Don’t Let Fatigue Drain Your Executive Vitality

How to Avoid Letting your Executive Vitality be Drained by FatigueExecutive Vitality is an executive’s exuberance, mental vigor, capacity for meaning or purpose, and power to grow. All these critical leadership characteristics are diminished by the fatal vitality drain—fatigue.

Recently, I read a great piece by Tony Schwartz entitled, “Fatigue Is Your Enemy,” (see link at bottom).  In this blog Tony states, “In fact, it’s not the number of hours we work that determines the value we create. Rather, it’s the quality of energy we bring to the hours we work.”

I know many of you have heard me ask:

“How much are you sleeping?”
“Did you spend time with your family this week?”
“How is your eating and drinking?”
“Are you keeping up with your workouts?”
“Are you spending quality time with your key stakeholders?”
“Did you do anything for yourself this week?”
“Are you aware of what makes you fatigued?”
“Do you know when you are fatigued, and do you rest or keep pushing?”

The number of leaders out in the world today who are overstressed, fatigued, and running ragged is remarkable. This fatigue erodes leadership credibility and work performance. So many leaders today feel imprisoned by the relentless requirements to work more, be away from home more, or fill in for those who were let go. There is immense pressure on leaders to demonstrate that they are “strong” and don’t need rest, reflection, or rejuvenation.

Fatigue is but a symptom of a more pressing problem in organizational life today. Organizational life has created a fallacy that working more will equal more results. The reality is that better energy (i.e., vitality) will enable better leadership and improved business performance. As Tony states, “By renewing regularly, it’s possible to get more done, in less time, at a higher level of quality, more sustainably. When we’re less fatigued, we’re not only less prey to negative emotions, we’re also more likely to access the positive ones we need to feel to perform at our best.”

In my experience, only the most highly confident leaders are able to say, “No, I am not doing X; I have to go for a run or rest or be with family.” Often leaders are informed that leaving early or running instead of having a drink with the guys is a misstep and they had better “get on board” (or else)—again, confusing hours with performance. Even more, leaders are asked to work in different time zones, travel extensively, start earlier and work later each day, fill in for people who have been laid off, and on and on it goes. No wonder we are more and more fatigued. It is tough!

In the end, it is ultimately your responsibility to manage your energy and understand how to have a life in your life. Your organization isn’t likely to do this for you. You have to take matters into your own hands and ensure the fatigue trap is not set for you. And, if you are trapped, you need to get out of it.

Here are a few simple yet key suggestions:

  1. Keep track of your energy level on a 1-to-5 scale. Make certain you rate this in the morning and evening at about the same time (by your watch no matter what time zone). Reflect on moments throughout the day where you had the most energy and where you had the least. What do you learn? What are the patterns? What can you do about it?
  2. Go to sleep and wake up at about the same time each day (no matter where you are) ensuring about 7-to-8 hours of rest per night—every night!
  3. Eat healthy, exercise, avoid too much alcohol or stimulants, and visit your physician on a regular basis to ensure you are in shape.
  4. Identify your energy infusers and “live” them on a regular basis. An energy infuser is anything you do that positively increases your energy level. For example, swimming, helping a friend, making a charitable contribution, or taking the dog for a walk.
  5. Set a target and keep chipping away at it so that you increase your energy and reduce your fatigue risk.

Alas, “energy and persistence conquer all things.” Benjamin Franklin

Link to Tony Schwartz’s blog post:   “Fatigue Is Your Enemy”


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