All too many of us suffer from a personal energy crisis. We no longer work a standard eight-hour day. Our minds are constantly churning trying to make high value decisions, virtually twenty-four hours day. Our mode of life today—constant stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise and sleep—leads to what scientists call “exhaustion syndrome.”
“[Exhaustion syndrome] is an ongoing emotional reaction that can be experienced in struggling with periods of change in life and in work and job activities. This emotional reaction consists of three dimensions of emotional exhaustion, decreased personal accomplishment and depersonalization” – Alparsian and Doganer
The rest of us call it burnout.
We continually “push through” each day, postponing the renewal time our bodies and brains need. The mantra is “work like crazy and then crash.” Our behavior often becomes a badge of honor.
Do your employees receive emails and texts from you at 10 pm? Chances are they are stressed, not knowing whether they should be answering those or not. Are they supposed to “work” at that hour? Do they know what you expect?
Arguably, the biggest threat to your productivity is the very technology designed to accelerate it—your smartphone, your laptop, or your tablet. If you’re typical, you might say hello to your smartphone first thing in the morning. You check your mail, you’re reading it during breakfast, then you’re playing games, surfing, checking out social media, doing research all day. You’re constantly texting, ringing people up, texting again, and texting some more. At night, the last thing you see as you fall asleep is the glow of a screen.
The technology is amazingly useful, but it also distracts us and, even worse, can rule our lives.
High productivity and team engagement start with you. Are you modeling the right productivity behaviors? Are you intentionally sorting through all the incoming stuff, making the highest value decisions every day? Are you conscious of how many decisions—with varying levels of urgency—you ask your people to make every day that may cause overload? Do you realize that your people tend to assume you need everything right now?
Are you conscious of how you use your technology, making sure you rule your technology versus letting it rule you? The greatest way to dis-engage employees is to peek at your smartphone when they come to you asking you for help or just during a casual conversation. Your brain can only do one thing well at a time; if it is trying to process smartphone information, there is no way you can hear or connect with the person trying to get your attention. And if that is your behavior, you have trained your team to do the same.
Are you known as the “inhuman” that works practically twenty-four hours a day with no breaks? Is this a badge of honor? Studies show that pausing, resting, and sleeping increase productivity. Modeling this behavior is critical. Once your people see you mastering the art of making the highest value decisions, staying focused on the humans instead of just the technology, and taking care of your (and their) mental and physical energy, the faster everyone will expand their contribution.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.