Ever notice how we don’t see articles about entrepreneurs and professionals being tired?
Instead, we hear about the geniuses like Elon Musk who do two things at a time (like juggle a child on his knee while answering email), or existing on four or five hours sleep.
But fatigue? We just don’t talk about it. We’re all about psyching up, charging to full capacity, caffeine buzzed, and onward and upward. But here’s the thing: we all get tired. And yet somehow, rest or naps are translated to laziness. We’re presented with stories of leaders who we’re supposed to believe have super powers and never wear out.
Leading a business and being truly effective is about riding the waves of energy and rest. Yesterday was an amazing day of accomplishments for me; I had high energy, was in a good mood, and all was well with the world. I came in today, my day to work from the home office, feeling as though I had an entire, beautiful, creative day ahead.
But starting somewhere around 7:30 AM and not slowing down until after 11:00 AM, little mini-emergencies arose. I couldn’t believe looking back how many texts, phone and Skype calls, and emails I had exchanged within just those few hours. When I finally sat down to write and start my day, I felt exhausted and wasn’t sure where all the energy from yesterday went.
It’s simple. Brains are not much different than computer processors. Work them hard and soon enough, they will need a restart. Too many tabs open, an update needed, the processing slows with heavy demand.
Or fatigue. Which I falsely interpreted as being uninspired.
I actually checked the internet for clues as to what might be going on. What happens between a highly energetic productive day and one where by 11:00 AM, I need a reboot? Weather? (it’s raining today). Bad news? (yesterday was the Parkview shooting in Florida). A poor night’s sleep? (I did wake up early). But nothing was clicking and soon everything was just sounding like mush.
Funny how this all seemed complex at that moment. But then, out of frustration and fatigue, I grabbed a throw, shut down the email, left my phone in the other room, and just sat. Quiet. Complete thoughts allowed without interruption. I dozed off. After a bit, I popped my eyes open and then realized, “Ah-ha! Clear head!”
Our bodies and minds are complex. We think that we can do the same thing every day and have the same performance. And we are remarkable. But most of us are not Olympic athletes working up to the one or two days where we have to get it right. We’re here for the long haul and every day is simply not going to be the same. For the most part, formulas don’t work on human minds and bodies.
Most of us can’t take a nap break every day. Nor do we need it – but here’s what we can do on the days when brain fatigue seems to be winning:
- Shut down the email and phone. The ultimate brain-drain. We think we’re working when we answer fifty emails. But the truth is, too often we’re creating more responses and answering before others have a chance to think of another way to deal. After four hours this morning, I felt like I’d done nothing, but in essence had made numerous decisions and been pulled into situations that could have been handled by others.
- Tune in. We’re supposed to be the masters of intuition, knowing when we aren’t being productive. Taking a moment to stop and discover how you are feeling at that moment, and allowing it to be okay is powerful. And then…
- Unplug, eat, walk, nap, deep breathe. Taking a moment to realize what you’ve been doing and what is most needed at this moment is simple, but it was clear to me today that instead of powering on through brain fatigue, I really needed the break from the interruptions. And amazingly, nothing was going to get my best attention in the current state of mind. For me, unplugging from all the gadgets gave my brain and body the rest I didn’t even realize I needed.
I can hear some of you reeling at the idea of shutting down email mid-day, and putting the phone aside. For me it was necessary, as those were the items that sucked the energy from me in the first place.
I’ve watched more than one Olympic athlete this week collapse at the finish line or lay down on the ice in either absolute fatigue, the release from exertion or a combination of both. If even for just a moment or two, letting yourself be tired – even enjoying it – is perfectly okay. And maybe that’s just what you need right now.