#1 Issue All My Coaching Clients Have
A few days ago on my morning run with my dog, I was listening to my favorite how to run a successful business podcast. The hosts were talking about their predictions for what the top four regrets leaders will have once this whole pandemic has passed.
It is the same issue that I’ve worked on with every leader I’ve ever coached. And one I struggle with, too.
The #1 regret?
I should have taken more time off.
So simple, and yet so true.
Before the pandemic, chronic overwork and overwhelm were problems every leader I’ve ever coached struggled with. Finding time to rest, truly step away from work, making space for hobbies, and other restorative practices often feel impossible. And now, these challenges are hitting epic levels.
“Our organizational leaders, boards, and fellow workers reinforce the idea that everything about our work is important—everything is a level 10. And together, we create a culture of overwork and overwhelm…As a result, we push through our to-do lists at the expense of taking care of ourselves.” — Beth Kanter & Aliza Sherman
But here’s the thing, nothing grows stronger and more resilient under constant stress. Constant stress actually breaks things down. It’s the oscillation between stress and recovery that grows strength.
“Given an adequate period of recovery, the muscle will not only heal, it will grow stronger. But persist in stressing the muscle without rest and the result will be acute and chronic damage. Conversely, failure to stress the muscle results in weakness and atrophy. Just think of an arm in a cast for several weeks. In both cases, the enemy is not stress—it is the failure to oscillate between energy expenditure and recovery (that’s the problem).” — Making of a Corporate Athlete
Studies show that after about 50 hours of work during a week, productivity decreases. A study by Jon Percavel of Stanford University shows a drastic productivity dip occurring after 55 hours or more of work per week.
The worst offenders, the ones who I observe struggle the most with this? The people at the top.
And yet, it’s the people at the top that have the most dramatic impact on the culture at their organizations. Leaders need to not just talk about work life balance and work boundaries, they need to model them.
“New research increasingly shows that prioritising individual wellbeing has a positive ripple effect across organisations, improving innovation, collaboration and social impact capacity—that is, wellbeing inspires welldoing.” — The Wellbeing Project
So what’s taking time off and resting really look like?
Do one small restorative activity every day for a month with this handy calendar of daily suggestions for how to build more connection, reflection, nature, quiet, contemplation, health, and creativity into your life.
And lastly, and this one might sound obvious, but the most important thing you can do is to actually take time off. Avoid the “productivity propaganda” rhetoric, and just work less. Set work boundaries, and honor them. Don’t answer (or check) emails or texts on the weekend or evenings. Use a vacation day. Power down (for real) and the end of every work day.
Making the world a better place shouldn’t require sacrificing your mental and physical health.
Since 2013, Amy Varga and her team at The Varga Group have worked with over 60 higher education institutions, independent schools and nonprofits to grow their fundraising, train their board, coach their leaders and successfully navigate their capital and comprehensive campaigns. They have helped their clients raise more than $90M. The Varga Group team is based in Portland, Oregon and works with clients nationwide.