Leaders Need A Break

Gerwig 2015-07-01

Do you ever find yourself in need of a break? While I may not know you, I already know the answer to the question. It’s a resounding “YES!” Whether you know it or not, whether you accept it or not, whether you care to admit it or not, your body, mind and spirit, on occasion, need a break.

Many executives, moms, dads, students, and athletes, especially in the United States, believe that it’s important to minimize sleep, maximize their productivity and, in general, work as hard as possible. To some extent, I subscribe to this “philosophy” as well. I’m an executive, a husband, a dad, a writer, a counselor, a friend, and many other “things.” And I like to take photographs, explore, fly-fish, read, and help other people. In short, I like to maximize the 24 hours I have in the day. Don’t you?

But there is a time and place for rest. There’s time to relax and take a break. As you most likely know, there are numerous studies that clearly show you can accomplish more over time (say over the course of a year) if you allow yourself a break. If you take a vacation. If you spend a little time enjoying your hobby. If you enjoy your family. If you take off your pack and relax. Yes, I know it can be hard, especially for you “A-Type” personalities. Relaxing may feel like work. In fact, it may be one of the most difficult things you do. But, please!, do it. For your family, for your co-workers, for your friends and for yourself. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. At some point, if you don’t take a break, you’ll crash. Your body will fail. Your emotions will overtake you. You’ll be less productive.

This week, I’m taking a short break in Colorado with family. Yes, it’s been difficult to get here. I have things to do at work (after all, I’m in a new job). I have things to do at home (we’re in the middle of buying a house and moving to another location). And taking a break is preventing me from doing many of the things on my “To Do” list. But the break is important. In fact, it’s critically important. Leaders, from all organizations, need a break. I do. And so do you.

We’ve been coming to Snow Mountain Ranch, near Winter Park, Colorado for nearly 20 years. It’s peaceful. It’s quiet. There’s limited cell coverage and Wi-Fi. It’s a break from being on the grid 24×7. My normal pace is hectic. Is yours? I run hard most days during the week. Even though I try to take a break on Sundays, it’s a challenge. I run an organization that is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. There is literally not a day off all year long. But as a leader in the organization, I need time off. I need to recharge. I need to take off my pack. I need to meditate. I need to relax. I need to reconnect. I need to take a break.

Over the course of 30 years, working in multiple countries, industries, corporations, and roles, I’ve learned that everyone needs a break. You do. I hope you realize it. Whether you’re a CEO or a new employee right out of college, you can’t work all the time. You won’t be productive. You want maximize your effectiveness. Yes, you should work hard. Yes, you should be productive. Yes, you need to put in the hours and the effort. But you also need a break. You’ll be more effective. You’ll make a bigger impact. You’ll accomplish more. And you’ll sustain your impact over a longer time horizon. If you don’t take a break, you’ll burn out.

Today, I talked with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a recent college graduate, a young pastor, a housewife, a mid-career salesman and a retired grandpa. You know what they all had in common? They all needed a break. Regardless of your station in life, you’ll get to a point where you need a break. Regardless of how tough you think you are, you need to rest. Regardless of how unique your view your strengths, you need to stop occasionally and rest.

Whether in Colorado or Hawaii, you need a break. Whether you go to a 5-Star Resort or camp in a tent, you need a break. Whether you go diving, bike riding or read a book you need a break.

How about you? When was the last time you took a break? Where did you go and what did you do?

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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