Over the past six months, I have experienced a significant change in pace. It all started in the fall of 2022 when my wife was seven months pregnant with our third child. At the time, I was working on launching a new platform called Separation Playbook. The goal was to launch the platform in July 2022 and build momentum through the fall months so that I could take my foot off the gas when the new baby was getting closer to arrival in late December.
I spent the spring of 2022 hiring a team of talented contractors to build out and launch the platform. We put together an aggressive project plan, and as my team accelerated toward the launch date, I knew the clock was ticking.
As I juggled the responsibilities of managing a team that was sprinting toward an aggressive finish line and spending time with my family, I neglected one critical priority—myself. As a father and a high performer, I grew accustomed to performing at a high level, even at times when I was operating on fumes. But with so much newness and uncertainty on the horizon, I hadn’t built enough capacity to manage it all.
As each week passed, I felt more urgency. The deadlines were getting closer, and I wasn’t able to keep up. Small work items started to fall through the cracks. In order to catch up, I spent more time in the business. I began waking up earlier and staying up later to get things done so that my family didn’t feel the effects. I made sure the shift was seamless for everyone else. But in reality, I traded the hours usually reserved for investing in myself for more hours grinding in the business. That seemed like the only place to pull from. But what started as a temporary fix to get caught up quickly became a vicious cycle.
The inability to disconnect from work and reinvest in other places stifled creativity. The personal investments provided more fuel to push through, but they also fueled insights and different perspectives that were embedded into the products we were creating. Without it, I became the bottleneck that caused the team to miss a few key deadlines. The flow of ideas dried up. Simple decisions were stalled by analysis paralysis. The baby’s arrival date, the looming deadlines combined with a lack of creativity created pressure, which seemed to ratchet up the urgency. This cycle continued for weeks, and eventually, we pushed the launch back a month.
But without addressing the root cause of the vicious cycle I was in, the new launch deadline came and went—we were still not ready to go live. The content and intellectual property that made the platform valuable was my responsibility to create. But, in consistently burning my creative fuel without replenishing it, I reached a point of burnout. I didn’t have any capacity left to create the content necessary to launch. And without content, the platform was DOA.
Eventually, in October, I made the tough decision to pull the plug on that iteration of the platform. We were two months past the launch date, and I was mentally fried. The new baby’s due date was only two months out, and I knew I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this change coming into our family. Once I made the decision, I chose to go off the grid to recharge. I committed to spending the next six months reinvesting in myself and my growing family.
Now, as that six month reboot comes to an end, I’m excited about the path ahead. And, as I re-emerge from my six months of solitude, I want to share with you the three most important insights and clarity my time off-the-grid provided:
- You must be your highest priority. Many of us who feel responsible for the success of others, invest in ourselves with whatever energy is left over. We take pride in caring for the needs of others, and putting others’s needs before our own. And while that is an admirable concept, it is not sustainable for either side. Self care is the most generous thing you can do for others. By investing in yourself, you can not only give and provide value to others, you can sustain it. It’s important to remember that you can’t withdraw from an empty account. Taking care of yourself is putting new deposits into your account. The more you deposit in your own account, the more you are able to show up for others in your life.
- You’ll never see the big picture by zooming in. Everything feels urgent in the moment, especially when you’re locked in with tunnel vision. It doesn’t matter if you are late for an appointment, a work deadline is nearing, or you have a presentation to fit into a specific timeframe. Urgency creates stress. And, while you may be the only person who feels the urgency of a situation, the stress it creates will embed itself into every relationship you have. Stress influences interactions with your family and friends, it shows up in your work performance, it affects your appetite. Stress manifests itself in every area of our lives. Sometimes you have to take a step back and recalibrate the things that you call urgent. But in order to manage stress and make sure it doesn’t show up in unwanted places in your life
- Trust your vision and value. You may have become accustomed to being a superhero, putting everything on your shoulders so that the people you care about don’t have to bear the burden. However, by focusing too much on overdelivering, you sometimes lose sight of the true value you bring – your purpose, your intent, your perspective, your vision. This is the foundation of your value. Don’t get caught up in delivering bells and whistles. Focus on communicating and delivering your value, your way. Everything else is just a feature, and features only matter when the core product and value are strong.
I hope these insights will help you prioritize your own self-care and keep your vision and value in focus.