IIDM: Why Leaders Will Have Their Progress Hampered If They Don’t Take Time to Practise Self-care

In a world that’s in a constant state of busy-ness, being able to slow down and find time for self-care can be very hard. In this article featured on the International Institute of Directors and Managers (IIDM) website, Michelle talks about why it’s important for leaders to take time to practice self-care.

Leaders worry that if they slow down they will miss something, or simply not have enough time in the day to get everything done that demands their attention.

Taking the foot off the accelerator doesn’t feel like an option.

Body keeps score

However, there’s a downside to this approach. When you are constantly ‘on’ and rushing you can easily miss what is happening around you. Your brain gets so focused on the task at hand you ignore other ideas or inputs that really should be factored in. You become blinkered to alternative perspectives, as your attention is on getting the task finished.

At the same time, when you never find time to pause, rest and reflect your body eventually succumbs to the pressure of modern life. Burnout happens when you don’t listen to the body’s warning signs and take time out. 

Rushing is easy

We can all look busy. Finding time for downtime is much harder. It’s far harder to not look busy, in a world that rewards busy-ness. As the author Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

Being able to slow down and finding time for self-care is a habit, and like all habits, it can take a while to establish the routine. 

Challenge yourself

It starts by challenging your current practices. Ask yourself:

  • Do you have any allocated time for reflection and self-care practices? If so, is this enough or do you need more time? 
  • If you don’t have any allocated time, what’s stopped you from doing this to date? You want to be clear on what’s stopped you in the past and how you can remove those roadblocks.
  • How much of your day is spent productively? The more you know how you spend your time, the easier it is to carve out time for you.
  • What could you stop doing or do less of to create capacity in your day? This is so you can identify where there are potential opportunities in your day to slow down. If you don’t get deliberate about this practice, it won’t happen.
  • What are the benefits of having some time for you? If you want to create a new habit you need to be clear on what the reward or pay-off from the new habit is.

Find your routine

The next step is to find the routine that works for you. Here are some tips that you can put into practice every day:

  1. Be clear on what you can change and what you can’t change. It’s easy to spend a lot of time focusing on the things we can’t change, rather than directing our energy towards those we can change.
  2. Take the time to stop, breathe, reflect and then respond to an event helps ensure that your actions are more mindful, and less reactive.
  3. Strive to find purpose and meaning in your life – people with purpose are generally happier and more resilient as they are clear about their goals and where they are heading in life.
  4. Learn to say ‘No’ and be confident with saying ‘No’ to things that aren’t good for you.
  5. Maintain strong connections with friends and family – sharing how you feel, talking to people and being open about experiences is healthy and good for the soul.
  6. Exercise often, eating well, meditating and laughing lots are all key ingredients for releasing the pressure valve
  7. Practise mindfulness – taking the time to stop, breathe, reflect and then respond to an event helps ensure that your actions are more mindful, and less reactive.
  8. Learn from your mistakes – viewing mistakes as an opportunity to experiment, learn and grow, rather than viewing them as a failure.