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Regaining your rhythm: 7 practical actions to reclaim your energy

When leading coalitions, partnerships and teams, you have an endless list of “potential” priorities. Each time you receive an email – or teams, slack, or text message – you could pile on another role, responsibility or task to your already busy schedule. But is that what you SHOULD do? How do you decide? How do you not become completely overloaded and overwhelmed? How can you discern what is really yours to own vs. what others can lead? You want to take care of the people you are serving, make a real difference in the world and be someone who gets things done.  While these are all important, we only have a limited amount of time – and more importantly – energy. And we also want to spend time and energy in other areas of life that are also extremely important – our family, friends and self care. If you find yourself moving from one thing to another but struggling to clarify your own priorities, then this series is for you! Join me over the next eight weeks as we explore seven practical actions that can help you prioritize your work as a coalition leader.

Press the “pause” button.

When you are struggling with multiple people requesting your attention, many decisions to make and potential coalition priorities, the pressure to quickly respond can be overwhelming. And yet, when we respond too fast, we set ourselves up for more options and decisions that need to be made.  We get caught up in just doing something that we forget what is most important for us to be doing and what makes sense for others to be doing. Although it’s easy to think we need to immediately answer “yes” or “no,” one of the best ways to prioritize our coalition work is to pause. Take time to reflect, walk, write and consider your priorities and your purpose as a coalition. 

  • What is most important to you and your coalition right now?
  • What is it that only you can do? 
  • What is it that other people could do? 
  • What have you already said “yes” to that would prevent you from saying “yes” to a new opportunity right now?

One of my closest friends and colleagues asked me to consider an opportunity that is a perfect fit for my skills and interests but it happened to be at the same time as my daughter’s Valentine’s party at school. I had already told my daughter “yes,” so when I reflected and paused on the decision, I knew I needed to decline this new opportunity. Although my first inclination was to try to do both and see if my husband could go to the Valentine’s party and I could somehow figure out a way to come late, when I paused and allowed myself time to reflect, I knew what I needed to do. 

Prioritize activities that you both enjoy and are good at doing.

How many times do you end up doing something just because you are good at it? Do you find yourself working in areas where you have lots of experience but no longer have an interest? Are you spending endless hours working on something that you enjoy but do not have the skills to do well? If you are answering “yes” to any of these questions, you are not yet working on the types of things that Michael Hyatt and Megan Hyatt Miller call the “Desire ZoneTM.” You want to spend most of your time doing things that you both enjoy doing and are good at doing. When discerning your priorities as a coalition leader, the more you can spend time doing things that fit this category (enjoy doing + good at doing), the more everyone will benefit. If you are struggling with knowing what those areas are, then practice pausing (#1), reflecting and making a list.

Create an ideal week

Creating an ideal week is one of the most proactive things you can do with your time. Rather than remaining reactive to everyone else’s schedule, determine the days and times you will have “meetings” to create space for the things that require focus and creativity. In the past few months, I have encountered more challenges in scheduling meetings than I can ever remember. Perhaps this is because more people are setting up their own ideal weeks or maybe we just have too many competing priorities. The ideal week gives you protected space to work on the things that are most important to you. Although it may be difficult to say “no” to a meeting or an opportunity, in order to focus on your priorities as a coalition leader, this is necessary. The ideal week provides the boundaries and guidance on your schedule. When we do not set up an ideal week and block time on our calendars, we are at risk for letting everyone else’s priorities be more important than our own. When this happens, we can become overwhelmed and ineffective in our existing priorities and commitments.

Delegate with strategy and intention.

When you get really clear on your Desire Zone™ activities, this will help you clarify your own coalition roles and responsibilities. Once you have gained clarity on what you need to be doing, you can consider the roles and responsibilities for other coalition staff and leaders. When everyone is working in areas where they are enjoying the work and really good at the work, then everyone wins. This process also helps you and your coalition recognize which areas need to be delegated and to whom. While you may not currently have the option to delegate everything that does not fit within your Desire Zone™, you can begin by focusing on those things that you are both not good at and do not enjoy. As you assess your coalition team and your current priorities, you can also determine the kinds of staff, leaders or other team members you need to recruit to participate with you. The things that you enjoy may not be what others enjoy and vice versa. We all have unique gifts, skills and interests and when we take the time to reflect and be strategic, we can delegate effectively. When we delegate well, we have time to focus on our priorities and our areas of greatest interests and skills. This helps us and our coalition!

Be brave and say “no”.

As coalition leaders, we are focused on making a difference and a greater impact together than we could on our own. One of the challenges in this work is recognizing that in order to make an impact, we have to prioritize. This can be particularly challenging for those of us who may be “recovering people pleasers.” 🙂 Since coalition building is all about relationships, we want to honor and support those relationships. However, if we do not practice our “no” then we will not be able to honor and support those relationships because we cannot follow through. We cannot be everything to everyone and when we say “yes,” we are automatically saying “no” to other things. If we are going to be effective coalition leaders and honor the priorities that we set, we have to be brave and say “no” often so that we can honor our “yes’s.” When we practice “no,” we can also give other people opportunities that would not be possible if we said “yes” to every meeting, project or workgroup. The brave “no” also relates to protecting other areas of our life that are important to us. When we give all of our “yes’s” to our coalitions, we do not have any more time or space for anyone or anything else that is important to us. Our brave “no” will protect our priorities in all areas of our lives.

Develop positive daily and weekly routines.

Within each day, we have many decisions about how to spend our time and can create habits that hinder our ability to focus on our priorities. For instance, when you begin working, what is your process for beginning the day? Do you reflect on what you want to accomplish and what you need in order to have the energy for the day or do you open up your email, slack, teams or social media and begin reacting? When we create routines – or rituals – as I learned by using the Full Focus Planner, we can have the energy and focus for our priorities as coalition leaders. When we develop positive routines, such as eating healthy meals, exercising, praying, meditating, connecting with loved ones, beginning and ending our workday with intention and giving space for rest and play during our non-work time, we are able to be more effective in all areas of life. As a coalition leader, you are in the role of “giving” most of the day. Although this work can be rewarding, it can also lead to burnout and exhaustion. When you create positive routines and habits, you are able to lead yourself and your coalition well.

Practice self compassion.

As you are learning to prioritize your work as a coalition leader, there will be days and weeks that you say “yes” too many times, you do work that someone else could be doing, you ignore your positive routines or give up time in your ideal week. When this happens, acknowledge the discouragement and practice being kind to yourself. Talk with yourself as you would talk with a friend who may be experiencing a similar situation. Be willing to give yourself grace and try again. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, Kristin Neff has resources and practices to implement. Self compassion is also a concept emphasized in one of my favorite Brené Brown books, The Gifts of Imperfection. In our work as coalition leaders, we set the example and the tone for our overall coalition. When we practice self compassion, we give our staff, leaders and others encouragement to also practice self compassion.

As you reflect upon these seven practices, which one would you like to start with as you prioritize your work as a coalition leader?

Photo by Lee Pigott on Unsplash

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