I know how very lucky I was over the summer.
I work for myself. I organise my own time, set my own boundaries and take breaks when I need to (well, mostly). So, after a pretty full-on June and July, I did just that. I took four weeks out of my life.
I told all my coaching and training clients I’d be taking a Space Month and scooted off on holiday in the West country. Then with my teenage daughters camping with their dad, I spent two weeks in sunny London walking, cycling, thinking, reading, exploring and learning. It was truly wonderful.
As I check in with the sector news today I feel guilty. Who on earth do I think I am to have the luxury off ‘time out’ when my sector colleagues face so many problems? Redundancies, massive drops in income, ‘keep you up at night’ anxieties about whether vital services can continue and whether loyal, hard-working people can be kept in a job.
I should be in there, getting my hands dirty, helping people, making it better.
Yes. But the thing is, I was spent. By the end of July after supporting dozens of leaders through the lockdown, I was exhausted. I’m not sure how much use I’d have been if I’d carried on.
And now, I am back at work, refreshed and rejuvenated, and far better able to support our tribe of amazing non-profit leaders.
So why am I telling you this?
I’m telling you because I want to encourage you to do the same. Okay, so a month off isn’t likely to be possible but I want to encourage you over the autumn and into the winter to be looking for ways of making space for yourself so you can rejuvenate too.
There’s a lot around in the media right now about the massive impact on our mental health of six months + of COVID. I’m absolutely convinced that our #No1 task right now is to look after ourselves and look after our colleagues.
Making space for ‘you’ and encouraging your teams to do the same is part of your job as a leader. It’s that old thing about ‘putting your life jacket on first’. What use are you to anyone if you are totally frazzled and burned out?
Keep it simple
One of the most effective ways to create space in a busy life is to devise yourself a ‘work-life boundary ritual’. The beauty of this is that doesn’t require you to find time that you don’t have or look for chunks of spare hours that aren’t there!
I’m sure the idea of setting boundaries isn’t rocket science or even new to you, but it comes with an extra dollop of encouragement to actually do it which is half the battle.
Work-life boundaries can be all over the place when you work from home. (In our house we talk about every day being ‘Blursday’ and every hour ‘blur o’clock’.) A way to keep them clearly defined is to make a super conscious decision about your working hours and to create a short end of working day ritual that tells you (and equally importantly, everyone else) that work is now done. Finished. Over. After that you won’t be picking up your phone to make or answer calls, going anywhere near emails or doing anything whatsoever to do with work.
Your ritual could be as simple as closing your laptop, covering it up, expressing gratitude for a good day’s work and heading downstairs. Some of my clients have longer rituals including a walk in the park or a wild ‘shake it out’ dance to a favourite song. You decide.
This may seem over simple but small actions like this lead to powerful shifts. An end of work ritual gives you permission to clear your mind of work worries and to change your focus. It allows you to be present in whatever else is going on in your life.
I really encourage you not to feel guilty. This isn’t about being selfish. When you set boundaries around your work and life like this, you model fabulous behaviour and encourage your team to do the same – creating space for all of you to look after yourselves, to thrive and to do your very best work.
Re-establishing strong, supportive boundaries can be tricky, particularly if things have been feeling blurry for a while. If you’d like some support, drop me a line or give me a call to arrange a chat.