When we think of time to refuel as “self care” we often put it at the bottom of our list (sad, but so often true). Instead, if we reframe vacation or time away from work as a means to ensure we have the capacity to ultimately help others – putting the proverbial oxygen mask on ourselves first – our motivation and way we prioritize can shift.
Do you have unused vacation time on the books, or perhaps you’re at risk of losing them? Do you ever forget to schedule your doctor or dentist appointments? Have you recently thought “I can’t take any time off, there’s too much going on”?
Making time to refuel and reflect is a leadership tool that I teach my clients, and that I continue to learn myself.
I’ve written on this subject in the past – normally at the beginning of Summer when people are taking their vacations. However, recently I’ve had to help my high-impact clients move past the normal barriers and carve out time for themselves daily, weekly, monthly as well as plan vacations they’ve been yearning to take.
If you’re not great at taking time for “yourself,” the reasons can sound very practical, responsible, and kind. Earlier in your career, this work ethic may have been noticed and valued. In some organizational cultures it is even expected.
Below is a list of common statements I’ve heard over my career. Have you said or thought any of them? And if so, as you read this list, what are the potential limiting beliefs behind these statements and assumptions that need to be tested?]:
- Things need to get done, and I’m the only one that can do them. [Is that really true? With planning, how could you change that? Are you in any way contributing to this dynamic that you are the only one? Why is that?]
- I don’t want to let the team/person have to do it by themselves – I don’t want to let them down. [How do they feel? Would they enjoy the extra responsibility/accountability/trust? How can you each value your contributions enough to prepare for normal vacations so you can sustain your success?]
- I’ll take time off after x, y or z. [IS it just a timing/scheduling issue, or is there always one more thing to do, and you never take the time off you need? Again, why is that?]
- I want to be known for getting things done. I want people to know I’m committed and professional. [There’s A LOT behind this one. Can you create “enough” impact, value and results when you are present to feel comfortable in taking time to refuel?]
- And even, I love what I’m doing – I’m fine! [Yes… and is it sustainable? Do you know people who gave it their all until they burned out and became resentful of the very organization they loved?]
Instead, I invite you to create a list of what you need to show-up each day, firing on all cylinders, at the top of your game, with the capacity and inclination to help others. In other words, what are the internal and external causes and conditions you need? I guarantee, that in order to have the impact you are meant to have, you need to have some moments of refueling, reflection, re-thinking.
Making time for “yourself” is not a selfish act. It is ultimately the way you can help others. And, for many, it takes courage, and a clear understanding of one’s value.
I write this email on a beautiful patio in Guatemala. Parakeets chirp, grapes are cascading down a trellis, marimba music plays in the distance, the sky is clear blue before the afternoon thunderstorm will likely roll in. My husband is near.
I just finished reading and writing emails to my wonderful clients (this is a very busy time of year for arts and culture organizations!) and coaching the extraordinary leaders in the Career (Life!) Breakthrough Academy.
My heart is singing.
The “old me” wouldn’t be here. I would have cancelled this long-planned vacation because of the responsibilities I have leading as an Interim CEO for a client organization. I would have (proudly) said all of the statements above, and my family would have understood. And, over time, I would be burnt out.
For most of my career, I didn’t know I could create a life where I have the impact I’m meant to have, doing the things I love and that bring me joy, with people I like, with ease and balance. I didn’t understand what internal and external “causes and conditions” I needed to create in order to show up fully, and have the impact I’m meant to have. I didn’t understand that our true value is in the BEing, not just the doing.
I do now.
Keeping it Real
Is it “easy” for me to take time to refuel and replenish? Sometimes. I try not to think of it as separate from everything else I plan and schedule. I think of where, how and with whom I spend my time strategically, in the context of what I need to live in my purpose. It becomes a “therefore,” or my two favorite words: “so that…”
I aim to:
- Guide my clients through their crossroad moments; creating transformational results
- Be a wife, mom, friend, that loves and is loved
- Learn and challenge myself to find patterns and connections that create new awareness and possibility
- Show up as my best self
Therefore, I need to create the business and life model that creates the possibility for me to BE this. And, for me, I know that travelling with my husband is part of that model. For others it could be meditating daily, or creating a schedule that has space for spontaneity, or taking a walk in the woods, or exercising (or all of the above!). This prioritization means that I must plan well ahead, and it means that I have to ask some of my organizational clients for their flexibility and support. The growing and stretching for me has been in communicating this “need” of mine; shifting the hesitation or “guilt” of not attending an event in person to thinking of my time more strategically, like we do with other aspects of our leadership.
Making time for you, creates the possibility to have the kind of success and life you (really) want.
How do you prioritize your time to be sure you can ultimately help others? Do you have any tips or practices that have worked? Where are the areas where you struggle? Let me hear from you!
To your success,
Kathryn R Martin,
Organizational & Individual Crossroad Coach