You've been pressing the pedal to the metal.
You've been burning the candle at both ends.
You're tired and pretty sure you need a break.
Not like a half day, but a real break.
What does that mean? How do you know? Who helps you make that happen?
Some people live their entire lives that way and do fine. For others, that's a recipe for disaster.
Norms are helpful as healthy guidelines, but it's dangerous to assume one size fits all when it comes to work, play and the need for rest. All leaders are different.
Patti and I have friends who rarely ever take a vacation, and friends who take several vacations a year. On both sides of the spectrum, it's not about money, and they live normal and healthy lifestyles.
Some take regular days off, and others catch their time off when they can. Some travel for business and some don't. You're getting the idea, I'm sure. There is no textbook formula to know how much of a break you may need, or when.
However, there are sure signs you need some time off. Or, perhaps, an overall change in your approach to how you navigate life and work. Let's come back to that.
First, however, you need to know, understand and assess yourself in your work environment.
Part of the reason there's no textbook formula is that there's nearly an inexhaustible number of combinations of work environments and personal wiring. Every unique combination needs a slightly different response.
You and Your Environment: 3 Factors That Make a Big Difference
1. The size of your internal battery.
Everyone is wired differently. I have friends who make five-hour energy drinks irrelevant. They are hot-wired to go hard all day, every day. They seem to have endless energy.
My wife, Patti, is a go-getter. She moves fast, and as a task-oriented person, she gets things done. She has a big personality, and people are drawn to her. However, Patti is an introvert. She needs some quiet downtime with a good book to recharge her battery, and then she's good to go.
I have other friends who are good leaders but run at a slower, more methodical pace. They are highly effective because they have learned what they are good at and how to pace themselves.
2. The relative health of your organization.
All organizations have strengths and weaknesses, but some are noticeably healthier than others. Those are the churches we all want to be part of.
Unfortunately, however, some churches are toxic and result in negative impacts on your overall well-being. Knowing your environment is essential to understanding your need for rest and recharging.
Healthy teams in healthy churches have a strong balance of truth and grace. They are willing to have hard conversations to confront difficult situations, but do so with love, kindness and grace.
Healthy organizations have leaders who listen, invest in your development and want more for you than from you.
Healthy teams are also focused on a clear vision, solve problems and work hard but also take time to play, and there is no shortage of laughter!
How does your team line up with this brief description? Overall, does your team drain you or fill you?
3. Your level of self-awareness.
How well you know yourself has a significant bearing on your ability to read your need for some time off from work beyond a regular day off.
How has your family background shaped you? Do you manage your emotions, or do they manage you? Do others affirm that your gifts and talents match your leadership responsibilities? Do you have an accurate sense of how others perceive you? Are you improving as a leader?
These kinds of personal questions in combination with the health of your organization are essential to understanding your real need for time away when the pace is fast and pressure is high.
When you have a good grasp of these three factors (granted, there are more, but these three communicate the idea) you can then better assess the following five signs.
5 Sure Signs You Need Some Time Off (or a change in your approach to your work habits):
1. You've lost your passion.
When you know your church's vision is important, but your heart has lost its fire, you may need soul-level recharging and realignment.
If you're getting work done, but just going through the motions more than motivated by passion, that's a sign you may need some time away to regain perspective.
2. You're easily overwhelmed.
We all know what it's like to get that "one more" complaint, problem to solve or email request that wasn't really a big deal, but it felt like the straw that broke the camel's back. Right?
If you are unable to shake that off and it turns to a sense of being overwhelmed, that's a sign you may need some time away to right-size your reality.
3. You are consistently distracted.
The inability to focus on your priorities due to the many competing demands on your time is a subtle sign, but one for you to consider, especially if you have two or three others on this list.
This one taps into your personal life. If circumstances at home with your family, or possibly factors like financial stresses or health challenges are weighing on you, you probably need to give them focused time and energy to regain your ability to focus on your work.
4. Your contribution is minimal.
You show up and work, but you just don't get much done. At the end of each day, you have not demonstrated what seems like a reasonable amount of productivity.
If your teammates were to offer you an honest assessment, and would likely say that your overall contribution is noticeably lower than usual, you may need some time off to regroup.
5. Your relationships are suffering.
What is the condition of your most important relationships? How are things going with your family, close friends and most importantly, God?
If you are facing some tough relational situations, especially at home, they aren't likely to be remedied merely with some time away, but it's a great way to get started. Don't wait. Even a few extra days can make a big difference if you focus on the real issues.
Serious time off isn't just about the number of days; it's what you do with those days.
That's an important concept. If you need some time away, don't fill it with business, chores or even all play. (Although some play is no doubt a good thing and needed!)
Invest time in thought, prayer and honest conversation about the issues you're dealing with.
If after a break, you return to work but you don't feel rested and focused; if your battery isn't recharged, your passion isn't fired up and you are again quickly over-loaded, merely some time away is not the complete answer.
You may need to completely overhaul your approach to work and life in general.
A professional coach or counselor may be needed, but for now, let me offer you several helpful questions to get you started if you need a fresh new approach.
- Are you taking care of yourself physically? What changes need to be made?
- When was the last time you heard God speak directly to you? What did He say? How did you respond?
- Are you confident you're at the right church or in the right career for you?
- Do you have close friends that you're open and honest with regularly?
- Are you under any undue financial pressures that prevent you from healthy productivity?
- When was the last time you felt a deep inner joy and peace? Describe that circumstance.
- Do you have a hobby or something that is healthy fun that you enjoy?
Thoughtful, honest answers will give you solid insights to appropriate responses for an improved daily life pattern that makes for a healthier you.
Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.
This article originally appeared at danreiland.com.
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