What Makes a Gr8 Leader?

Today’s guest blogger is Heath Padgett. Join us on this journey every week as guest bloggers share their thoughts on what they believe makes a Gr8 leader. 

Heath Padgett is a writer and film maker who left his job in software sales to pursue a more adventurous career. Combining a love of travel and his career transition, he decided to go and work a job in all 50 states. Four days after his wedding, Heath and his wife Alyssa hit the road in a 1994 RV and toured across America while they fulfilled two bucket list items- filming a documentary and visiting all 50 states, all within their first year of marriage. Their story has been shared on CNN, CBS, Fox and Friends Morning Show, Huffington Post Live, Business Insider and The Daily Mail.

One aspect of becoming a great leader is being conscious of stress levels. I’ve heard so many stories of CEO’s of large companies who have heart attack after heart attack. How is it possible to do your best work and not burn out in the process? How can you consistently show up to lead yourself and your team each day and not overwhelm yourself?

Yesterday at the end of the day I was worthless, spent. I fought with my wife twice over dumb things that really were non issues. I felt a constant anxiety throughout the day. Instead of taking a break in the morning to go for a run or exercise, I took an extra phone call and then jumped straight into work stuff with a rushed feeling. Instead of taking a break for lunch, I grabbed some chips and salsa with a leftover soda from last weekend. As the day went on, I was so laser focused on working on a project that I wouldn’t even stop to pack for the upcoming plane ride we were about to take when leaving Austin.

Throughout the entire day I had this rushed feeling that I don’t typically experience all that often anymore. I would compare it to the way I felt when I was still working in an office job. I would sit at my desk all day long and only get up for short bathroom breaks throughout the day. On a rare occasion, I would go and find a small cubby hole somewhere with a door I could close and take a nap. The worst part was that I would feel guilty the entire time and feel less rested than before I laid down. I was at work, in the office. I shouldn’t be sleeping. I should be working (or at least that’s how I felt).

As a result, I had this constant tense feeling throughout the days when I worked for a startup. It seemed to be a mix of wanting everyone else to think I was being super productive and also wanting to be super productive. It never ended and it caused me to burn out 9 months into my new job.

Luckily, in the past year I’ve found a solution to this problem I faced. While I still have momentary relapses, like I did yesterday, most days I thoroughly enjoy myself throughout the day. I don’t feel that anxious feeling when knocking tasks off my to-do list and I don’t put any unrealistic pressure on myself to get everything under the sun completed in 8 hours, or ten, or fifteen. I wanted to share the process I’ve learned for helping me cope with the constant stress of trying to do it all and do it all right now.

That process is quite simple. I take breaks.

It’s been almost a year and a half since I broke out on my own as an entrepreneur, began traveling and working from random coffee shops and RV parks all over the country. And if there is one thing I’ve noticed that has made an astronomical difference in how I feel at the end of the day (and throughout the day for that matter) it’s when I take breaks vs. take no breaks during the day. I mean night and day difference in how I feel and the quality of my work.

Here are the kinds of breaks I learned to insert in my day and a brief description of each.

Naps

These are the mold that hold my life together. I used to think naps were for the lazy, uninspired, and slightly hungover workers. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Do you know those mornings when you wake up feeling refreshed and well rested? What if you could have that feeling, not only in the morning, but each afternoon as well?

Research has proven that an afternoon nap is actually better for brain activity than a cup of coffee and I’m a living testament. I’ve tried both many times. Coffee leaves me with a huge crash and not so great feeling while a nap let’s my mind rest and recalibrate.

Most often excuse here? I can’t take naps. Trust me, for the longest time I couldn’t either. I would lay in bed for twenty minutes and just close my eyes, this can be just as beneficial. The key is to try your best to turn off your mind and racing thoughts long enough to let your mind relax. Most days I don’t actually fall asleep during my nap, but I get to the point of beginning to doze off and that is purely enough. Whala. Rest.

Walks

Pretty self explanatory. But getting out of the office or wherever it is that you work for a nice walk can help your mind relax as well and it’s nice to get some fresh air.

Exercise

A few months back I was in NYC having lunch with the CEO of a company called Next Jump. The CEO’s name is Charlie Kim and he works closely with a physician who manages olympic athletes and high performance NBA players and business executives. Charlie was explaining to me how he’s learned to place his training in between some of his work’s most stressful tasks.

I’ve personally tried this out and it’s been extremely helpful. High performance activity helps your body and mind relax. I hate sitting down and writing tons of emails. So I’ve started doing 30 minutes of email before or after my workouts. This has helped tremendously with my stress levels when responding to emails.

Getting away from phone, computer and any other kind of screen that can torment you

Sometimes just getting away from the constant “ding” of notifications for five minutes can help your mind calm down. Try to push back all of the racing thoughts you have and just breathe deep for a moment. I would recommend doing this several times throughout the day when you feel yourself becoming anxious with whatever task you’re working on.

Close all your tabs but one

I’ve started doing this more lately. One day I looked up and saw something close to 40 tabs open at one time. Why in the heck does there ever need to be forty tabs open at once? Multi-tasking was cool in the late nineties and early 2000’s, but with our hyper connected world, sometimes just focusing on one task at a time can be a break in and of itself.

Phone call with a friend or loved one.

Taking a phone call to just talk with a friend or loved one can help your relax a bit, laugh, and your mind releases dopamine in the process. Also, it’s a good excuse to stay in touch with people.

How many breaks should you take throughout the day?

That’s totally up to you. I like to get a bit of exercise or a walk in before I ever get the day started. I’ve found that when I wake up and immediately jump into email or something like that, I tend to not want to stop. Starting the day off on the right note makes all the difference for me. I usually then sit down, do some writing, check email, and take a break an hour or so later to cook breakfast. Then I work until around noon, stop and eat lunch and take a nap. Then I’ll work until dinner, eat, and then go for another walk, exercise, or lay in my hammock and read a book.

I know everyone’s schedule is different and sometimes mine is a bit chaotic, but this ideology of taking intentional breaks is more of a way of how you can do work over the long term, without getting stressed out. If you want to enjoy what you do, not burn out and have silly fights with your wife, you need to be intentional on walking away when you feel your body start to feel anxiety.

 

 

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