We’re getting ready to head into a long holiday weekend. Are you planning on unplugging? Really unplugging?

I’m talking about focusing on recharging your battery, investing in your family and friends, and most importantly — doing something that makes you feel like a priority. Don’t worry — I am not giving up AMI and going into the Oprah business. I swear — this is very relevant to my day job.

In fact, it may be one of the most important best practices that I preach.

Agency owner/leader burn out is one of the biggest threats to the health of your agency.

You have to understand your role in the agency. You are the epicenter. Your energy, your focus, and your contributions are what set the course. When you let yourself get too weary, too burdened or too overwhelmed — everyone feels it. They may not be able to articulate what they sense, but it absolutely changes the dynamics in your shop.

I just had this conversation with two of our coaching clients — I believe your #1 obligation as an agency leader is to make sure you stay replenished, refreshed and that your head/heart is in a very good place.

That does not happen by accident. Is protecting your state of mind a conscious part of your week? None of these things will happen if you don’t commit to them, which means putting them on your calendar and paying for them in advance. We all know what happens to an open hour on your calendar.

Here are some suggestions:

Weekly: (3 measly hours)

  • Take 15 minutes to write in a gratitude journal every day. You’ll be stunned at how powerful this is
  • Take an exercise class
  • Sign up for yoga lessons
  • Schedule 3 long walks with a friend
  • Join a book club that forces you to read every week
  • Schedule a play date with your child (of any age)
  • Plan a lunch with a close (non-work related) friend or your spouse
  • Block time for meditation, daily spiritual reading or whatever aligns with your beliefs

Monthly: (just a half-day)

  • Join a mastermind group and invest in the members’ success
  • Sign up for a local class in something you’ve always wanted to learn how to do (guitar, horseback riding, painting, etc.)
  • Volunteer for a charity that is meaningful to you
  • Visit a nursing home and visit with residents
  • Visit an at-risk school and read to the students
  • Do a spa day

Quarterly: (Seriously — just one day)

  • Plan a fun day trip with someone you enjoy
  • Add an extra day to a business trip to explore a new city
  • You know that tourist attraction in your state that you’ve never seen — go see it
  • Challenge your movie-loving buddy to see how many movies you can see in a day (my daughter and I did it — our record is 5)
  • Do a Habitat for Humanity build or something else that serves your community
  • Spend an entire day reading for pure pleasure (add a fireplace, some wine, and a wintery scene and this is postcard-worthy!)
  • Go see your parents (trust me — it’s good for the heart)

Annually (seriously — 2 days away from the office. You can and should do this)

  • Feed your brain — attend a workshop that inspires you
  • Go on a CEO retreat
  • Truly unplug — camping, white water rafting, fly fishing or a yoga or spa getaway.  Whatever you can completely immerse yourself in and just let go
  • Go to your happy place (mine is Disney World but you could try something different!) and indulge
  • Pick a place you’ve never been to and go explore — if you love theatre, head to NYC.  If you love the mountains, head to Wyoming. The ocean — someplace where you can walk for miles.  Something magical happens to our brains when we are somewhere new.

Okay — those are some of my suggestions.  What would you add to the list?

I hope it goes without saying that you should truly invest in these efforts.  No cell phones, no email.  Just give yourself a break. A real break.  You will come back to the office fresh, energized and better than ever. This is an investment in your business and in yourself.

We’ll dig into this topic at our workshop in March – Running Your Agency for Growth, Profit (and a little sanity!)  if you’d like to explore it further. In the meantime… protect yourself to protect your agency.