Taking time out – how to build it into your leadership practice
Taking time out to focus on yourself doesn’t come natural for a lot of leaders. There’s usually something else or someone else who needs you more, or you simply don’t have the time.
Why don’t leaders take time out?
I know from supporting many leaders that you may be hesitant to put time aside for yourself, as you may feel guilty. So, what happens next?
You plod on, thinking you’ll get round to it. But the reality is …you don’t!
Your diary is really busy.
It’s full of back-to-back meetings and ‘stuff’!
There’s hardly a space when something isn’t booked in, as you rush around at 100mph.
It leaves you with a lack of energy and feeling like you’re not making a difference, despite all your hard work.
This doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes to be a great leader. It means you’re not putting yourself first.
You need some time for you. Time that’s scheduled in, rather than wait until you have to force it in, because of some sort of crisis or burnout.
How do leaders learn to take time out?
Well, you can start right now, with my three ‘R’s framework. Reflect, Recharge, Refocus.
It’s a 3 step framework I use with my leadership clients, and I believe should be part of every leader’s toolkit.
Taking time out – reflect
Reflection is an incredible way to gain insight into what’s working for you, and what’s not. Too often as leaders, we say we don’t have the time to reflect. Yet just five or ten minutes a day is enough.
Reflecting can help you understand where you’re at currently, and what can be done differently. Self-reflection allows you to understand what’s important to you. And when you know what’s important to you, you can prioritise much more effectively.
How you reflect is often quite personal, but it doesn’t have to take a long time.
My own reflective practice consists of just three simple and short questions I’ve been asking of myself and others for over 20 years:
- On a scale of 1-10, how do you think you performed/delivered?
- What do you think you did well?
- What do you think you need to do differently?
Why not give it a try?
You can even set a timer for 3 minutes and spend just one minute on each question.
Taking time out – recharge
I can’t stress how important is to make time for yourself. If you’re under a lot of pressure, it’s easy to fall into the habit of working or thinking about work all the time. But that eventually leads to burnout. Pretty soon you feel tired, stressed, and basically frazzled.
When you’re caught in that state of mind, it can seem like a waste of time to take time out for yourself. But the funny thing is that setting aside time for self-care will lead to you becoming less stressed, and a stronger leader.
It’s time to make self-care a priority.
What that looks like can be different for different individuals. Some suggestions include:
- Commit to taking your full lunch break away from your desk every day
- Make time for a walk in nature
- Commit to regular gentle exercise such as yoga
- Set a time every evening when you’ll switch off your work phone and emails, and stick to it
- Book time off and visit somewhere special to you
- Make time to socialise with your friends
Think of it as an investment that will pay dividends in the future.
Taking time out – refocus
Once you’ve reflected and recharged, it’s the perfect time to refocus.
You’ve identified what is and isn’t working for you.
You’ve invested time in self-care to give you the energy to make any necessary changes.
Now, it’s time to look at what you want to focus on.
- Are the things you’re spending your time on making you feel energised? Or are they draining your energy?
- Have your priorities shifted? If so, do you need to revisit your goals?
- Are you spending time on the things that really matter?
- Do you feel in control of your journey? If not, how can you regain control?
Why building a regular practice of taking time out is important
Building a regular practice of reflecting, recharging and refocusing helps you check-in with yourself and look after your wellbeing. Remember you can’t be a great leader, if you’re exhausted.
That’s why it’s so important to take regular time out. And when I say time out, I mean time away from the chaos and pressures of work, to reflect, recharge and refocus on you.
Because failing to focus on yourself and your leadership practice can result in a busy approach doing what comes next, rather than what needs to be done. Although you spend every minute of every day living your life, if you’re preoccupied with the external factors of work (e.g. KPIs, targets, changes etc), you can lose touch with yourself.
Would it surprise you if I said that you would see better results if you spent more time on yourself and less time focusing on all these external factors?
It’s either important, or it’s not!
I remember my Dad saying this to me many years ago, and it really made me think about how we tell ourselves ‘we haven’t got time’ or we feel guilty putting time in our diaries for ourselves.
The trouble is, we plod on, thinking we’ll get round to it.
But guess what? We don’t.
If you’re still sat on the fence about putting yourself first …I’m going to share back with you what my Dad would say to me:
Making time for yourself.
It’s either important or it’s not.
Remember with leadership, it all starts with you.
Want to invite me to present to your team / organisation?
I’ve shared my 3Rs approach in many national and international publications, as well as delivering presentations and masterclasses on Wellbeing in Leadership to senior leaders in the health and education sector and Professional Football Club Safeguarding Leads. If you want to invite me to present to your team / organisation, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s start a conversation.
Give yourself a breather and take 5 minutes for you
The easy part is reading my blog …the harder part is choosing to change something after reading it. Give yourself a breather and take 5 minutes for you. Reflect on what you’re taking away from my blog, and more importantly what needs to change. I’m challenging you to make one change this week to improve your leadership wellbeing.
So …what will it be?
I’d love to hear how you plan to take time out, so let me know in the comments or send me an email email@example.com
Want to improve your leadership wellbeing?
You’ll love my one-to-one, personalised coaching. Support from someone outside your organisation who’ll give you the space you need to speak your mind, listen without judgement, encourage you to open up and listen to your inner self, and look at things from different perspectives.
Remember with leadership, it all starts with you! It’s time to stop and look within yourself. The answers are already in your head, you just need the time and space for them to emerge.
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