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Four Ways Rest Can Improve Your Leadership

How well did you rest last night? I’m serious about asking the question. Research reveals that a good night’s rest leads to more effective leadership. It is not a secret that eight hours of sleep is the recommended amount. But I get it, responsibilities with work, family, and participation in social commitments and activities often consume more than 16 hours of your day.  Since you can’t add hours to the day, too often there aren’t enough hours left to get the rest you need each night. 

Christopher Barnes, writing for the Harvard Business Review, writes, “Insufficient rest leads to poor judgment, lack of self-control, and impaired creativity.” His research shows that sleep-deprived leaders hurt the people entrusted to their care as well themselves. When not rested and balanced in their judgement, they are more likely to create an atmosphere where people are marginalized, feel less engaged, and might even behave less ethically.

Make Rest a Priority

So, what do we do? Some of us have convinced ourselves that we function just fine on four or five hours of sleep a night. Others of us have grown accustomed to working late and getting up early. Still, some of us wear sleep deprivation as a badge of honor. Because we often understand leadership as an activity, we resist rest, or at the very least, don’t take rest seriously enough to make it a priority in our leadership.  

What we know is this, rest is an important key to effective and productive leadership. To say it another way, regular and adequate rest provides you a greater chance to be the courageous leader that is needed for today. It provides you with the opportunity to have the stamina to move through the different situations and circumstances of leadership. It also provides you a greater possibility of leaving a legacy that impacts people into the future. When you get the rest needed, you experience greater productivity, improved health, and more meaningful relationships. 

Rest Fuels Leadership

Just think about it for a moment. What could you accomplish or help others accomplish if rest and relaxation were priorities in your life? When you do too much without sufficient rest, you are in danger of becoming frustrated with the people around you. You can only pour into others what you have first received yourself. Rest allows you to better serve and influence the people entrusted to your care. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Below are four ideas to help you implement rest into your life:

1. Make rest a priority 

  • Schedule a consistent bedtime and wake-up time. Even if you don’t go to sleep at your designated bedtime, it is helpful in developing a pattern of rest. 
  • Turnoff or set aside all electronics. Give your eyes as well as your mind an opportunity to rejuvenate and reset.
  • Once you have scheduled a consistent bedtime, stay with your schedule. Give yourself the opportunity to establish a new pattern for rest and relaxation.

2. Make a list of who and what refreshes and recharges you

  • Spend quality time with your family. Be present with your spouse and children. The time you spend with your family will not only recharge you but will set a standard for the people around you. How you interact with your family tells others who and what you value in life. 
  • Deepen special relationships. Spending quality time with a close friend can bring rest to your life as well as refresh your soul. Time with people you love and appreciate is irreplaceable. These relationships are with people who love you for who you are and allow you to be yourself. They add energy instead of taking energy away. 
  • Do activities that you enjoy and like to do.  Whether it is a hobby, some form of recreation, taking a walk, reading a book, or taking a nap, schedule time for what you enjoy doing. You might include family or friends. Whatever you do, this is your time. It is what you enjoy and like to do.
  • Nourish your spirit. When you nourish your spiritual life, your outward life will thrive. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).  Spending time with God, praying, reflecting, and meditating brings rest into our life.

3. Set aside time to reflect upon your day.

  • At the end of day, before bedtime, look back over the people and experiences of the day. Move from experience to experience. What opportunities did you take advantage of? What opportunities did you miss? What did you learn? Give God thanks for the people with whom you interacted and for what you have learned.
  • Make a note of the people who added value to your life. Are there people you want to thank for anything special? Individuals to whom you should apologize?  People to whom you should express your appreciation or care? This time provides an opportunity to learn the lessons that help you improve, but also provides an opportunity to clear your heart and mind of experiences that could keep you from a restful night. Looking back in reflection upon the day helps you gain clarity for looking ahead. 

4.Develop a balanced life.

  • As an effective and courageous leader, you need a healthy balance between your personal and professional life. It is not restful to take time off and continue to think about work or a task that needs to be accomplished. It is not fair to family or to friends to not be present when you are with them. Whether at work or at home, train yourself to be fully engaged in your present activity.
  • Rest requires being intentional and deliberate in disconnecting at appropriate times so you can be fully renewed and refreshed. 

Rediscover Rest

Rest allows you to rediscover the enthusiasm and energy you have for what you have been called to do. It is not only for your body, but for your mind and heart as well. When you include rest among your priorities, you will be a more effective leader who inspires better efforts of the people around you. Who you are is how you lead.

This week, what is one thing you will do to find the right rest rhythm for you? Will you set aside and protect the time for sleep? Will you find time to enjoy the relationship of a friend? Will you be intentional in setting aside time to reflect upon your day? How will you develop a balanced life which gives you an opportunity for the rest and relaxation you need to be an effective leader? 

Your Next Step

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I present some ways you might rest, relax, and play. Join us for Episode 183 to Explore What Makes Rest & Relaxation Possible. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past Episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

1 reply
  1. Amy Graham
    Amy Graham says:

    I am going to challenge myself for the remainder of the week to be in bed with television off by 10:00pm. I wake up at the same time each day but I don’t go to sleep at the same time.


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