Delighted to have a good friend and wonderful leader sharing her insight about leadership today as I travel – I know you’ll learn as much as I did when I read these insights. Welcome and thanks for sharing Brandy:
I’ve been reading the research on willpower, and it fascinates me. Psychology Professor Roy Baumeister uncovered this concept which states that humans only have x amount of self-control, and no matter what choice it is used on, it’s used up. Now let me give you my analogy.
We all have a Hershey bar of willpower. Some of us have the tiny two bite Halloween trick or treat size. Some of us have the normal size, and a lucky few of us have the giant movie theater 6 serving size. But whatever size your Hershey bar, every decision that you make in a day (even decisions that don’t appear to be related- like salad vs. greasy burger, or return your co-worker’s call or blow her off) is like breaking a block off the Hershey bar. And once it is gone, it’s gone for the day.
What’s that mean practically for your leadership and efficacy at work? It means that if it matters, you need to get it done in the MORNING. Each morning you get a fresh Hershey bar, you have reserves of energy and willpower and self-control that you simply will not have later in the day. It’s not a matter of how committed or focused you are, or how “tough” you are. We all eat up our Hershey bar throughout the day with each decision we make. Put bluntly, procrastination never helps, due to degraded decision making and self-control as the day wears on. So, once you admit that, what do you change about your day up your leadership? Here are some changes that I have made, which you might consider in the event they work for you.
Schedule your most important meeting for the morning. Ideally, make it a breakfast meeting. I never used to do breakfast meetings. I now embrace them. The level of conversation and enthusiasm is markedly higher. Also, not many people do them, so I’ve had greater luck with schedule availability.
When you can, get to work an hour earlier, and do NOT turn on your emails. Don’t answer your phone. (Get in early enough and your phone might not even ring.) Use that hour to focus on your most important project, without interruption. Or use it for the thing you never have time for- like updating your connections to grow your network.
Get your workout done before work.
Ok, I realize this one is painful, or at least it is for me. Rolling up to the gym at 5:30 am is not fun. But at 5;30, no one can stop me but me. There is no call, or meeting running long, or PTA event. At 5;30 PM- there are all of those things. (Plus my bar of willpower was gone by then!) So I was continually missing or blowing off my workout. Since I switched my workouts to the morning, I have only l missed one. And back to the willpower issue, do your best to make it not a decision at all. Set your alarm and lay out your gym clothes and water bottle the night before. Your full bar of willpower will get you there much more reliably than it ever could at night.
Plan your day before you start your day.
This was life changing for me. I used to roll up to work, open my email and start reading to see what I had to do that day. That was honestly how I started my day. Wow. Not impressive. Everyone was in control of my day, except me. Now I start my day with my email off, and a blank sheet of paper in front of me. I think it over, and write down what MY goals are for the day. What do I need to do before I leave? I start there, with plans and goals. Then I can open my emails.
Finally, when you can, have breakfast with the family.
When I don’t have a breakfast meeting before work, I try to have breakfast with my family. Nothing fancy- oatmeal works. But connecting when I am fresh and happy, mellow, usually on a post morning workout happy endorphin rush, that is magic. I am not a fresh happy mellow mom right after work, I admit. I’m stressed about dinner, and homework, and soccer practice, and something my jerk coworker said to me, and the dishes that always seem to fill my sink. My bar of willpower has often been consumed, and I may snap or be surly or quiet. Not so in the morning. So I treasure that special morning time with my family.
I hope these tips help. At least give one or two of them a try. I’ve been working on this system for about 5 months now, and it truly has changed my work life, my family life, and my fitness. Not a bad trade for getting up a little earlier in the morning!
Brandy is Managing Director & Counsel for GE Energy Financial Services. She represents GE in equity investments, M&A, debt, and project financings for energy companies in the upstream, midstream and power sectors in the US, Latin America, Asia and Australia. Brandy serves as the local Lean In leader for her GE Houston hub, and is a WEN mentor. She was named a Houston’s Best Corporate Counsel in 2013, and has been named a Super Lawyer Texas Rising Star multiple times. Brandy also serves on GE’s Diversity and Inclusion council. Brandy is passionate about pro bono work and has also been a foster mom to eight foster children and currently serves as legal guardian to five children in CPS care.