Editor’s Note: This column was originally published July 6.
Today I want to talk about something you probably experienced this past weekend, as you celebrated our country’s freedom with friends, family, food, and fireworks for the Fourth of July. Because believe it or not, while you were floating in that backyard pool, making sandcastles in the summer sunshine or dodging July raindrops, you were practicing a powerful yet often-overlooked leadership skill: recharging.
This is an excerpt from The Power of Full Engagement by best-selling authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz:
“Think for a moment about the look of many long-distance runners: gaunt, sallow, slightly sunken and emotionally flat. Now visualize a sprinter … Sprinters typically look powerful, bursting with energy and eager to push themselves to their limits. The explanation is simple. No matter how intense the demand they face, the finish line is clearly visible 100 or 200 meters down the track. We, too, must learn to live our lives as a series of sprints—fully engaging for a period of time and then fully disengaging and seeking renewal before jumping back into the fray to face whatever challenges confront us.”
In other words, instead of “work hard, play hard,” it’s “work hard, recharge hard.” Like a sprinter on a track, you complete your sprint then you disengage, which allows you to renew your energy and be in your absolute best form when the next sprint begins. An always-on-the-go attitude leads to burnout. A schedule with downtime built in offers balance and allows you to perform at your best. It’s why the Fourth of July holiday provides everyone with much-needed time to recharge; and why if you did recharge, you feel ready for the work ahead.
In fact, while planning the HomeServices’ schedule of holidays with the team, we specifically picked the Monday before the Fourth of July as one of our floating holidays, to give our team members a long weekend and time off during the “halftime” of the year. For a lot of businesses, Monday wasn’t a holiday, but we wanted to ensure the team took the time they needed to relax.
The practice of recharging can be built right into your daily routine. When you’re working, set your phone or computer alarm to go off every hour during the workday—that’s eight one-minute check-ins—and use the time to pause, reflect, recharge, recalibrate and refocus.
After you make time for those regular breaks during the day, find balance once your workday is done by shutting off your phone, closing your computer and doing something that relaxes you. I recharge by listening to a book or a podcast because I love to learn something new every day. Learning something new renews my energy and allows me to bring fresh ideas to my work when it’s time for my next sprint. Here’s an interesting fact I learned from listening to a podcast from British particle physicist Brian Cox while doing some yard work this weekend: “There are two trillion galaxies in the observable universe and the Milky Way Galaxy has 200 billion stars and most of those stars we now know have planetary systems, so we estimate there are something like 20 billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way Galaxy alone. And there are two trillion galaxies. ”
So, what’s the message? To be the kind of leader who enlightens and uplifts, remember to focus on your downtime and recharge. You’ll find that the quality of work you produce and the service you provide your clients when you’re energized and engaged will be so much better because you took time to relax. And bringing this concept back around to the long weekend now behind us, those barbecues and beach days actually served to make you a more effective leader.
This article is adapted from Blefari’s weekly, company-wide “Thoughts on Leadership” column from HomeServices of America.