More than three-quarters of working men and women say they’d gladly trade some of their income for more personal time. No wonder. The number of people getting burnt out because of work stress has almost doubled in recent years.
And yet companies are not exactly tripping over themselves to respond. Busy executives must make their own personal truces between the relentless pressure at work and what they know they need for themselves.
Few people doubt that career stress, when it remains unrelieved by strong relationships and self-care, will damage both physical and emotional health. But what can someone with an eye on a top executive spot do when the demands pile up and the competition seems willing to go those extra miles. Here are four basic strategies from executive coaches who work regularly with stressed out executives:
Executives must pay attention to their bodies with regular exercise and good nutrition. It’s a business imperative to put the names and numbers of massage therapists and personal trainers right next to financial advisors in the ‘essential numbers’ section of the address book, because, believe it or not, they are as important as your business contacts.
Executives must take care of their relationship balance sheet as they do with accounts at office. Ask for regular feedback from friends and family about the ‘intimacy quotient’, which is as important as your intelligence quotient Most busy executives are shocked to find that people at home have just got tired of waiting for them, and now leave them either in the doghouse ' perpetually ' or very much alone. They haven’t figured out what cutting-edge psychological research shows: resilience on the job comes mostly from strong, supportive relationships outside work.
One astonishing recent medical finding is that the time spent in meditation or prayer keeps people healthier, more alert and focussed on work. Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson was aware of this when he began practice and games with meditative time-outs. Obviously, it worked. It’s the same in any field. When busy professionals don’t take the time to get centered in themselves, they undercut their performance, and ultimately, that of the company. As Dr Harold Bloomfield observed in his book The Power of 5: “It’s no accident that the word deadline contains the word dead; the human body is not well-suited to time-struggle.” Hurry sickness is deadly for both careers and people.
The big picture
A career always sits in the middle of a life ' hopefully a ‘whole’ one ' with room for playing, relaxing, creating and, of course, plenty of laughter. Dr William Fry of Stanford Medical School recommends laughing 100 times a day to stay balanced and keep one’s mind clear. Most high-level career failures can be traced to the inability of harried leaders to see things in perspective and make informed judgments about what’s really important.
Burned-out executives don’t have the emotional reserves or the clarity of thought to stay ahead of the challenges. Bad business decisions and bad personal decisions come from the same myopic place.
When executives ignore these four rules, they short-change everyone, including their companies. And when they heed them, they are able to keep up with the competition and experience real joy in their lives. Why would anybody do it any other way'
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