TRANSFORMING MID-LEVEL PROFESSIONALS INTO CONFIDENT COMMUNICATORS AND LEADERS

Self-leadership in times of overwhelm
Published 19 November 2020
As we develop as leaders, we develop strategies to cope.

I worked with a client recently, who had happily settled in to a wonderful new role. A few weeks down the line in this role she had been dreaming of, she was finding herself feeling overwhelmed.

Frustrated with herself, we started to explore what had changed, what was different for her. Quite simply, she had left behind her normal organisational processes as she moved roles. In the early weeks there was nothing to keep track of as she got her head around everything, but just a few weeks on, and her core habit of tracking everything by hand in her paper diary had disappeared!

In the enthusiasm over the new workplace and the new technology, her trusted processes had been lost. We quickly figured out how to best bring her old ways back, and with diary tucked under her arm and ready, she rapidly felt clearer and ready to tackle her new challenges.

As we develop as leaders, we develop strategies to cope with overwhelm. We work on managing ourselves with our:

  • daily routines
  • to-do list tracking 
  • leadership self-reflections 
  • exercise and eating regimes to support our well-being 

They serve us well, we know how much better we think, work and play with them in place, and yet…

When the proverbial hits the fan, our diary turns from busy to flat-out, the demands keep on piling and our expectations of ourselves keep on growing. In those moments, when we most need all of that self-care regime to perform at our best, what is the first to go?

  • I won’t bring a healthy lunch - I’ll just grab something to keep me going. (which I’ll then eat while still working and at least an hour too late for my body). 
  • I won’t get up 30 minutes earlier to take that walk - because I’m just so tired, I need the extra sleep. 
  • I won’t sort my to-do list tonight before I go home - what would be the point? I’ve got too much to do, there’s no making sense of it, and it would just waste time. 
  • I’ve got to get on with it and work more, longer, harder. It’s my responsibility and its easier if I just do it myself.

One by one we drop the strategies that serve us so well. We slide, sometimes quite rapidly, towards those unhelpful habits that are perpetuated by our work place cultures and internal messages. It’s “just what you’ve got to do” when things get tough.

Except that all the evidence, and a wealth of each of our own experience, tells us that we don’t perform at our best under those conditions. We know it. We just don’t do it. 

And I get it. I’ve had that experience before, so many times, where it just doesn’t feel possible to find the time, head space, or energy to do what’s good for me, however much I believe that it is indeed what I need to do. I can find myself trapped then in a cycle of judging myself for not doing the things I should be doing, which just makes me even less likely to hop on my bike, or turn off my laptop earlier, and do something for myself. Before I know it, I’m reaching for the chocolate bar or coffee once again or I’m working late every night (and weekends!) and still feeling agitated, angry and overwhelmed.

What is happening and why can’t I do this better?

So, instead of holding all our best self-care regimes in place when things gets tough, what if we take a different approach? What if we think about our minimum self-care process? What’s the absolute basics that I must do when things are messy to at least keep myself on an even keel?

For me it is:

  • 1-minute Amy Cuddy power-posing first up, 
  • healthy snacks in my bag, 
  • my to-do list written down, (even if it’s on a scrap of paper rather than my usual diarised process), and 
  • sticking to my rule of screens off by 9pm. 

For one of my clients this week it was a walk in the morning, stand and stretch every hour (even if he sits straight back down again) and dinner with the kids.

For another client it is to focus on one breath before entering a room, have a water bottle on the go all the time, and to text message one friend on the way home every day.

With those minimum things in place, are we performing at our absolute finest? No. But we are feeling like we are doing something, however small, to look after ourselves through the challenging periods. That helps us resist the negative cycle of reactivity, and stay closer to our creative, strategic-thinking selves.

What’s your minimum self-care toolkit that you want to reach for next time the proverbial is heading your way?!
Self-leadership in times of overwhelm
Published 19 November 2020
As we develop as leaders, we develop strategies to cope.

I worked with a client recently, who had happily settled in to a wonderful new role. A few weeks down the line in this role she had been dreaming of, she was finding herself feeling overwhelmed.

Frustrated with herself, we started to explore what had changed, what was different for her. Quite simply, she had left behind her normal organisational processes as she moved roles. In the early weeks there was nothing to keep track of as she got her head around everything, but just a few weeks on, and her core habit of tracking everything by hand in her paper diary had disappeared!

In the enthusiasm over the new workplace and the new technology, her trusted processes had been lost. We quickly figured out how to best bring her old ways back, and with diary tucked under her arm and ready, she rapidly felt clearer and ready to tackle her new challenges.

As we develop as leaders, we develop strategies to cope with overwhelm. We work on managing ourselves with our:

  • daily routines
  • to-do list tracking 
  • leadership self-reflections 
  • exercise and eating regimes to support our well-being 

They serve us well, we know how much better we think, work and play with them in place, and yet…

When the proverbial hits the fan, our diary turns from busy to flat-out, the demands keep on piling and our expectations of ourselves keep on growing. In those moments, when we most need all of that self-care regime to perform at our best, what is the first to go?

  • I won’t bring a healthy lunch - I’ll just grab something to keep me going. (which I’ll then eat while still working and at least an hour too late for my body). 
  • I won’t get up 30 minutes earlier to take that walk - because I’m just so tired, I need the extra sleep. 
  • I won’t sort my to-do list tonight before I go home - what would be the point? I’ve got too much to do, there’s no making sense of it, and it would just waste time. 
  • I’ve got to get on with it and work more, longer, harder. It’s my responsibility and its easier if I just do it myself.

One by one we drop the strategies that serve us so well. We slide, sometimes quite rapidly, towards those unhelpful habits that are perpetuated by our work place cultures and internal messages. It’s “just what you’ve got to do” when things get tough.

Except that all the evidence, and a wealth of each of our own experience, tells us that we don’t perform at our best under those conditions. We know it. We just don’t do it. 

And I get it. I’ve had that experience before, so many times, where it just doesn’t feel possible to find the time, head space, or energy to do what’s good for me, however much I believe that it is indeed what I need to do. I can find myself trapped then in a cycle of judging myself for not doing the things I should be doing, which just makes me even less likely to hop on my bike, or turn off my laptop earlier, and do something for myself. Before I know it, I’m reaching for the chocolate bar or coffee once again or I’m working late every night (and weekends!) and still feeling agitated, angry and overwhelmed.

What is happening and why can’t I do this better?

So, instead of holding all our best self-care regimes in place when things gets tough, what if we take a different approach? What if we think about our minimum self-care process? What’s the absolute basics that I must do when things are messy to at least keep myself on an even keel?

For me it is:

  • 1-minute Amy Cuddy power-posing first up, 
  • healthy snacks in my bag, 
  • my to-do list written down, (even if it’s on a scrap of paper rather than my usual diarised process), and 
  • sticking to my rule of screens off by 9pm. 

For one of my clients this week it was a walk in the morning, stand and stretch every hour (even if he sits straight back down again) and dinner with the kids.

For another client it is to focus on one breath before entering a room, have a water bottle on the go all the time, and to text message one friend on the way home every day.

With those minimum things in place, are we performing at our absolute finest? No. But we are feeling like we are doing something, however small, to look after ourselves through the challenging periods. That helps us resist the negative cycle of reactivity, and stay closer to our creative, strategic-thinking selves.

What’s your minimum self-care toolkit that you want to reach for next time the proverbial is heading your way?!