A few years ago, I was the Regional Director of South America for a large humanitarian aid organization. In just under 2 years, I grew our network from 25 partners in 8 countries to over 100 in 14 countries. I was on the phone all the time. Networking, responding to emails, covering logistics, putting out fires. I traveled at least 4 months out of the year, and worked countless training sessions. 12 hour days weren’t uncommon.
I was proud of my work and what we were able to accomplish, but about 18 months in, I got to the point where I didn’t want to answer the phone anymore. I was sick of traveling, and I didn’t feel like I had the mental or emotional capacity to maintain relationship with our biggest overseas partners. I had burnt out.
It took me a few months to recover, but I had to make some major changes in my work-life balance. I started taking periodic breaks during the day to go outside and walk around. I got a bicycle desk so I could exercise while working. I started to set boundaries around when I would talk to overseas partners, not responding to phone calls or emails after 7pm (unless it was an emergency, of course). I played ultimate frisbee in the afternoons and made time for intentional dinners with family and friends.
When I left my position 6 months later, I left happy and satisfied – not burnt out like so many of my colleagues. My partner relationships were healthy and my productivity rate was higher than it had ever been. Our bottom line was solid and we were thriving. By taking care of myself, I had set my business and our clients up for success.
On this journey, I discovered that if I was going to be any good to my business or anyone else, I first had to take care of myself. A healthier me meant a healthier business.
In the next part of this article, we’ll take a look at some of Dr. Jerome D Lubbe’s practical applications for self-care, and I’ll encourage you to take a hard look at your own work-life balance and decide which areas you can make small improvements in that will make a big difference.