When it comes to leadership performance, making time for down time makes a measurable difference.
Here are just a few of the benefits:
- Higher levels of effectiveness
- Lower levels of stress and anxiety
- Clearer thinking, with less ‘brain fog’
- Increased focus and attention
- Better overall decision-making
- Stronger ability to regulate your emotions and reactions when challenges arise
Add it up, and the case for recharging is compelling: When you make time for your health and wellbeing, you boost your performance and impact as a leader. You also send a powerful, positive signal to those around you, encouraging them to do the same.
However, we also know that many leaders struggle to prioritize self-care and wellbeing given the many roles and responsibilities they juggle.
Leaders Need Down Time
While there are many ways to strengthen leadership wellness and performance, taking a break from work is one of the most important.
Our bodies and our brains need routine time-outs to rest and recharge. Otherwise, our capacity to perform at our best is compromised. So too is our ability to strengthen our resilience skills and ensure we can bounce back effectively from sustained periods of higher stress.
So how about you? Where do rest and restoration fit in your leadership life? And what steps might you be contemplating to boost your wellness and your leadership performance?
With summer upon us in the northern hemisphere, now is a perfect time to make personal rest and restoration a priority for your leadership effectiveness. The good news is that there are many ways to add restorative practices to your leadership agenda—with or without a dedicated vacation.
When you prioritize building rest and restoration into your daily routine, you will be building a powerful leadership-wellness muscle that boosts your effectiveness every day.
Powerful Ways to Boost Your Restorative Time, and Your Leadership
Here are some of the most effective (yet most uncomplicated) ways to get more rest and restoration into your day. These are some of my personal go-to’s, including a few approaches that many of the leaders I work with are now using with positive outcomes.
#1 Be Intentional About Self Care
Bring a clear, intentional focus to making rest and restoration a priority. When you do this every day, you will be setting yourself up for success.
#2 Schedule the Time
Make it a habit to schedule ‘recharge’ time into your calendar every day. Whether your preference is a mid-day exercise break, coffee and conversation with a colleague, or a self-care opportunity (perhaps a brief walk to a nearby green space), it is essential to know when you will do it. When you build it right into your daily calendar, you are much more likely to make it happen.
#3 Take ‘Mini’ Breaks Throughout the Day
Short breaks throughout the day can be especially beneficial; as little as five minutes at a time is enough to make a difference. You can stand up, stretch, and move a little if you’ve been sedentary. Alternately, you can get off your feet if your work is usually done standing.
And if your day is typically back-to-back meetings, five minutes between each can help you clear your head. Mini breaks add up over the day, and each one gives you a little breathing space as you transition from one agenda or task to another.
#4 Optimize your Day
Work in blocks of time that optimize your cognitive capacity, especially when you want to tackle anything complex. Research confirms that our brains max out after 90-minute work blocks and need a break then to rest and restore. When you use this insight to your advantage, you can plan your day for peak performance.
Set a timer to allow you to concentrate on the work in front of you during each block (ideally, with your devices and notifications off), then take a brief, energizing break to stretch and move around when the timer rings. When you do this every 60 to 90 minutes, you will notice how much fresher you are for what’s next in your day.
#5 Move More
Your body will thank you for more movement in your day; your brain will, too. Working from home? Use your previous commute time for pre-work and post-work walks. Going to the office? Park further from your workplace or get off public transit before your usual stop to fit in a little walk at the beginning and end of your day.
#6 Get Outdoors
Time outdoors, especially if it involves green space of some kind, is emerging as a powerful practice for restoring our cognitive energy. We also know it makes a positive contribution to physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Public health researchers from the University of Minnesota found that nature has a positive impact on our overall wellbeing. One of the simplest ways to get out regularly in warmer months is to take your lunch and head outdoors—to your deck or backyard if you are working from home or a nearby park or patch of green close to your office. What a great way to break up your day and boost your outdoor time all at once.
Regular rest and restoration time boosts your health and wellbeing and your capacity to continue growing, thriving, and leading at your best. With summer upon us, I encourage you to take some down time. Whether you opt for a good stretch of vacation time or enjoy several long weekends throughout the summer, each ‘down’ day counts.
You can also boost your leadership effectiveness by incorporating restorative practices into your routine every day—comment below with a few of these that inspire you and commit to taking time for yourself.
And if you need to give yourself permission to relax and unwind, know that you will be achieving two things when you do. You will be investing in your leadership health and effectiveness; you will also be inspiring those you lead to do the same. Summer is short; let’s make the most of it.