Finish well, rest well, start well

‘This time of the year we tend to create time and space for other people but we seldom take time for ourselves,’ said Dr. André Kilian in the recent Elevate Webinar. ‘If you’re a leader – especially someone who has completely bought into the purpose and mission of an organisation, you’ll agree that there’s always others to tend to. That’s because good leaders look after their people first,’ he says. 

John Donohue said that many people who are secretly wary of work, have neither given themselves time, nor taken time out or away from work to allow their spirits to catch up.

‘This quote reminds me of the challenge many ministries face: often those who are leading and looking after others, don’t have time to do what is necessary to allow their spirits to catch up.

‘A couple of years ago I had an experience towards the end of the year. My mentor pointed out that because I love what I do so much and the fact that what I do is part of my calling, I want to have a full diary. He advised me to schedule a day for myself in advance before the December holidays and I had to commit to keeping the day open just for myself. At first I found the idea a bit strange but I did it. Soon enough I started looking forward to this particular day I had scheduled for that November. When the day finally arrived, I was so excited. I took some time walking in a labyrinth, I went to a coffee shop, and simply took time for myself. Slowly but surely reflections started happening. I have scheduled a similar day ever since. 

You see, we never truly disengage and allow ourselves to rest properly. We are constantly juggling various activities and multi-tasking, rarely doing one thing at a time anymore. We are everywhere but we are nowhere, and that has an impact on us spiritually. I believe that we need to end well to be able to rest well, to be able to start well. We have to be intentional about the way we engage and disengage. We need to reflect properly on the year that has passed so that we can engage properly with rest, as well as with the new year. In between we also need to intentionally disengage from things that have been demanding our attention.

Oftentimes we see 15 December as the goal post when we can crash into our holiday. By that time we are in escape mode and so mindless during this time because of the pressure of the year,’ he explained. 

André gave three ideas to help us stop and end the year well, to find simple rhythms of rest, and to start structuring whatever you need to start with in the new year.

1. Schedule time for yourself in advance, ideally before Christmas: Simply take two hours or half a day. Reflect on the year and capture it for yourself. Ask yourself ‘What is one thing I need to do while I’m resting?’ Map the year as you reflect on what you’ve done and take some time to reflect on the things you’re grateful for.

2. Audit your energy: Tony Schwartz believes that in order to be healthy – especially if we are in leadership – we need to audit our energy input and output. He maps it on four quadrants namely ‘performance’, ‘renewal’, ‘survival’ and ‘burn out’. We need to make sure we create space for renewal activities or exercises, be that keeping a gratitude diary or going for an intentional walk every day. Ideally, we need to move between ‘performance’ and ‘renewal’ in order to stay healthy. As soon as we land in the ‘survival’ quadrant for too long, it can lead to burn out. 

3. Look ahead: Map the year ahead. This is not about new year’s resolutions, but rather becoming mindful about your hopes, dreams, goals, healthy habits you want to build and renewal activities you want to do on a regular basis. It’s also helpful to settle on one word for 2021 ahead to help keep you on track.

In summary, intentional rest is not about ticking off a checklist. It’s about asking yourself how you are deliberately going to engage with rest. Create a space before the year ends to reflect and to map out your year ahead. Whatever you do, don’t crash into rest. Celebrate and remember. Engage in order to purposefully disengage.

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