When was your last “sabbatical” to invest in yourself: charging up skills, outlook and energy for what you love doing best? You know, sharpening your axe?
If you prefer listening to reading, click here for an audio version of this blog post:
Most of you will have heard the story of the very young, high ego apprentice woodcutter, who simply had to end each day with the highest number of trees felled out of his team. Hard working and very determined, eventually he would have to get up earlier and work longer each day in order to stay ahead. His peers smiled, asking him when he was going to “get a life”. He simply continued busily trying to keep beating them, falling into exhausted sleep as soon as he returned at night. Finally one evening when he returned after dark, completely spent, of his older peers pulled him aside and showed him how to sharpen his axe…..
Sharpening your Axe
I remember when I first worked with a coach myself many years ago now. She helped me recognize how much I was “all work and no play” and used the metaphor that I was “the proverbial fish ever feeding at the bottom of the pond and that it was time to come up to the surface for some air and see the bigger world out there”. She helped me find and restore a balance that I had forgotten to be possible.
I am eternally grateful to Rene Nathan. It was so liberating. I was just on the treadmill – go – go – go and then some, so consumed, so busy “doing” that I had forgotten how to think, reflect and plan around what really mattered to me and those of importance around me. “Plan, I said? I don’t have time to plan….” until I very sheepishly heard what I had just said and embarrassingly realized its futility…. She taught me how to invest in myself again. To define and believe in what I want. To find what was going to help me get it. To plan for it. And then systematically invest in what it took for me to get it. It was not a cost – it was an investment.
I’m sure you have heard the cliché: “if you fail to plan, you are actually planning to fail”? It’s really no different to setting goals, is it? If you want to achieve something, you set (and write down) a goal of what you want to achieve (the prize), thinking and mapping out what it is going to take to achieve (the price), and then do whatever it takes to get it done (paying the price).
So I did. I set some goals and I allowed myself the space to reflect, and think and plan. Just a few months later I left 35 years of the “corporate rat race” behind me and after taking 9 months out to travel with my wife, started myself out in my own business. I have never looked back. And more importantly, I have never been more energized than I am now (another 10 years later). Why? Because I leap out of bed each day to do what I now know I was born to do.
In my leadership grooming it is amazing how often people in the transition from operational management into leadership recognize the need for strategy and planning, but say they are simply too busy “doing” and “keeping the daily fires out” to have time to plan and strategise. I quite often find managers in this situation that struggle with putting together a simple plan, and have to teach them even with a simple XL spreadsheet to:
- draw up a timeframe across the top (and bottom) of the spreadsheet in days or weeks or months, depending on the required granularity,
- list every task that needs to be done to achieve the required outcome down the first column,
- to estimate the duration of each tasks completion
- as well as any dependencies on or from tasks after it or before it,
- so as to find a start and finish date
- and to be sure that it has an owner (no task can be owned by more than one person).
- Then they learn to map out all this pictorially across the spreadsheet for each task
- so that by mapping actual completion (perhaps in another colour) they can at any point in time see where they are actually at compared to where they had planned to be at
- and take corrective action where things have slipped.
Definitely no rocket science. For those of you that I know are professional project managers please excuse the simplicity of this, but that’s fundamentally what planning is all about, right?
Holidays or training are always difficult to make time for, aren’t they? I remember how stressful it was to prepare myself to be sufficiently on top of things to be able to take a holiday or be away for a conference or training. Would you agree that most annual training budgets aren’t ever spent, and the amount of untaken leave accruals always seem to keep growing?
I am sure many of you can relate to all of the above, can’t you? The real question is what you are going to do about it, if you have to agree to yourself that it is time for you to “sharpen your axe” again.
What about you? When will you be sharpening your Axe
When last have you taken some time out to “sharpened your axe? You know, taken some time out of your busy schedule to “feed the goose that lays your golden eggs” – you? Me Time. Time to yourself. Time to think. Time to reflect. Time to plan. Time to relax. Time to play. Time with your loved ones. (You do know that LOVE is spelled T-I-M-E don’t you?) Time with friends. Time for a book. Time for a holiday or at least a weekend away. Time for a training course on something outside of work that you have always wanted to do. Time for a training course on a skill that will raise your game. Time to find a coach that will help you raise your game and stay ahead of the rest.
Plan a Sabbatical to Sharpen Your Axe
I have planned and experienced the benefits of a sabbatical twice in my life. And the results were incredible each time. If you want to know more, please read or listen to Sabbatical or Burnout?
I hope this article has struck a chord with you and that you will choose to step back and take stock of who you are and where you are, and if you don’t like the answer, to invest some time in yourself. I can tell you from personal experience that doing that with a coach is a great way to help you achieve that with volition. What if you could?
Think about it. Everybody can. Most don’t. Why? Because there isn’t anyone to hold you accountable. Agree? If so, why not contact me and Let’s Talk Coaching.