I‘m not sure if you are like me, but I recently reflected on the personal impact of breaking promises to myself. You know, the ones where no one else knows but yourself. ‘Hey – I didn’t commit this to anyone else, it’s not hurting anything or anyone’. But, is it hurting me more than I think?
I had an interesting conversation the other day with a young, aspiring leader. He said he could feel in his bones that he needed to bring his life in better alignment with his values and priorities but wondered how he could ever find time to do it.
He knows I take time for these things in my own life but pointed out that, as a manager, he feels like he doesn’t have that luxury. To him, it seems like CEOs have the flexibility, but not those lower down the ladder.
We all get overwhelmed by the demands of work at one time or another. We might even have ideas about how to gain more control, but we don’t follow through because we feel too busy to add another project to our calendar. We just assume that a day will come in the future when we’ll somehow find the time.
The problem is: that day typically never comes.
And in the meantime, that feeling our younger manager has “in his bones” isn’t going anywhere. That feeling that he needs to change becomes an open loop that begins to drain his energy. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I’ve been there. The promises not kept bring an unattractive aura of guilt, shame and anger around broken promises or open loops.
The open loops in your life are all those “shoulds,” the things in your life that need attention. When you don’t follow through on them – when you don’t close the loops – they start to build up and stay subconsciously fastened in your mind as incomplete.
The longer they stay there, the more likely they are to undermine your focus and sense of competence. The longer they stay open in your mind, the more time you waste mentally returning to them, thinking the same thoughts again and again.
The procrastination you experience with these priorities starts to bleed into your work performance as well.
I could be wrong, but in my experience, you have to shift the way you think about those life priorities. I had to realize in a real and practical way that, especially in a leadership role, work is always there and for me to be most effective, I need to maximize my energy and get in flow as much as possible.
What I learned though is that when I attend to all my priorities – those around work and my personal life – my energy begins to expand. My aura becomes much more attractive and confident because I am stacking wins together by focusing on all areas that are important to me.
For my young, middle manager friend, I asked him: What do you think are the opportunity costs of keeping these open loops? What could you accomplish if you got creative and proactively closed them?
Reprioritizing allows you to be very focused during the business day. You’ll get your work done in a more efficient manner because early in your career, you do need to grind. You need to have strong intention to create the experiences that will make you an effective leader.
Think in terms of paying yourself first. Get up early, get your exercise, take a walk, meditate, write, read things that expand your mind. Avoid distractions early in the morning. Silence your messages and phone, don’t respond to emails and focus on the most important priority that gets you to your goals. These practices help you get in flow where work feels effortless and easy.
Discipline yourself to book time for the things that matter like relationships and charity, and to take advantage of spare moments that pop up in your day.
Schedule a Saturday afternoon with your kids, use that five minutes between meetings to connect by phone with someone you love, grab a few minutes to ask your spouse about their day. Authentically connect!
Fill yourself up first so you have plenty of energy to give when it’s time to work.