We are fortunate to be able to support some amazing clients.

Our clients are amazing because of who they are and also often because of the work they do. I will always, perhaps especially around this time of year, feel lucky and privileged to be considered an ally, a confidante, and “that little voice that whispers in your ear and guides you” that my clients frequently tell me they experience.

One of the “whispers” that our clients often hear from us, even after our work together is done, is about the importance of self-care. The old adage, “put your own oxygen mask on first” is true. Quite true. If you can’t breathe, you can’t help anyone else breathe. If you don’t have oxygen in your brain, you can’t think clearly, and everything falls apart from there.

This past week, one of the most essential aspects of self-care came up in a conversation with a client. As it’s come up before – multiple times – and it will most likely come up again, we figured that we would call it out here. Loudly. Especially, again, at this time of year, when there can be even more of too much to do and too little time to do it.

It’s sleep.

People who know me well know that I’ve had issues with sleep in the past. I therefore got a lot of help and learned a lot of facts – and myths – about sleep.

I’m not going to tell you that everyone needs seven or eight hours of sleep every day. While there may be truth to that statement, and it is definitely a good goal to aim for, my sleep doctor firmly states that different people need different amounts, and that what matters most is how you feel. Good? Or Bad?

What I want to say loudly and multiple times if it helps it sink in, is that choosing to go with little sleep – or very little sleep – so that you can get more work done and keep up with your responsibilities is very rarely, if ever, a good choice. I had a client this week explain how she regularly stayed up until one, two, or three o’clock in the morning to “catch up.” How she went with three hours of sleep – or less, or even none at times – because there was too much she had to do and no other time to do it. I’ve had past clients confess to me that they were sleeping three hours or less a night, because “if I don’t take care of this task, it won’t get done.” And even if we don’t stay up specifically working, all the stress we’re under can make it tough to “turn it off” and relax enough to properly rest and sleep. (This is where the best practices of “putting your phone to sleep at night” a few hours before your own bedtime come in.)

We are part of a culture that, in many ways, admires people who “burn the candle at both ends” and who have so much to do that they can’t stop to take a breath…or to sleep. We seem to brag about the number of emails we get or how far behind and busy we are or how indispensable we are to others around us.

We actually coach our clients to become dispensable leaders – so that the people who report to them can handle work so well without them that they can go do more important, strategic work. And we coach our clients to get enough sleep.

Because, as I told my client last week, if we don’t sleep, we can’t think. At least not clearly. When I don’t sleep, it seems as if my choices are brittle or brutal. Neither seems like a good choice, and neither choice aids me in leading – or being – my best.

The “holiday” season and end-of-year responsibilities are upon us, and it seems there is even more now that needs to get done and that needs our attention. And it is even more essential, now, to put some of that aside and to make time for ourselves. And to make time to sleep.

It truly will enhance your leadership and your life.

How have you managed to “just say no” to some of the tasks and emails in front of you and to give yourself time to rest and to sleep?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in making yourself – and your sleep – your number one priority, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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