My favourite household chore is doing the washing (hang with me here, there is a point, I promise).
Taking something dirty and rumpled from the washing basket and putting it through the machine, before hanging it out to dry and air in the warmth of the sun and the cool of the breeze, and then bringing it in to fold and/or iron, making it right again. It’s a simple act and helps me de-stress. It is repeatable, dependable and easy to complete. It is my favourite household chore and I look forward to the task. Cleaning the bathroom, not so much 😊
My washing machine busted a tube a few weeks ago and the laundry has been piling up. Around the same time, I began a period of back to back travel, caught a cold, had a death in the family, and encountered a range of significant changes to original plans/conversation/momentum in the team I work with. My emotional ‘laundry’ was beginning to pile up along with the physical.
During a recent visit with my mentor he asked me what I was doing to look after myself. I was exhausted, coughing and sneezing. Throughout our conversations I came to realise that I was wasn’t doing anyone any favours by continuing to turn up to the office. If we were to have a major incident, I wouldn’t be a very effective Incident Controller. I was like my favourite lilac shirt, well-worn and wrinkled. It was time to take action.
The feeling that you have to turn up and continue on is very familiar. We work hard, we contribute solutions, we add value. If we don’t turn up, we think we have let people down. But what if we take that concept and tilt it to another angle and relook at it?
In my absence, the team I work with has an opportunity to see into portfolios I look after. They extend their skills and knowledge as they tackle problems in a different way. They engage with new stakeholders and negotiate movement on key tasks that they wouldn’t have had a chance to before. Work I was doing can be analysed and prioritized by a new set of eyes, giving clarity and objectivity where I couldn’t because I was too close to the task.
The challenge as a leader is to trust in your team and to accept that you are replaceable. If you’ve been successful in building a strong team, they shouldn’t just be able to work without you, they should be able to progress too. This is a confronting moment for some, however taking a step back to look after yourself can also be a step forward as a leader.
So, this week I’m giving myself a ‘Time Out’. I’m actively looking at ways I can clean, dry, air and iron myself so that I am fresh and healthy to continue working with the team and achieving the amazing things we hope to.
My question to you is, when was the last time you stopped and took care of yourself? How much emotional ‘laundry’ is in your basket right now?
To help navigate how to stay your freshest, best self, check out this article by Melissa Williams for The Sane Blog. The article is written for the carers of people with illness, but the tips are very relevant and interchangeable with any situation where you need to take care of yourself before you dive into helping others.
How do you de-stress? What activity is your relaxation? How do you do to look after yourself? Leave a comment in the box below to share your ideas with others.