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Why Refueling Should be a Top Priority for Leaders


“There’ll be time enough for sleeping when I’m dead.”

“I’ll sleep in the grave.”

“No rest for the weary.”

Do any of those quotes sound familiar to you?

Famous rocker Bon Jovi, American statesman Ben Franklin and the lead singer of The Cure all expressed sentiments that extolled the virtues of pushing through - whether in work or in play - and not stopping until you’re in the grave.

It’s a popular idea, praised by many who pride themselves on sleeping a minimal number of hours and never taking a day off in the pursuit of achievement. The idea is particularly tempting, especially for individuals who are driven to succeed. If you’ve set lofty goals for yourself, you may be inclined to charge through in your quest to see success, leaving yourself worn out and empty.

When you’re working towards a goal, it may feel as though any moment you aren’t actively pursuing it is wasted. This is the mindset behind a 2009 study that revealed Americans ended the year with an average of 9 unused vacation days. The ‘no need to rest’ phenomenon is not partial to North America, workaholics are found all over the world.

The Case for Pushing Through

Famed entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck is well-known for his no-holds-barred approach to success. He chastises people who claim to want success but refuse to make the necessary sacrifices. He works hard and has achieved an astonishing level of success. It’s hard to argue with his results. Within a few years, he turned his parents’ wine business into a $60 million dollar a year company. He grew his own brand, Vaynerchuck Media into a $100 million dollar a year business, and has authored multiple best-selling books. Vaynerchuck, and others like him, have found success with their relentless pursuit of their goals. It works, so it can’t be wrong, right?

The thinking that drives this behaviour is that by pouring every spare moment into your goal, you are more likely to reach (or exceed) your goals. While your competitors are sleeping, you are charging ahead towards success.

The Case for Refueling

In spite of the individuals who seem to survive on caffeine and adrenaline, however, studies have proven that taking the time to refuel is actually more beneficial to your success.

Your body (and your brain) have been hard-wired to need rest, and the science is beginning to be heard. According to one study, your productivity levels go up with regular breaks. When you take a break from working on a task, even for just a few minutes, your brain can reset, reversing any negative effects of work and allow your subconscious to solve problems you may have been experiencing.

The idea of allowing people to refuel is gaining momentum, and has been adopted by companies such as Facebook, Google and others. Giving individuals the opportunity to shut off the incessant push of productivity has proven to be beneficial, for both the individual and the organization. As individuals become more aware of the harmful effects of pushing through work without a break, organizations are beginning to take notice.

What Happens If I Don’t Refuel

Individuals who stay “on” all the time are more likely to experience depression, burnout and anxiety. When you don’t give yourself adequate time to rest and refuel, eventually your brain and your body will give out. The constant push can have detrimental health effects, negatively affect personal relationships and cause you to become disillusioned with your goals.

Ways to Refuel

For most people, the idea of taking extended amounts of time to refuel seems out of reach. If you’re not sure where to get started on refueling, start small. Here are three tips to get started.

#1. Take frequent breaks during the day. One methodology, known as the Pomodoro Technique, instructs people to work 25 minutes and then take a break for 5. The results have been astonishing. Employees were more productive and were more engaged than their work than their counterparts who plow through daily tasks without breaks.

#2. Give yourself one night a week off.

Turn off your cell phone, put away your laptop and take the night off. It will improve your work-life balance and allow you to decompress. When your brain is free of having to constantly be pursuing work related train of thoughts, you can think more clearly, have more productive work hours and feel more fulfilled.

#3. Use up your vacation days. It may seem strange at first, and you may be worried about getting all your tasks done, but the benefits of taking an extended amount of time off can’t be beat.

Do you feel like you’re stuck in a rut? It may be time to refuel.

Michele Bailey is president and CEO of Blazing Agency and My Big Idea®. These two lines of business work congruently to support her clients’ success.


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