Happy New Year!
I hope you all had an amazing holiday season and are excited to see what 2014 has in store!
I wanted to kick off this year with some resolutions every leader should make this year.
#1 GET SLEEP
My last article of 2013, Leadership Advice: Sleep, discussed the importance of getting at least 6 hours of sleep. I won’t rehash the article here, but in a nutshell, sleep allows us to memorize facts, forget negative experiences, stay objective when we are awake, lets our bodies heal, and be more proactive. Being an early riser is better than being a night owl and gives us time to exercise, which is our next resolution!
#2 GET EXERCISE
We’ve been hearing it since we were kids: get off the couch and exercise. Research has shown that exercise benefits the brain in a
number of ways:
- Reduces stress and anxiety levels while increasing endorphin levels, making us happier, more positive, and confident
- Wakes us up – 30 seconds of intense exercise is more effective than a cup coffee! (source)
- Improves our ability to memorize and learn, which we should always be doing as leaders. This is particularly true for complex sports like tennis or dance.
- Increases our attention and concentration skills, leading to increased productivity
- Makes us more creative
- Sources: WebMD, Huffington Post & USN Health
How much exercise do we need? You’ll see the above results from doing 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week. Really want to see a difference? If you can get 90 minutes of exercise 5-6 times a week you’ll be reaping the benefits! Combined, the top two points are really driving towards resolution #3.
#3 GET HEALTHY
Getting enough sleep and finding time to exercise is a good start to healthy living. It’s been hinted at above, but having good work-life balance is also key. Taking time to relax and spend time with friends/family helps us manage our emotions and reduces stress, which translates into a more positive attitude at the office, which in turn motivates our teams. How to do you find time?
- Set your priorities and schedule down time
- Find the thing or activity that refreshes you and make it part of your day: I take a few minutes every day to read about the day’s recent science discoveries
- Use your team! Effective leaders are able to delegate tasks and rely on others to free up some time
- There is no scale: it’s not realistic to think you’ll perfectly balance work and life. You can, however, identify what needs your attention today and stick to it. Part of my day includes finding some time to exercise!
It’s so easy to fall into the habit of buying lunches. Not only does this eat into your savings, it’s sometimes tough to eat healthy. Unhealthy lunches leave us feeling tired and sluggish in the afternoon, not to mention increasing our chance of feeling depressed, stressed, anxious, and unorganized. Healthy diets, along with not doing the above, insure a strong immune system and aids in learning, memory, and mental health (WebMD and PsychCentral). I grew up cooking so making dinner (with leftovers for lunch) is a relaxing process for me. The two reasons I hear to not do this are “I don’t have time” and “It costs too much”. It does take some time to go out and get groceries, but a number of chef’s have released quick cook meals, such as Jamie Oliver (Meals in Minutes, 15-Minute Meals, and Save with Jamie), Gordon Ramsay (Fast Food), and of course Rachel Ray (many options!). Granted it takes a while to get fast with the knife, but it’s worth it! Buying pre-cut veggies/meat does save some time, but it also costs more. Speaking of cost, an article published in the Harvard School of Public Health found that healthy diets, those with lots of fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts, cost approximately $1.50 more per day or $550 more per year than less healthy diets. While this is not an insignificant amount, the study also concludes that it’s a small amount compared to the cost of diet-related chronic diseases.
28% of Americans did not read a book this year with another 25% reading between 1 and 5, with 60% not finishing it. Compare this with leaders, who read 4-5 books a MONTH! Reading increases our verbal and emotional intelligence, vocabulary, and abstract thinking skills, as well as making us more articulate communicators. According to the Harvard Business Review, reading for 6 minutes can reduce stress levels by 68%, making it a great activity to make time for! If you’re a commuter, you can always get audio books. Alternatively, you can get audio summaries of popular business books from a number of companies, including AudioTech. CEO.com recommends 24 books every leader should read.
#5 PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
Regardless of your position, you should always be learning and growing your knowledge. This is particularly true for leaders, who need to be able to effectively overcome roadblocks and develop company/department/team strategy based on current market trends. Professional development does a number of things including:
- increased focus, ambition, and motivation
- improved clarity of mind, prioritization and decision making
- Greater confidence and higher levels of emotional intelligence in all situations
- Accelerated learning abilities
- Greater ability to manage tight deadlines, multiple tasks and highly demanding situations
It also gives you an opportunity to network with like-minded individuals and see what leaders in your and other industries are doing!
#6 SUPPORT YOUR TEAMS
Great leaders do all of the above, but also gives their teams what they need to do it as well! Google has their 20% policy, giving employees 20% of their time to work on their own projects, which has been mimicked by companies like LinkedIn, eBay, and 3M. Sending your team to training or workshops not only gives your team new skills, but is also in the top 5 employee motivators according to a Monster.com 2013 survey. We’ve recently started dedicating one team meeting a month to a Readitfor.me session. Each is under an hour long and gives a video summary of popular business book. To follow-up on the video, they supply workshop materials to encourage discussion and retention. Think of ways to give your team the above and you’ll see the benefits!