"It's like you're a different person"
When I made the leap of faith last year from a stable and secure job in a medium-sized consultancy firm to a new role at a much larger business, I also made my decision to clean up my act.
My work-life balance was in check, I love what I do and am happy to put the extra hours in to help develop and improve my performance and that of my team, but I realised I had been avoiding the nagging feeling that stress and an unhealthy approach to my own well-being were in fact limiting my effectiveness.
So, when shifting jobs, I also made a conscious decision to try and improve my health and well-being. Three quick changes have made me feel more productive, more responsive and happier.
1. Taking time to focus by using Headspace
I was very fortunate to be invited to a management training event by one of my former clients, Willmott Dixon. The event included some amazing, inspirational speakers including Megan Reitz, a professor, researcher and consultant who specialises in "the intersection of leadership, change, dialogue and mindfulness".
Now, mindfulness has had a bit of a bad wrap. In my mind it became a bit faddy at the end of last year, everyone was talking about it but perhaps not many people were giving it the time to get it right.
Megan talked about a study she had recently completed where they looked at the link between mindfulness and productivity (forget all the hippy stuff about finding yourself, there is a direct link between your effectiveness as a leader and the state of your mind). In the study they challenged a number of business leaders to do a ten minute meditation a day, and measured the impact on productivity and problem solving. As you might expect, there was a definite, positive link.
I took up this challenge using Headspace (https://www.headspace.com/), and after failing to stick with the app before when doing the three minute short version, switching to ten minutes a day and committing time in my diary has helped me stick with the exercise. I'm now at over 500 minutes of practice!
What's the change that I've noticed? I'm quicker to make decisions, but also am quicker to stop myself before I leap into a problem, respond to a shirty email from a stressed colleague or react to something negative.
2. GETTING FLEXY WITH ROMWOD
As my search for a better me continued, I met Jodie Yates, currently working in a similar role to me but for CBRE Global. Over a short lunch at the APMP UK conference and several conversations on social media later, Jodie convinced me of the link between my physical health and energy and my effectiveness at work, and surmised that I should be doing something to improve that position.
After hearing the benefits of yoga on her as a decision making and ability to deal with stress, I agreed to give it a go. I hunted for a yoga programme which would work with my busy schedule, and settled on romwod (https://romwod.com/) which is a stretching programme aligned to CrossFit. It involves a lot of basic leg and back stretches from yoga, but without the hand stands and balance work that you normally associate with yoga. It works for me because each day there's a short, 20 minute routine waiting for me when I get home from work.
I've definitely noticed a difference - I feel looser and don't get back ache from sitting down all day, and I'm marginally less fidgety... although I've got a long way until I can get rid of my constant need to be doing something!
3. TRACKING CALORIES THROUGH MYFITNESSPAL
I've always been subjected to some comments my weight, but for me, tracking what I eat isn't about weight loss.
I wanted to be more aware of what I'm eating, so I chose to track calories through MyFitnessPal (www.myfitnesspal.com). The aim of this venture was to see the impact of my diet choices over the long term, with a hope of making a permanent change rather than cutting calories over a short period and then yoyo-ing back and forward with my weight.
I'm not religious about counting calories or sticking to a particular target, but I generally capture all meals I eat, all snacks and any major bits of exercise I do (I don't count walking). By making more conscious decisions over what I eat, and when, I have seen my energy levels improve, I've been able to deal with some stressful things at work easier, and I've felt better as a person, healthier and happier with my body and how I look.
I'm no expert
I pondered over this post for way to long before writing it. Not because I wasn't sure about the topic, but because I don't want you to think I'm preaching or saying my way is the only way. I'm no expert; I'm still an overweight, slightly stressed business development director, but also I'm a happier and more in control.
The proof for me that all this is helping me move my mental and physical health in the right direction came a month or so ago. Through no prompting, Kate (aka DoYouCruise) turned to me whilst I was describing a work challenge and how I was going to approach it and said "it's like you're a different person".
On asking if that was a good thing, she said "yes, it's definitely a good thing". I seemed happier and more able to deal with the fast-pace of my work, and I am more present when I am at home.
Work still sits in the back of my mind 24/7, but it no longer consumes me and I've got time to think further ahead to make sure the strategy I take works for everyone; my company, my colleagues, my clients and me.