It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it. ~John Steinbeck
Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Last week I gave a talk to a group of highly motivated and skilled project managers on the topic of Healthy Leadership. I was curious to learn which topics would resonate. Hereâ€™s what I learned.
Sleep matters. In this talk, and in virtually all off my work, sleep is a huge differentiater. There are people who sleep well and amply each night, though I rarely meet them. These people are confused by those of us who sometimes struggle because we canâ€™t fall asleep, we donâ€™t feel we have enough time to sleep, or we wake up in the middle of the night to worry or solve some problem that seems pressing in the moment â€“ â€œare there monsters under the bed,â€ â€œwas that last email I sent appropriate,â€ or the like. Science tells us that we need approximately eight hours of sleep a night, yet many of us find that challenging. At the same time, we recognize that we slog through the day tired or under-performing, miss exercise, or skip events with family or friends.
There are medical conditions that impact our ability to sleep, my husband has sleep apnea and getting that treated medically has made a huge difference in both of our lives.
The work environment can have a significant impact on sleeping. Some organizations that are highly rated for their wellness programs, offer a place for employees to nap or have a quiet meditation, but this is not the only answer. Allowing employees flexible work schedules, taking steps to reduce stress, supporting exercise and healthy eating, not requiring employees to work in the evening, and other practical work policies can have a positive impact on sleep. Offering a yoga class, a workshop on sleeping well, or talking to individuals who seem to be struggling can make a big difference.
Email can be a challenge. Another topic that generated a great deal of discussion was my suggestion that healthy leaders establish email policies that are implemented consistently within their organizations. Examples of such policies might include indicating in an email â€œno response necessaryâ€ or, for easy items, making a declarative statement â€œI will meet you in the lobby at 12:30,â€ rather than asking, "when shall we meet," which requires a response. I also cited the policy of a small business owner where email is responded to only during business hours, emergencies are handled via text. She has software that helps with this as it allows you to schedule email delivery.
My point is to suggest the development of a policy rather than to dictate what that policy is. I watched with fascination as the discussion within the group unfolded, each person sure that the policy they had implemented or the practice they followed was the ideal choice. It turns out, there is really no ideal choice, each organization is different and has different cultures, personalities and tools available. Being aware of your organizational culture while creating a policy that can improve peopleâ€™s wellbeing, thereby improving their productivity and ability to succeed, is part of the art of being a good leader.
There is an area of overlap between good sleep and healthy email. There seems to be consensus that the light from electronic devices interferes with our sleep, and while there are apps for your phone that will shield you somewhat from the blue light, it seems reasonable to suggest that stepping away from email in the 60 or 90 minutes before going to sleep is a healthy practice. Moreover, it is a good practice to not have phones, laptops, TVs, and similar electronic devices in the bedroom. I love quoting Dr. Seuss who said, â€œsometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.â€ Here is my simple answer, find ways to not be overwhelmed by email through collaborating with the people who are sending the emails and take steps to get enough sleep.
I have often seen projects, programs, and strategic plans fail or not be fully implemented. One of the contributing factors is often a work force that is over-stressed, unhealthy, and not committed to the end result. At the same time, corporate health and wellness programs tend to be underutilized with employees not taking advantage of available opportunities.
One common key component of successful strategic planning, successful programs, and successful project management is a fully engaged workforce. By incorporating health and wellness into these efforts, rather than having health and wellness programs as separate functions, the employees have a voice in what is included in the program and see their ability to influence corporate strategies. They are also more likely to embrace these strategies. In my experience, including employee wellness in corporate strategies demonstrates the organizationâ€™s commitment to their employees and leads to a more productive, healthier, more creative, and more engaged workforce.
My focus is working with organizations to help them grow and reach the next level.