I just finished a grueling 2 week schedule, and by Wednesday of the second week I was really looking forward to Friday. I hadn’t had my usual amount of sleep and not a single meal with my family in almost a week. There hadn’t even been time for my customary morning rituals of a workout and breakfast on most days. Despite the pace, there were a whole lot of people counting on me, so there couldn’t be any slacking!
So when you’re mentally and physically taxed, how to you continue to lead?
Here’s the techniques I use when the schedule is more demanding than my fortitude:
1. Plan Ahead.
Spending five minutes at the end of the day reviewing the next day’s calendar is time well spent. It prevents starting the day at a gallop the next day, and allows you the time to think and prepare. As the Brits say, “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.”
2. Defer Decisions That Can Wait.
I work in the Pacific, which means the Pentagon has already gone home by lunch time our time, and it’s tomorrow already in the Western Pacific Rim. What this time-warp thinking allows for is space. If something is due by “close of business” we have to know which day they’re talking about. So is someone going to do something with that memo or information before tomorrow morning? Or Monday? If not, it can likely wait. Understanding which things have to be done “now” and which tasks can wait until tomorrow keeps me from making bad decisions when mental resources are scarce. Further, keeping the most important tasks on the front makes sure I don’t make a decision out of a desire to be done rather than put the right amount of energy into the decision.
No matter how good you are, you can’t be everywhere at once. If you can empower someone to make a decision, attend a meeting, or sign off on a package…let them do it. Focus on the things only you must do. Unless it’s a raging disaster, if you empower someone to make a decision then let it go and say “thank you for doing that.”
4. Put People First.
It may seem counter intuitive, but when there’s a person who needs counsel or advice standing at your desk–make them a priority. That doesn’t mean you should allow people to “delegate up” and consume your time, but it does mean you must allow for people to interrupt your flow if it’s important. People are the reason we are in the leadership business to begin with and we forget that at our own peril. There are very, very few situations where the mission will take precedence over the well-being of the team.
5. Eat Food and Drink Water.
A healthy diet helps you recover faster, even when the batteries are low. That doesn’t mean you have to shop at Whole Foods, but it does mean maybe you should pass when the donuts and energy drinks are passed around. Quick burns lead to hard crashes!
How do you stay energized and focused when your batteries are low? Tell me in the comments!