Leaders: Here’s How to Make Self-Care a Priority

Janey Zitomer
May 26, 2020

When home is your work and work is your home, daily commutes no longer serve as a physical boundary between the time for taking calls and the time for relaxing with a partner or kids. As a result, workdays can feel longer and less productive, leading to possible burnout. 

While mental health risks might be high stakes, how can executives realistically make time in the day for self-care?

The following Austin tech leaders designate blocks on their calendars for unwinding through exercise or a quick team happy hour. They also stressed the importance of leading by example. 

“If you are working more than 60 hours a week at the office while encouraging your team to have a work-life balance, I bet they are also struggling to prioritize self-care,” Pushnami CEO Emerson Smith said.

To that end, Smith recommends that leaders remind employees of their access to wellness resources and opportunities for social connection. Just remember that those assets are for everyone to take advantage of, even the C-Suite.

A Cloud Guru
A Coud Guru

At 5 p.m. each day, Smith closes his laptop and spends quality time with his family and friends. He said that creating those boundaries has been essential to his productivity, and a priority he’s shared with his team.  

 

What does self-care look like for you? 

A healthy diet and physical lifestyle are some of my top self-care priorities. I rotate between yoga at Modo Yoga, lunchtime classes at Orangetheory Fitness, or strength training workouts at Travis County Strength. 

At Pushnami, we offer free classes for any employee at those studios and others. I get pumped when I see Pushnami employees at sessions with me.  

Relationship self-care is also essential. I prioritize close relationships in my life with my wife, three children, family and friends. I leave the office every day by 5 p.m. to ensure I make them as much a priority as my work. Some days it’s easier than others, but it’s those connections that help drive me forward and give me motivation while keeping me from burnout.   

 

How do you ensure you’re making time for self-care throughout the week?

Have a schedule and stick to it. I take one or two hours every day at lunch to workout and I leave the office every day at 5 p.m. As CEO, I have competing priorities. Prioritizing and scheduling those key self-care moments outside of work — whether it’s a workout, a night out with my wife or just being there to have quality time with my kids — has kept me healthy, rested and happy.

Developing new habits takes weeks.’’

What’s the most important piece of advice you have for leaders who are feeling burnt out or struggling to make self-care a priority?

Practice what you preach. Your team looks to you to determine their work ethic and self-care priorities. If you are working more than 60 hours a week at the office while encouraging your team to have a work-life balance, I bet they are also struggling to prioritize self-care. 

Take a step back, cut out overly burdensome tasks and focus on you. Developing new habits takes weeks. Change won’t come overnight, but it will affect you and your team for the better.  

 

Tim O’Hara 
Vice President of Client Experience

For Iodine Software’s vice president of client experience, self-care looked different pre-COVID-19 than post-COVID-19. Recently, Tim O’Hara has been taking longer breaks to clear his head and stay focused. Throughout his career, he’s found that setting his own schedule and honestly communicating those hours to his team can make all the difference. 

 

What does self-care look like for you?

At Iodine, we have prioritized the needs of our employees in these challenging times. We hold weekly company meetings that include special guests like farm animals and magicians, we decorate our webcam backgrounds, and we let everyone have Friday afternoons off. As a leader, I find organizing and participating in these activities is a form of self-care. I feel personal joy and connection when my colleagues are united in laughter and community. 

But those new activities on top of an already busy schedule can certainly be draining. And so self-care for me also includes taking longer breaks during the day than I normally would to ensure that my energy is not depleted by back-to-back video conferences. Lunch with my family has been a special treat.   

 

How do you ensure you’​​​​​​​re making time for self-care throughout the week?

I schedule my self-care in the same way that I schedule my professional responsibilities: on my Iodine calendar (with the visibility settings on private). This includes lunch, one or two breaks during the day and check-ins with people outside of work. Second, I enlist my family to ensure that I’m not checking email during meals, am taking walks in the evening and am having fun on the weekend.   

I enlist my family to ensure that I’m not checking email during meals.’’

What’s the most important piece of advice you have for leaders who are feeling burnt out or struggling to make self-care a priority?

Despite all of the above, I have definitely had periods of stress during which my self-care took a hit. In my mind, it is most important to identify things that matter most to you and, if you feel comfortable, share those priorities with your co-workers and supervisor. I remember feeling some trepidation when, many years ago, I told my boss that I wanted to leave work each day at 4 p.m. in order to have quality time with my young kids each evening. He was very supportive and it restored balance to my life that I had been struggling to achieve. 

 

Tyson Goeltz
Head of Sales

Tyson Goeltz makes self-care a priority through balance and boundaries. The head of sales at edtech company A Cloud Guru said he marks time on his calendar for runs and catch-up sessions with loved ones. 
 

What does self-care look like for you? 

It’s important to have a firm, dividing line between working time and personal time. I set clear boundaries for myself. I make sure my laptop doesn’t leave my home office and I only use the home office up until a specific time during the day. 

I focus on personal relationships through Facebook portal calls with family and weekly virtual happy hours with good friends. I also make the time to maintain personal fitness by using our running stroller three times per week. 

 

How do you ensure you’re making time for self-care throughout the week?

Every day, I have 30-minute increments of time blocked out in my calendar. I encourage all of my direct reports to do the same. During these blocks of time I play with my son, have lunch with my wife or jump on the bike for a quick workout. I look forward to the little things in my daily routine.

Self-care is not selfish.’’  

What’​​​​​​​s the most important piece of advice you have for leaders who are feeling burnt out or struggling to make self-care a priority?

Self-care is not selfish. It’s more important than ever that leaders create a sense of harmony in their lives. Leaders set the tone for a team, department and even the company at large. This is an opportunity to demonstrate leadership during challenging times.

 

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