If you're a friend, colleague, or stranger I've met on the streets of London, I've probably forced you to workout with me at my newest gym-obsession: 1Rebel. During its Reshape class, you spend 45 minutes alternating between sprints and hill climbs on the treadmill, then high intensity interval training with weights on the floor. It's 45 minutes of intense, fatiguing mental and physical expenditure. Losing focus for mere seconds will surely warrant a call-out from the instructor.
Lately, the parallels between this class and work have HIIT me hard. Workout pun, anyone? I crack myself up sometimes :) It strikes me most while enduring the sprint portion of the class, during the 30 second recoveries (and by recovery, I mean still running). I can barely catch my breath during this alleged "downtime." The reason is: when our bodies and minds are caught up in such a state of stress (even if it's good stress), it can take just as much discipline and focus to slow down and breathe as it does to flail in an all-out sprint. And in exercise, as in work, it's imperative to let our muscles recover - whether it's our leg or brain muscles that need the recovering.
I was abruptly reminded of this just last week when my boss, who is a man of few words and rarely doles out advice, said to me rather sternly: "Julie, you have got to be able to turn. it. off. when you leave the office. This place will eat you alive if you can't." He proceeded to share a story about an executive he worked with years ago, who could not turn it off and in fact, did not survive in our company. And to be clear, my boss did not say this to me as a veiled compliment. It was quite serious instruction. He saw in my eyes that I was about to break, and it will do no good to my productivity (and frankly will impact his business) if I were to break.
This boss is not your stereotypical image of "inspiring" (he'd agree with me). But he does do a couple things that I think set a great example, even if setting an example isn't his primary intention. One of them is that he takes his vacations (or "holidays" in British). In fact, he takes several of them per year, for 1-2 weeks each. Compared to my American professional upbringing, this is really striking and non-negotiable to Europeans. And if you ask me, setting this example for your team is one of the most important aspects of it. Exemplifying to your team that you honor personal restoration and you use it to be your most effective and productive self is an example well-worth setting.
But let's be honest. It's tempting and easy for our human, naturally self-centered selves to think: "But I can't turn off. I'm the only one who can do ______." And then there's the humblebrag motive that relishes in declaring: "I'm just a workaholic. I can't help it!"
To this, one of my British colleagues retorted with something just brilliant last year:
"It's good for my team when I [the boss] take off. They need to be able to function without me. This forces them to problem solve instead of running to me to ask every question; they're capable of more than they think. And frankly, if I'm not empowering them to think for themselves this way, I'm not being a good boss."
With my colleague's words of wisdom, I will leave you for 2015 :)
And if you're curious, here's how I'll be restoring this break:
Sitting right here in our new flat - as much and often as possible [insert roaring fire]
Catching up with those I miss oh-so-much, like my crazy and spunky goddaughter Madelyn
Taking a couple technology breaks, like my friend Rebecca recommends
Downloading this screensaver as a reminder to stay in my pj's a little longer every morning
And celebrating an anniversary, Holiday-movie-style, at the most incredible b&b in Europe
I hope that your breaks are filled with peace, love, and restoration. Thank you for starting this blog journey with me in 2015. Each and every contribution you've made - whether private or public - is incredibly meaningful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart (and brain) for your support and ideas. As they say in the UK, Happy Christmas!