Picture the scene… I found myself on a British Airways A320 sitting in seat 11D. Again. Just a short hop back to Heathrow from Frankfurt, and the two colleagues (not my colleagues) next to me were arguing over which football stadium we were flying over on the easterly approach. I politely pointed out that it was Twickenham, and the smaller one next to it was the Twickenham Stoop.
“Are you sure?” Mr 11E said. “I’m pretty sure…” I replied, “this must be about the tenth time I’ve taken this approach in the last couple of months.”
It gave me pause for thought. With a young baby at home – yep, that’s him; and, yes, he must get his good looks from the other half of the genes – what pressures make us drive ourselves to be out there, away, working hard, working late?
I considered the wider world of work. In the ever-increasing reality of connectedness (we’re never really ‘off’), and with economies, boards and shareholders forcing companies to drive for more and more from less and less – what are we actually to do?
I reflected on where I was at that moment in 11D, and it made me realise that despite working for a small agency that genuinely values work-life balance, I was pretty much at the end of myself. 2017 had been an amazing year, and a very busy year.
A great Christmas / New Year break followed, back in Northern Ireland with extended family doting over the newborn, and wine and cheese on repeat like a good record.
But January 3rd arrived pretty quickly and, without meaning to, I found myself straight back to 100 miles an hour. Added to that a hugely exciting business growth and development plan, recruitment, office, change… it wasn’t a recipe that immediately screamed, “more balance!”
However, last week I found myself in a log cabin in the Austrian mountains, (working, honest! That’s actually the place). I had been leading an onboarding programme for two days, and then spent the previous day from 8am until 5:30pm quite literally not getting up from my laptop at the desk in my hotel room. This Thursday was a train-the-trainer session to get some others and me up to speed on new content for a programme with Red Bull. The topic was mindfulness, and while I firmly believe in the neuroscience behind the topic, its use as a buzzword has put me off a bit in the past.
So with my conscious mind whirring with the practicalities of what I needed to do to get up to speed on the topic, and inside, my little angry Andy voice shouting “just give me the info so I can learn it!” there was a moment that struck me, quite out of the blue.
The snow had been falling outside for about an hour, and the windows were steaming up just a tiny bit around the edges of the frames. As I looked out, a phrase that had already been mentioned earlier in the day hit me. Not in my busy conscious mind… but somewhere much, much deeper.
“Stress isn’t the problem. It’s the lack of recovery that will kill you.”
Athletes have known this truism for years, and I knew it as a piece of information. But in an instant my attitude, frame of mind, and physical state altered. I’d been focusing on the busyness, the flights, the programmes, the clients and participants, the business growth – effectively, the stress. But all of that is good. It’s brilliant being busy. It’s brilliant running a small agency that does amazing work with amazing clients and people; that hadn’t been the problem at all. Since my musings in 11D all I had focused on was the stress, not the recovery.
So that’s me now: Mr Recovery. I’ve decided. I don’t mean taking a monthly holiday; I mean focusing on that brain recovery time each and every day. The quiet pauses, the five-minute walk out of the office, the 4am night feed. I choose to notice and make these moments of recovery, not just moments that pass me by.
2018 is looking like it’s going to bigger, better and busier than any year before for both me and the business. My plan for myself is that I use it to recover… constantly.