school of business, writes that insufficient rest leads to poor judgment, lack of self-control, and impaired creativity. His research even makes the case that sleep-deprived leaders hurt their teams along with themselves as they are more likely to mistreat employees and create a workplace where people feel less engaged and perhaps behave less ethically.
To get better sleep, stick to a regular bedtime and wake-up time. Avoid nicotine, caffeine, an alcohol nightcap, and screen time before bed. Get treatment for sleep disorders. If possible, take a 20-minute nap during your lunch break. If you make sleep a priority, you’ll probably be a more productive and inspiring leader.
Engage in Nourishing Activities
Nourishment means “The substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.” When we find and apply nourishment centers into our lives, they will refresh and recharge us. Below are a few nourishment centers we support engaging in on a regular basis:
- Family. Spending time with a family member we enjoy can help recharge our batteries; it’s crucial that you catch that not just any family will do here. Investing in family members can connect us to positive experiences and the larger meaning to life.
- Recreation. It’s easy to dismiss, but we believe it’s essential to find and engage in hobbies that you enjoy. Edward Bellamy once said, “If bread is the first necessity of life, recreation is a close second.” The activity may require effort and energy, but it can also nourish your life.
- Relationships. The quality and direction of our lives are greatly impacted by the friendships that we have. Prioritize time with a close friend that makes you laugh or that you just enjoy being around.
Lead a Balanced Life
We believe that a critical component to leadership longevity is to have a healthy integration between your personal and professional life, both physically and mentally. Whether focused on home or work, discipline yourself to be fully engaged with what’s in front of you. Rest requires being deliberate about disconnecting from your professional life from time to time so that you can fully be renewed.
From Reflection to Action: Can you think of other ways you can implement rest into your life? What do you enjoy doing that brings you rest and refreshment?