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Seems like many of the leaders we have been working with recently are extremely busy and mentally tired. Common sense would dictate taking a break but for whatever reason, leaders often don’t do it. Perhaps this month’s newsletter will encourage listening to that common sense.

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Take a Break

You’ve probably been physically tired. Perhaps you spent the entire day working in the garden or split a cord of wood or rode your bicycle 30 miles. We call this the “good” kind of tired. It’s the kind of tired relieved by a hot shower and rest.

You have also likely experienced mental fatigue. In this scenario, instead of overworking your muscles, you overwork your mind. Day after day you put your mind into high gear doing complex problem-solving, analysis, and logistics until you reach a tipping point. Looking ahead, all you see is more work, so you step on the mental accelerator until one day you try to accelerate and nothing happens. You feel stuck, dispirited, and unable to focus.

What do you do now? Without an understanding of your mind’s built-in design for success and without realizing that your feelings are coming from your thinking, you can potentially make things worse. You can push yourself even more, making more demands on an already depleted system. You increase the pace to the point where you make mistakes, rush critical decisions, and quality begins to suffer. You overrule suggestions from within and from others to rest. Resting, in fact, is the last thing you want to do. “How can I rest with so much going on?”

But what if resting is exactly what you need to do? What if slowing down and stepping away actually helps?

Here’s a story from a leader who attended our 4-day Insight Synergy Program with her team:

I had a bunch of insights after the Insight program but the biggest one was understanding what my feelings were actually telling me. My company is in the middle of a merger. I was assigned a new role but my previous role had not been filled so I was trying to do two jobs. I was so mentally tired that one day I drove home at 9:00pm and I drove right past my street. When I finally realized my mistake several blocks later, I burst into tears. Imagine crying over something so silly!

When I finally got home, it hit me. My feelings were trying to tell me something. I sat in my car in the driveway and got quiet inside. I heard myself loud and clear. I needed a break – so I took two days plus the weekend off. When I returned to work on Monday, my workload hadn’t changed but I had the clarity to prioritize.

Another team leader told me that he left work early to watch his daughter’s soccer game even though an important deadline loomed. “And I really watched the game instead of constantly glancing at my cell phone.” “It was just the break I needed,” he said.

Taking a break when you are extremely busy may seem counterintuitive. Your habit is to push and drive until the task is done. But, DRIVE is not the only gear in your mental car. What about PARK or NEUTRAL? It may feel strange for you – the leader – to take a break while your team is still working. But what kind of a leader are you when you are mentally exhausted? What kind of parent? What kind of human being?

Resting your mind replenishes you. Another resource emerges. Your mind is designed with the capacity to have new thinking and this thinking allows for a fresh view and a clarity that is invaluable, especially when you are very busy.

There are times when you simply must put your head down and forge ahead in spite of tiredness. Doing this once in a while, for special circumstances is not a problem. Doing this as a lifestyle has negative consequences. And you are missing out on what your mind has to offer.

Now, take a break!

Sandy Krot