I am a Senior Associate with Giant Worldwide. More about that in future blogs. Not long ago I was with some GiANT Associates, and everyone in the room was exhausted. Somehow the subject of smart phone applications came up. Apps. I must have truly been running on empty, because when someone said, “There’s an app for that”, I thought I heard, “There’s a nap for that.” Good timing, I thought. Everybody in this room could use a nap.
In GiANT we have a tool called “The Five Gears”. Later this year a book will be published on the subject. It’s a visual descriptor of how leaders can stay on the top of their game by shifting gears at the right time. The Five Gears are: 5) Work/Focus mode, 4) Task mode, 3) Social mode, 2) Rest mode, and 1) Full Rest/Refresh mode. (There’s also a reverse gear for apologizing!). We all have a story about how an automobile transmission didn’t get along with the engine. The revolutions per minute were out of sync, and that led to poor performance or even engine failure. Healthy leaders learn how to shift properly. Professor Bobby Clinton has said, “The difference between leaders and followers is perspective. The difference between leaders and great leaders is greater perspective.”
First Gear helps us gain perspective on our lives so that we may know ourselves to lead ourselves and those who matter to us. It helps us recalibrate what matters most, and it brings creative space to our cluttered minds. I’ve often said to leaders,“You keep looking for more minutes in your day, but I keep looking for more years on your life”.
So how can we get to First Gear? For me, I’ve been at my best when I’ve kept a regular cadence according to this mnemonic:
- Divert Daily. I’ve found that each day I need a quiet, personal refresh time. For me this includes reading, reflection, and prayer. In most cases, my daily downshift happens after 9:00 p.m. And I often make time in the middle of the day for a nap. Skittish about that? See Michael Hyatt’s post about leaders and naps.
- Withdraw Weekly. For me, I need a defined day off, and this has been a weakness lately. It seems like the human spirit is designed for a weekly down time, and when we’re disciplined enough to take it, the rest of the week goes better. Some friends are holding me accountable to get back to this habit.
- Maintain Monthly. Some leaders have enough margin in their lives–or they can create it–to take a personal retreat day from time to time–perhaps monthly or quarterly. When I’ve done this I’ve gone to an unfamiliar place of quiet, away from the distractions of communication and a to-do list. I’ve had guiding material to give some structure to my day. Search online for “personal retreat ideas” and you’ll find some suggestions that can work for you. I have just scheduled a retreat day for the first quarter of the year.
- Abandon Annually. Leaders need vacation time to recalibrate and gain perspective. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that my best vacations are at places where I have no responsibility. I own a wonderful waterfront cottage in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin, and it’s a regular getaway place for me. But it’s not always the best place for me to take a first gear vacation, because I easily get consumed with fix-it jobs. And here’s a suggestion: try to never complete a vacation without at least doing some sort of planning for your next vacation. The anticipation that something is on the calendar brings life in itself.
Leaders can finish well by understanding how to calibrate the RPMs of their lives, accessing all of the gears, and not neglecting their personal care. First Gear: remember that there’s a nap for that.