Leadership and management is demanding. I'm fortunate, I really enjoy my work and the people I work with to accomplish goals that really make a difference in the lives of our students and clients. The down side is that I can work many hours and feel happy and fulfilled. Sometimes I don't recognize the symptoms of burn out as they are happening. However, there are times the schedule is long and demanding, the breaks are few, and the problems come all at once. In those moments I remind myself that the pace is temporary and I will soon "catch a break". However, in order to get through those moments I have to prepare in advance and ensure that I keep the batteries charged.
Stephen Covey's Seven Habit of High Effective People is a worthwhile read if you haven't already done so. One habit, "sharpening the saw" has always been the most difficult one for me to practice. However, as I have matured in my career I have learned a couple of rules that serve me well. Let me share those with you. Sharpening the Saw focused on self-improvement, self-care, and self-respect. Taking care of one's self is important for improvement and professional development. It is also important to maximize your productivity. There are two general rules I follow to ensure I practice this habit.
First, don't compromise your sleep. Did you know that during the seventh and eight hours of sleep is when your mind processes so many of the experiences from the day before. It is during those hours your mind makes sense of your experiences and files them away for another day. Sleep is vital to clear thinking. Clear thinking is vital for listening and problem solving. Also, the thing you do right before bed time at night is generally the thing you process during those early hours in the morning. Consequently, I cut off doing work at home after supper so I can concentrate on other things I enjoy before bed time.
Second, make time for yourself. This can mean many different things for people. I enjoy reading, exercising, walking my dogs, spending time with family, cooking a good meal, watching the sun set, riding my bicycle and more. I find that I need to ensure I continue to invest in me so that I have something to give others, students and my organization. I have discovered that my old philosophy of answer just one more e-mail is less helpful than talking my dog for a walk. This doesn't mean I'm any less committed to my career or organization. In fact, I think ensuring that I give them my very best each and every day demonstrates my commitment even more.