Over my lifetime, I have come to realize that one of my most important goals is, just as for most leaders, to manage my time and my energy. In fact, I have seen the negative consequences when leaders fail to do so, and it has really made me keen to learn and understand what it takes to make it happen. I keep up with my own wellness practice as a credentialed yoga instructor and running coach. The topic of “Balancing Your Time and Energy” is thus one that is near and dear to my heart. It is my hope that this blog will inspire you to sustain your health so you can live the life you love!
My family is lucky to own a country house in Sweden, where we can come together and invite friends from near and far. The oldest building on the property dates back to the fifteenth century. The land is situated in the midst of the Swedish woods, next to a small lake with lots and lots of green lawns surrounding the houses. Even though guests are wowed by the nature, the midnight sun, and the old farm, the biggest attraction is always the robot lawn mowers.
My father is an early adopter of new technology, and we were among the first to get these lawn-mower robots. The robots spend their days working across the lawns, cutting the grass, while we “the people” busy ourselves with more creative and rejuvenating social activities. Someday we will tell our grandchildren about a time when we actually spent part of our summer holidays mowing the lawns, because they will never have seen someone doing it manually.
By then, lawn mowing won’t be the only “profession” that will have ceased to exist. Most if not all jobs of today that are routine and repetitive will be replaced by artificial intelligence. In the future, our success will depend on our ability to use our whole brain and human skills of creativity, strategy, emotional intelligence, critical thinking and vision.
To feed your brain, you need to manage your time and energy, and for long-term results, you must coach your team to do the same— especially because we’re now working more than ever, burning out more than before. Gallup reports that about two-thirds of the workforce is now struggling with professional burnout (Gallup, Inc.). I’m afraid I too have fallen into the trap of ignoring my own energy needs, and it was a lesson I haven’t forgotten.
When I interviewed for a high-pressure job to turn around a department, I made it very clear that they would be hiring a parent of young children. I emphasized how I would need to be home for dinner every night. They were completely supportive and offered me the job. I was excited to dive in and had ambitions of achieving success within six months.
With this goal in mind, I arrived at work at 7:00 a.m. each day in order to be home in time for dinner. Then 6:30 a.m. And earlier and earlier, until one day I glanced at the clock as I logged in and realized it was 5:23 in the morning.
Nobody was telling me, “Victoria, you need to work thirteen hours a day.” But I was ambitious and determined to reach my goal. I thought that this was the right way to get there. About six months into the job, I started feeling a sharp pain in my eye. Finally, after both my team and family pushed me, I went to the doctor, who said, “No wonder you’re in pain; you have pink eye, a sinus infection, an ear infection, and a fever.” I remember crawling into bed and resting for the first time in six months. I was so exhausted that I thought, “Ahhh, this feels great.” Even with pink eye!
Not only was I suffering physically, I was far from my goal of turning the department around. I was pressuring myself to get results quickly, but my strategy of never resting worked against me.
My behavior had to change—to start, I couldn’t get up at 4 a.m. anymore. But what really needed to change was, of course, my paradigm. Neglecting my health was certainly not leading to better, faster results. I decided I would work smarter, not harder, and do my best during a reasonable workday to allow myself time with my family. If that wasn’t enough, maybe this role wasn’t right for me.
I’m not suggesting that we’re all in a position to leave jobs that drain us, but we can probably control some aspects of our roles that affect our time and energy. Stay focused on those levers, and you’ll find that your influence expands. And the truth is that if I had continued burning myself out, I wouldn’t have had that job at all.
I still worked hard, but I carefully deemphasized other less important roles. Eventually, I got the results I was aiming for—maybe not in six months, but over time—and more importantly, with my health and relationships intact.
Many, many people struggle with this challenge, and if you manage others, your employees may also have difficulty with this issue. While the cultural norms are slowly catching up to the science, you might have to lead out on this in your organization. More often than not, a Paradigm Shift is needed. You probably already know what you need to do in order to build and maintain energy for yourself, but knowing and doing are often very different.
As you progress on your career track, and if you manage others, along your leadership track, you must decide how you’re going to work, balance your life, and renew yourself. Establish the patterns now that will serve you long term. Resist the natural temptation to neglect your health, professional development, or personal life. Identify your needs. If you have a team that reports to you, model this for them.
In the next several blogs, I will be focusing on the topics of managing your energy and time by adopting the following five drivers:
As we explore them together, figure out what works for you, and remember that your priorities, needs, and methods will not be the same as other’s. Balance the best practices and principles we will discuss with the real world. Do what works for you! And remember, there is only ONE YOU!
With love, Victoria