Self-care for Senior Leaders – developing positive habits to look after yourself.
Quote: “Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us. We become what we repeatedly do” Sean Covey
I have noticed a pertinent theme with the people I work with – so much to do and so little time. One of the quick and easy solutions is to eliminate items from the diary to free up more time to work. The dilemma, though, is we tend to focus on eliminating the very things that sustain us, support self-care, give us energy and boost our mood. Sound familiar?
Recently, I worked with a senior leader who noticed she was increasingly tired and was developing a habit of being at work literally most of her waking hours. It was only through slowing down in the coaching sessions that she realised it had started spiralling out of control, she had lost her focus on self-care, it was impacting her abilities to think clearly and to enjoy her work. She had become a servant to her organisation and clients rather than a partner of it. Each time a new piece of work came in, she would move and shift everything to accommodate.
In recognising this, we discussed what was driving her to do so, ultimately a need to feel valued. We all have our own drivers and values, and a good starting point is to recognise these, then work out how we get these met in a healthy way and work out the balance between work commitments and self-care.
As soon as we have this awareness, without judgment, we can start to make small changes that can make a big impact.
What is self-protection?
Self-care or self-protection is about noticing what you need to be at your best. It’s that simple. Putting it in to action can take practice.
Developing regular habits to self-protect is crucial to successful leadership. It ensures the leader is energised and therefore operating at their best – through creative thinking, planning, communication and ultimately leading others. The team will be looking to the leader for their steer – if the leader is self-protecting then it gives the team permission to do the same. Therefore the team as a whole is energised! It has a knock-on effect.
Examples of self-protection
It starts with creating a structure to the working week that includes a balance of work and “play”. The habits we create are the secret to a successful self-care regime. Think of it like a muscle, if we want to build up the muscles in our arms, we can’t go to the gym every now and then, we have to create a habit that means we go to the gym on a regular basis. And then we see the progress. It’s exactly the same concept with self-protection. It needs to be daily habits that form a pattern in our life that we protect from being eliminated by other work.
Examples may include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Balanced diet and eating at regular intervals
- Exercise that brings enjoyment
- Learning something new
- Space in the diary to choose what you do in that time
- Switch off time – to do nothing
- Time with others – friends and family for example
- Reading/Listening to podcasts
What gets in the way of a self-care plan?
My clients notice how easy it is to want to create the time for these things, however work collides with these plans. Recognising that it takes time and practice to consistently create new habits is a good starting point. I carry out a “from” “to” exercise with my clients, getting them to notice that their mindset literally creates the outcome, and changing the mindset changes their focus:
|I just don’t have the time||I wonder what I can eliminate or delegate to free up time|
|This work is too important, I have to drop the self-care ideas||This work is important and I can schedule its completion in the diary around my other commitments|
|This work has to be done by me||If I involve others in my team they will learn how to do it next time, and will develop in the process|
|I am too tired to do this||I recognise that I am tired and if I continue like this I will only get more tired. So I need to take action and commit to this.|
|Everyone else’s priorities |
need to be addressed
|My priorities and others priorities can be |
|What will people think of me if I leave on time/ address my self-care needs etc||If I address my self-care needs I will role |
model to my team how important it is
How to start implementing a self-care plan:
Start by answering the following questions:
- Aside to work, what brings me joy and energy?
- What hobbies and interests matter to me?
- What could I eliminate that no longer serves me?
- What am I willing to give up and delegate to others?
- Who could I call upon for support?
- What pockets of time could I create every day for self-care?
Working with an executive coach can really help to implement your own personalised self-protection plan. I’d love to hear what you think and what your self-care looks like?
We work with lots of different leaders looking to be at their best and one of the ways to achieve this is through developing a self-protection plan, to find out more about our executive coaching programmes CLICK HERE.
If you wish to work on this, or have any questions for me, please get in touch to arrange our no obligation initial consultation.