As agency owners and leaders — we live in a pressure cooker. There’s always an endless list of To Dos. Deadlines constantly loom. Someone is always in our doorway, needing five minutes that quickly turns to twenty. Clients call with emergencies, employees have personal issues and we seem to be the focal point where all of these demands gather. Truth be told, most of us like the controlled chaos. We thrive on the challenge, the pace, and energy that comes from our daily demands.
Until we don’t.
I’m a high energy person as a general rule. I juggle multiple companies, work long hours, produce a significant amount of new content, and am constantly working to create something new and valuable — be it a course, writing a book, launching a conference or guiding a client through a thorny issue. So when the holidays wrapped up, I planned on jumping right back into the fray, going at 110 mph and getting back into my usual routine.
But I couldn’t.
This past fall and early winter were packed with some colossal challenges and demands in both my personal and professional life. The specifics don’t matter but suffice it to say, I have not been stretched that thin in many years. I was emotionally, physically and mentally spent. I went on a trip that I had been looking forward to all year. I thought that it was what I needed to re-charge my battery. But instead, it just exasperated the issue.
I am not an apathetic person. In fact, I am sort of the opposite. I care about everything. But, when we got back from our trip, I was pretty much apathetic about everything. I didn’t care about the holidays. I didn’t care that I was falling behind, not producing the videos or content that I was scheduled to create. Or that I missed several internal deadlines that I knew were important. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t rise to challenges put before me and I couldn’t care less that I didn’t care.
Why am I telling you all of this (to be honest, I tried to talk myself out of it several times) since it hardly paints me in a positive light? I’m telling you because I know that you’ve probably been there. Or might be there right now. I know how much energy it takes to run an agency and that on occasion, your tank gets a little low.
Here’s what I did to get back on track. I am hopeful that you can steal some of my homeopathic remedies when you find yourself in a similar position.
I gave myself permission to check out: I didn’t create any new videos for almost a month. I didn’t publish much new content. I didn’t record any new podcasts or twist myself into a pretzel when a client needs to find a time to talk. I didn’t empty my inbox or do any prospecting. I did what I absolutely had to do and not much else.
I gave myself a deadline: I gave myself until January 15th to check out. But at that point, I had to be back in the saddle because I had obligations that couldn’t be delayed or missed.
I replenished my body: I slept a lot. I slept in. I took naps (which I never do) and I tried to avoid using the alarm clock as much as I could. I drank so much water that I thought my organs would drown. I walked and walked to keep my body moving and to give my head some fresh air.
I unplugged more than usual: I didn’t do a complete tech detox (I can’t even imagine) but I was much slower to respond to emails, texts, and social channels.
I spent time with furry friends: All my pets want from me is to be near me (truth be told — to be on me). They don’t want to talk, or go do something. Other than feeding them — their love comes without strings and that’s what I needed. Unconditional, conversation-free love!
I said “no thank you”: I love my family, friends and clients and normally being with them is replenishing for me. But I didn’t even have the energy for that. So I did something very out of character — I spent a lot of time alone. I opted out of social gatherings, parties and meet ups.
I did nothing: Normally, doing nothing drives me insane. I can’t sit still long enough to watch a movie. I multitask 24/7. But for this period, I did a whole lot of nothing. I read a little. I watched mindless TV. And I slept. I can’t imagine doing that as a general rule but for this period of time, it was good medicine.
I refused to feel guilty: Oh, it would have been so easy because I was so lazy! But I kept reminding myself that this was the deal I’d made with myself and if I was going to be able to honor my deadline, I needed to get off my own back.
When I look over the list of what I did, I realize that mostly I just gave myself permission to slow down to a crawl for a finite period of time. I’m guessing you don’t do that any more often than I do. But maybe it’s just what you need. And maybe you don’t have to let yourself get as wiped out as I did before realizing you need a break.
I’m not suggesting this is the right recipe for you. But, it did the trick for me. Had I kept forcing myself to try to keep up my usual pace, I’d be in bad shape right now. But because I allowed myself to check out for a defined amount of time, I’m back on track, feeling ready to take on the world and keep up my usual pace.
I know some of you are feeling weary and maybe the idea of tackling everything at full speed sounds a bit daunting. Give yourself permission to step away for a few days and take care of yourself so you can keep running at high gear. Even Indy cars need an occasional pit stop. Don’t deny yourself that.
This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter. To subscribe, click here.