Leading At Your Best

Recently, leadership expert Carey Nieuwhof joined Trent on the Decisions Podcast to discuss how to get your time, energy, and priorities working in your favor. We hope the content from this conversation encourages and equips you to lead at your best and be more productive than ever, minus the stress!

We’ve all been there. Stuck in the gravitational pull of the stress spiral… unable to come up for air.

A recent study showed that 70% of 20- to 30-year-olds say they have experienced some level of burnout.

And 82% of Senior Executives and CEOs say they come home everyday emotionally and physically exhausted.

More than ever, people are feeling overworked, overcommitted, and are buying into the formula that says more growth = more hours. But it’s just not true.

This formula creates thin margins where, before you know it, you’re snapping at the people you love most. You wake up immediately feeling overwhelmed and no matter how type A you are, it eventually catches up with you.

If you’re living at a pace that is not sustainable, there’s a way out. You can accomplish more in less time!

Here’s a start… 

Reclaim your time

When you’re managing time, you’re managing a fixed asset. For instance, let’s say your organization grows 10x in the next year. No one is then giving you 25 hours in a day or eight days in a week.

You get 24 hours a day, as do the best leaders in the world. Some have written two books, others have written 50… all in the same fixed amount of time.

So what’s the secret? For one, it’s learning how to prioritize your best work. And two, it involves a whole new language.

Instead of saying, ‘I don’t have the time,’ start admitting that you didn’t make the time.

‘I’m not going to make the time for this speaking engagement.’ ‘I’m not going to make the time to work on that manuscript.’ ‘I’m not going to make the time for my kid’s baseball game.’ 

Using this language acts as a reminder that you get the same amount of time as anyone else. 

Reclaim your energy 

It’s one thing to manage your time, but do you manage your energy? The 24 hours in your day do not produce equally. You may be more productive in the morning hours, or you may be a night owl, doing your best work late in the evening.

You only have three to five hours on any given day when your energy is at its peak. 

Your energy hours might be from 7am to 11am, or perhaps they are from 8pm to 12am. The time when you are at your best can be referred to as your ‘green zone.’

Your ‘red zone’ is when you have about 3 brain cells functioning and you are just really tired. And everything in between is your ‘yellow zone,’ a time when you’re able to get a few things accomplished.

Manage your energy by doing your most important work when you’re at your best (i.e., your green zone).

Is your prime mental real estate in the morning hours? Do away with breakfast meetings and do your best work then. And when you hit your red zone, wait for it… take a nap!

 Reclaim your priorities

Let’s say you finally have a day with nothing on your calendar. You’re ready to crush the day and clear your entire to-do list. But you get to 5:00pm and not only have you not crossed anything off your list, somehow the list got longer. You worked, yet seemed to get nothing done.

What happened? Other people hijacked your priorities throughout the day.

First you looked at your 17 texts and thought, “I really should respond to these.”  Then you opened your inbox and saw 38 unread messages. There was a fire over in marketing and meanwhile someone was at your door asking, “Do you have five minutes to look over this?” (P.S. it’s never 5 minutes.)

You looked up and the workday was done. You allowed others to tell you what was most important. It’s not that they were doing it purposely, because we all do it. We put our priorities on the agenda of others.

The truth is, no one will ever ask you to accomplish your top priorities. They will only ask you to accomplish theirs.

So what is your most important work? For instance, it you are a writer, it’s writing. The key is figuring out a system to get your most important work done first. Instead of leaving your calendar clear and assuming everything will eventually get done, put your best work during your best energy hours on your calendar and set them up as repeated appointments.

Then when you hear, “Can you come to this meeting on Tuesday morning?”  Your answer is “No, I have a commitment during that time.” Scheduling everything is a great defense against letting other people hijack your priorities.

When all is said and done, living in the stress spiral does not have to be your story. You can start operating at a sustainable pace today. Reclaim your time, energy, and priorities and take back the reins.

If you don’t, who will?

For more helpful tips and insight into thriving at life and leadership, listen to the Dunham network podcast episode, Leading at Your Best with Carey Nieuwhof and check out Carey’s book ‘At Your Best.’

+ More Insights from Dunham+Company: “Knowing Who You Are = Knowing What You Do

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