This Creative Meeting Strategy Helps Shelly Ibach Stay Productive and Focused

In her Thrive Questionnaire, the President and CEO of Sleep Number shares the rule that's helped her maintain her well-being while prioritizing strategic thinking, planning, and problem-solving.

At Thrive Global, in honor of International Women’s Day, we’re inviting women business leaders to share how they Thrive. 

Thrive Global: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about prioritizing your health and well-being?

Shelly Ibach: Buying a Sleep Number bed! I went from minimal sleep to life-changing sleep. It has been the key to a healthy mind, body and soul.   

TG: What’s the best advice that you would give women about preventing burnout?

SI: Everyone needs consistent, quality sleep. It is foundational to improving your productivity and avoiding burnout. When you get your seven to nine hours of restorative sleep, you will perform at a higher level and be a healthier person. 

TG: What’s important in your life outside of work? What helps you thrive? With a demanding schedule, how do you make time for these important things?

SI: All of life is precious, whether you are at work or home. I start each day with gratitude. After a great night of sleep, gratitude keeps me centered, present, and balanced. I strive to focus on goodness, and I seek joy every day. I find renewal in nature — the beauty and stillness fill me with serenity. Being with people I love and keeping a balance of the many facets of life is what lets me thrive. 

TG: What obstacles have you overcome in your career, particularly obstacles that had to do with your gender? What did you learn from those experiences that you wish you’d known before?

SI: I am a big believer in embracing your unique differences. Your individuality is way more interesting than being like everyone else. Many people are not comfortable with uniqueness and they strive to make you conform. I wish I understood the value of mastering your strengths at a younger age. Once I learned how to adjust the dials of my strengths in various situations, I overcame many barriers and prejudices. 

One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome, was the fact that I did not attend an Ivy League school. There’s an incorrect assumption that Ivy League graduates are automatically more capable. That’s absurd, just like all prejudices are. 

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?

SI: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when you have a lot to do. Instead, focus on managing your attention and plan tasks around your energy levels, individualized to your personal work style. Since I became CEO nearly eight years ago, I don’t schedule meetings on Fridays. I use this time to prioritize strategic thinking, planning, and problem-solving. It gives me the white space I need to stay balanced.

TG: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct?

SI: I practice gratitude to regain perspective. I take time to be still and accept the circumstances. Then, move forward — first things first. I live in the present and focus on what is real. I also find that working out can reduce my stress or spending time in nature. Oh, and I love driving anything with an engine… Speed and focus makes me calm. 

TG: How do you reframe negative thinking so you can feel “unstuck” and move forward?

SI: I am a naturally optimistic positive person. However, when I do feel “stuck,” I work hard to change my lens by letting joy in. I spend time appreciating the blessings in my life, like my health, my boyfriend, family, and friends. I am grateful for my life, even with my devastating losses. Life is precious and I want to give it the care and love it deserves. We only have today. For me, taking time for thoughtful reflection helps me breathe more deeply, stay balanced and grateful for the life I get to live. 

TG: Are there any small actions (or life “hacks”) that you swear by to help you prioritize, focus, connect with others, get solid sleep, or incorporate movement and nutrition into your life? Share any and all!

SI: I think it’s important to practice gratitude every day. How and when you practice gratitude, day or night, is completely up to you. For me, my gratitude practice starts the moment I wake up. I start every day reflecting on what I am grateful for and often end it the same way. Starting my day from a place of gratitude helps me step back, put things in perspective, and stay balanced for the day ahead.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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