Ten Proven and Simple Ways to Pace Yourself

Posted 09.08.2010

Stopwatch1 Here in the United States, the week following Labor Day tends to feel like the beginning of a new year. Kids are back in school, conferences and special events fill the schedule and the final push towards the end of the calendar year kicks into high gear in just about every organization. If you’re a leader, this is the time of year when you’re likely to start running even harder than you’ve already been. The danger is that you run flat out until you crash.

Based on 360 degree surveys my company has run for hundreds of coaching clients, that danger is real.  Out of 72 next level leadership behaviors we’re tracking in the survey, the one that is consistently rated the lowest by colleagues of peers is:

Paces himself/herself by building in regular breaks from work

If you’re like a lot of leaders, you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to take a break.” Well, actually, you do and you really can’t afford not to. Making a habit of taking mini-breaks throughout the day will increase your productivity and effectiveness by clearing your mind and renewing your body. Over the past four years, dozens of clients in our Next Level Leadership® group coaching program have successfully taken on the challenge of pacing themselves so they show up at their best.

I’ve been keeping track of what they’ve been doing to create some mini-breaks and establish a more effective pace for themselves.  Here’s their top 10 list of proven and simple ways to pace yourself:

Ten Proven and Simple Ways to Pace Yourself

1.  Schedule 20 and 40 minute meetings instead of 30 and 60 minute meetings.

2.  Schedule planning and review time for yourself every week.

3.  Eat lunch away from your desk.

4.  Set your computer or smart phone to chime five minutes before each hour. Use the chime as a cue to step back and assess what you’re doing.

5.  Take five minutes before important meetings to ask what you’re trying to accomplish and how you need to show up to make that likely.

6.  Take a five minute deep breathing and stretching break at least once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

7.  Take a cue from a British client and make a habit of taking a mid-afternoon break for tea.

8.  Take a 10 minute walk in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Stop to chat with the people you see. It’s a simple way to practice management by walking around.

9.  Begin the day with exercise instead of email.

10. Set limits on the amount of time you spend responding to email in one sitting. It helps you avoid that “black hole” feeling three hours later.

So, those are pace setting tips that work for our clients. What tips would you add to the list?