At some point in my professional career I received the signal that taking a lunch break was not necessary. Some of my colleagues would work while eating and others would simply keep working with no time to eat. There was this sense that taking a break at lunch was a luxury or that if you’re really important you shouldn’t have “time” for a break. Eventually, I started accepting meeting invitations that were scheduled over the lunch hour, telling myself that I would either sneak in bites during the meeting or find time afterwards. But, of course, it would feel awkward to eat during the meeting and my calendar would inevitably become consumed by back-to-back meetings the rest of the day. I started coming home with a lunch bag that was still packed. My body and my mind were exhausted and undernourished; and the demands of my job never ended.
When I started working for myself without any colleagues or managers setting the tone for how to care for myself during the day I defaulted to what I knew. I started working long hours, rarely taking breaks, and felt miserable. I was so confused why I was unhappy even though I was living my dream of working from home and for myself. I explored this with my coach and realized that while my context had changed I hadn’t intentionally updated my values or how I wanted to live into them.
The first step was honoring the values, or guiding principles, that got me here – credibility, availability, and persistence. Those are still important to me but they are no longer the priority. My success and growth are no longer based on indexing on them alone. Instead, I want to live into rest, connection, and productivity. I want to experience joy and abundance in my work and be present with myself and my clients. To do that, I had to change how I was showing up.
Step 1…Take a lunch break every #$%& day! No matter what. Say no to meeting requests. Close the computer. Eat nourishing food. Go for a nice long walk.
Step 2…Sleep! I generally need 8-9 hours of sleep a night and I used to get only 5-6 hours (sometimes just 4!). Step away from the computer. Turn off notifications on my phone. Commit to a nighttime routine that involves winding down and connecting with my family. Lights out.
Step 3…Take time every day for meaningful connection. Don’t put off conversations/messages/activities and don’t squeeze them in while doing something else. Schedule the time to be present. Make listening your meditation. Include yourself!
Step 4…Set realistic work goals for the day and get them done! Celebrate the wins, learn from the losses, and move on!
While there are a few other ingredients for showing up in alignment with my values (stay tuned for future posts), these four steps are the ones I ensure I’m doing every day. And, let’s be real, I’m human and do veer off course at times. That’s why I have my dear accountability partners (coach, family, and friends) who gently and compassionately remind me of my commitment to how I lead my life and my work.
What are your guiding values? How do they impact how you lead yourself and others? What needs adjustment? Who/what supports you?
With love and joy,