Dan Tudor

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July 2nd, 2012

Looking to be a High Performance Coach? Take a Time Out!

by Mandy Green, University of South Dakota

Too many coaches these days have to retire early for health-related issues because they don’t take enough time off to be able to sit and enjoy life outside of their sport. Coaches are increasingly working longer hours, over the weekends, and skipping breaks in an effort to cram more work in.

Working hard is important, but you also need to take time to step back, evaluate, and re-energize yourself in order to be effective during the day and also so you can have sustained energy over the course of your career. Without enough time-off or time-for-yourself, you will eventually experience mental and physical fatigue, which will lead to a decrease in your quality of work, a lack of focus, and possible burnout.

More than that, your health may suffer and eventually you’ll reach a crisis point where you’re forced to take time off simply to regain your health, let alone enjoy life.

No matter how busy you may be Coach, taking breaks where you completely separate yourself from your work during the day will help to your clear head and will rejuvenate your mind – usually resulting in increased productivity.

Many studies have revealed that workers who take breaks are dramatically more productive during the day as opposed to those who do not. After a break these studies show that your performance levels increase dramatically so that you can tackle tasks again with renewed vigor and finish them accurately. Mistakes are also made more when you do not refresh your mind and body.

Stephen Covey, the best selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), has dedicated the final segment of his book to the subject of rest and rejuvenation. In his last chapter, titled “Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal,” Covey illustrates the importance of regular regeneration with the story of a man who exhausts himself trying to cut down a tree with a dull saw. “Taking time to sharpen the saw” he calls the seventh habit, which “surrounds the other habits [...] because it is the habit that makes all others possible.” Taking enough time to renew our strengths and resources is necessary to preserve and enhance the greatest asset we have, ourselves, Covey says.  This does not only include our physical health, but also our emotional, mental, social and spiritual well-being. Obviously, they are all intertwined and dependent on each other.

There are two break times that I am going to encourage you to take: Daily and every 90 days.

Schedule regular breaks into your busy day
In the morning when you are planning your day, schedule a 15 minute break time every 45-60 minutes to get up and move around.  It doesn’t have to be much, but you have to break your attention to keep your attention.  It is like refreshing your browser every 45 minutes.  These mental and physical breaks are appointments you make and keep with yourself that will allow you to perform consistently at higher levels throughout the course of the day
I would highly encourage some moving and stretching exercises to get your blood flowing. If you work mostly inside with no windows to open like I do, you should go outside for a little sun and fresh air. Go get some water, eat a healthy snack, go to the bathroom, etc.  Whatever you decide to do during this time, the point is to completely break away from what you were working on for a few minutes to clear your mind and rejuvenate your body.

Every 90 days, take a vacation
Every three months, go completely off the grid and take a break from your email, your phone, and from social media.  You can go somewhere different or just stay home but the point is to get away from work for a few days to physically and mentally rest and rejuvenate.  To confess something to you: As I am writing this article, I have been at my parent’s home in MN for the last 2 days.  I have been swimming in the neighbors pool with my 2 year-old, taking long walks, gone to a few garage sales, watched a  movie, but mostly we have sat out on the deck and relaxed watching the ducks in the pond behind my parents house.  I am very aware that I have a lot of unanswered emails, and some work is piling up, but I wouldn’t give away these rest days for the world.  After a couple of days resting, I am always amazed at how much more motivated I am to get back to work.  My focus is better, my energy is renewed, and I get 10 times more work done in the office right after I have come back from one of my mini vacations.

Coach, taking extra time off renews your energy and gives your body and mind much needed rest. When you do take this time off, you will find that you use your time more wisely when you are at work.