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The world’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is frequently described as a war; a label that I believe is wholly appropriate.
But every war is made up of a series of battles. And between each battle there is a ‘lull’ or ‘tactical pause’.
A lull is a period of quiet or calm in a longer period of activity or excitement. With regards to the war against COVID-19, I’m hopeful for a short period of activity, but planning for a longer campaign.
A tactical pause is a common term in military parlance. When commanders are unsure of what lies ahead, they pause for a moment to look, listen and think. Whether we’re leading an Army Battle-Group, a civilian business unit or charitable organisation, a tactical pause can bring significant benefits for the individual leader, and their entire team.
My concern right now for leaders, for their teams and for our loved ones, is that we aren’t allowing the lulls to take place. Failing to consciously take a tactical pause will have a very real and very serious impact on our collective physical and mental health, as well as a detrimental impact upon our organisations.
For many of us in business, the New Year started at pace. We returned to work, refreshed from Christmas, full of New Year vigour and motivation. Few of us will have taken a break during this period, choosing instead to ‘push on through’ until the first pre-determined holiday at Easter.
This has certainly been my reality and something that I’ve committed to doing differently next year. I will take a four-day weekend, at least, towards the end of February 2021 to rest and recuperate. This will be a new standard operating procedure (SOP) in my business.
The past few weeks have been demanding; physically, mentally and emotionally. Everyone is tired. None of us are working at full capacity.
We were tired before COVID-19 hit our countries, businesses and communities. And then things got a hell of a lot more taxing in every dimension of our lives.
Researchers such as Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz have studied how physical, emotional and mental energy capacity all feed upon one another. They have shown that, at the physical level, the increased fatigue that results from too little sleep or poor fitness makes it more difficult to concentrate.
At the emotional level, feelings such as anxiety, frustration and anger interfere with focus and undermine optimism, especially in the face of high demand. From an energy perspective, negative emotions are costly and ineffective. Loehr and Schwartz liken them to a gas-guzzling car – they deplete our energy reserves at an alarming rate.
With this is mind, I encourage you and your teams to make the most of the lull that the Easter weekend affords us, where possible. It can be tempting to cancel our holiday plans. What’s the point in wasting annual leave when we’re confined to our houses, right?
Wrong. That would be a very costly mistake.
If you were planning to take a week off, then maybe just take three days instead. Personally, I was planning to take a full week’s vacation in addition to the four-day weekend. I’ve now decided that I’ll take three whole days off, and work in the mornings only for the other two.
I need a break and I need to invest some time in renewal activities.
Whatever you do this Easter, please take a tactical pause. For your own wellbeing, and so that you can lead your people through the rest of this war against COVID-19.
In order to help, I’ve produced a Tactical Pause Checklist that you can download for free by clicking here (no email required) or from the Tools and Resources page of the website.
Stay well, stay connected and #LeadOn.