So many leaders today seek a life of balance. For years, we’ve discussed the elusive work/life balance—and I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who perfectly achieved it. Balance as we understood it doesn’t exist. No one perfectly divides his or her life into equal slices. Instead, life ebbs and flows. From times of extreme investment to times of withdrawal and rest. Commitment then rest—we need both.
If you’re an educator, administrator, coach, employer or parent—you have a taxing job. You might say it’s emotionally expensive. You commit to invest your time and energy into young people, and you need times of recluse. Especially if you’re introverted.
Four Simple Ideas
1. Read a book the right way.
Biographies are good for your brain because we’re naturally drawn to narratives. Our minds think in images and stories. New stories fill our minds and clear the cobwebs of old thoughts. I am reading a biography now that has nothing to do with my work (it’s about an eccentric and brilliant doctor from the 19th century called, Genius on the Edge) and I am refreshed by consuming something new.
Non-fiction, self-improvement books are great, too, for learning. If you’re short on time but long on books (your stack of books on the nightstand just keeps getting bigger and bigger), I suggest you try a method I learned in 1986 while I was working on my master’s degree. A dean shared these three steps to grab a concept without devouring too much time:
- Read the Preface, Introduction, Foreword of the book.
- Study the Table of Contents and front jacket cover.
- Read the first two pages and last two pages of each chapter.
Most authors summarize their big ideas in the opening and ending of each chapter. You can grasp them by reading these parts of a book and leave time for other tasks.
2. Meet with focus mentors.
Like most years, I chose a set of people who are my “focus mentors” this year. They are leaders I admire who are a step or two ahead of me in an area for which I want to grow. I set up a time to treat them to breakfast or coffee, and bring a pad of questions with me, to ask them.
I purposely established these relationships with people outside of my industry. I can get stuck if I only spend time with people who do what I do. I not only learn from each of these people (mentors), but I leave emotionally refreshed afterward.
3. Do something random and new.
I’m not sure if you try to be as intentional as I try to be, but during my summers, I force myself to do things I never take time to do during the fall and spring. For instance, last week, my family went tubing down the Chattahoochee River in Helen, Georgia. We laughed, talked and got soaking wet. Exactly what I needed.
Last summer, I took some team members to the Baseball Hall of Fame, to see Ken Griffey Jr., inducted into the HOF. We saw a Yankees game, watched a movie, toured the Hall of Fame, ate hot dogs and drove through New York state. Just what I needed.
4. Make Some Trade Offs.
We all know the life that’s full of “trade offs.” For every “yes” we say to someone, we must say “no” to others because our time is limited. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. You have to say “no” if you are going to flow, aligned and at peace.
As you make a “to do” list for yourself this summer (or even this week), try making an equally long “won’t do” list, itemizing activities that you’ve done before but don’t deserve your time at this point in your life. Recently, I performed this task and felt liberated when I finished. This summer, I have stopped doing seven tasks or actions that I’ve done for years without much thought. They consumed my time but didn’t offer much “return on my investment.”
If you’ve never read the Habitudes® books, may I suggest you pick up “Habitudes: The Art of Self-Leadership.” In it, I introduce you to the Starving Baker. He’s the baker that spends so much time baking bread for others…he forgets to eat and starves himself. Get it? I also remind you of Emotional Fuel. Just as cars run on gasoline, leaders run on the emotional fuel they get from the intentional relationships in their life; the people who fill them rather than empty them.
Why not make this summer a time of eating and refueling?
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