So you’re an influencer, and one that goes 900 mph all the time. Guess what? Without rest, sooner or later, you are going to blow a gasket.
I see it all the time. Men and women who think they are the one super human immune to the fact that we are all, in fact, human.
Blowing a gasket looks different for everyone. Sometimes it might be a string of snappy, unkind responses. It could be a poor decision made in the fog of fatigue. It ‘s possible that something much more disastrous could occur resulting in broken relationships or destroyed health.
Staying sharp as an influencer requires a quick mind clear of cobwebs.
Yet the current leadership culture often pushes against this, all the while ignoring the axiom, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
A recent Harvard Business Review survey of more than 180 business leaders found that four out of 10 (43%) say they do not get enough sleep at least four nights a week (source).
Influence and leadership thinking is thought by neuroscience to occur in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is highly affected by a lack of sleep. HBR goes on to report that after 20 hours of being awake, our brains function the same as if we were legally drunk. Most of us wouldn’t dream of leading while drunk, but some of us do in effect.
I challenge leaders to clock their sleep for two weeks. New products like Fitbits and Apple Watches can actually make this easier. Examine your patterns and take a hard look at the amount of sleep you are getting.
After the analysis, commit to an experiment of two weeks sleeping eight hours a night. Record how you feel. I promise you’ll actually improve in your leadership and influence, even though you feel like you are awake less hours doing it.
As I write this, it’s early summer. I hope you have a vacation planned. It’s important for your influence to be able to get away, clear the mental deck completely and then re-engage. Statistically speaking, you probably aren’t going to vacation properly if you are not intentional. Brain Health MD reports:
According to a survey published on the career website Glassdoor, the average American employee only takes half of their earned vacation or paid time off each year – with 40% of employees reported using less than one-quarter of their earned vacation. Furthermore, of those that take a vacation, 61% admitted to working while on their vacation!
The article goes on to say:
When the receptors in our brain become overloaded for extended periods of time by excessive amounts of cortisol, your body’s primary stress hormone, cell death happens in your brain.
Yes, you read that right. Your brain starts dying.
While mini-vacations are fine as supplements, the three-day getaway is not going to cut it. You should have a week-long vacation where you go off the grid. It takes most of us 3 days to merely get to the stage of decompression and days 4-7 to actual get mental rest.
How do you ensure this happens? You PLAN it. Before the year begins, notify your work/clients and book your vacation, so you can’t back out or shorten it. It should be one of the first things you place on your annual calendar.
“But I can’t, Karen. I’m the only who can __________________ [fill in the blank with whatever you feel only you can do]. “
Let’s stop and be real about things for a moment. Do you really think the planet can’t handle you going off the grid for seven to ten days? Are you really that important?
Even the President of the United States goes on vacation. (Albeit, his is typically interrupted by work. Have you seen the entering office/exiting office before and after pictures of a president? It’s not pretty. Don’t do a working vacation.)
You probably don’t have the keys to the nuclear arsenal. It’s going to be okay. Go on vacation.
See your upcoming vacation date as a challenge to make sure you have made tasks redundant where someone else can do them in your absence. Your stress before a vacation about the vacation is actually a good mark of how strong your team is. If you find yourself in the “it’s easier and better to do it myself” syndrome right before a vacation, decide to work on the team when you get back, so next year’s vacation will be much easier to embark upon.
I can hear it now. “Karen, you are getting onto me for being tired, and now you are telling me to exercise.” Yes … science says so. You can pick a more quieted form like yoga or burn off stress with some intense cardio, but either way your brain is going to love you for it.
Exercise affects the brain on multiple fronts. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the bodily release of a plethora of hormones, all of which participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells.
Exercise stimulates the brain plasticity by stimulating growth of new connections between cells in a wide array of important cortical areas of the brain. Recent research from UCLA demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain making it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.
Just Do It.
I know all three of these suggestions sound like common sense. The problem is that they aren’t common. In today’s leadership culture of go, go, go, they are more like uncommon sense. Be about your health and eliminate fatigue to become a better influencer. I’ll see you after your vacation!