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Busy, high-stress routines are killing your ability to succeed. Try these three reflections to get back on track

By doing this intentional work now, you set yourself up for months filled with purpose, productivity, and possibilities.

Busy, high-stress routines are killing your ability to succeed. Try these three reflections to get back on track
[Source photo: Rishabh Dharmani/Unsplash]

We all know the feeling: You go back to work after a long weekend or vacation feeling rested, recharged, and optimistic. But, just a few days later, it seems like you barely had a break at all. You’re right back in the same old busy, high-stress routines. And your big goals quickly fall by the wayside.

So how can you stop this from happening? As someone who regularly coaches executives and has created the New Lens platform to provide leadership development for everyone, I love teaching others how to intentionally set themselves up for success.

By taking a little time now to reflect and look ahead, you will realize a payoff all year long. Here are three questions that always unlock big insights for my clients and program participants. See what they bring up for you.


To start strong, first take a look back at how far you’ve come. What were your big wins? As high performers, we rarely take time to celebrate our successes. Instead, we’re on to the next thing on our to-do list. We also tend to focus on what needs fixing instead of what’s working well. But when we do this, we miss out on an opportunity to fill our energetic tanks. So go ahead and hype yourself up! You deserve it.

Next, let’s take things a step further. Now that you’ve noticed your wins, think about what most helped you in achieving them. What strengths, skills, knowledge, or mindset truly enabled you to get the results you did? Your unique qualities might feel like second nature to you, but they’re actually a really big deal. And once you’re aware of them, you can start to get more intentional about using them and even teaching others how to do what you do.


On the other hand, I’m sure there are some things you’d rather just leave behind. What have you been tolerating for far too long? What problems have you put off addressing? Don’t let them hold you back for another year. Do you have a direct report who drains your energy?

Manage your mindset and your boundaries with them. For example, expect them to show up as they always do and schedule your one-on-ones with them with a hard stop. Are you neglecting strategic work because you’re always “in the weeds” on daily tasks? Start delegating more to your team. (If you feel like you are overloading your team, remind yourself that delegating with development in mind is good for your team members because it helps them gain exposure and build their skills.)

Of course, obstacles don’t just come from other people. You might be holding yourself back. A common stumbling block I see with my clients is negative self-talk. Sometimes it’s hard to shut off the gloomy loop that keeps repeating in your head. But there are ways to break the cycle. One reason we feel more cheerful and optimistic after the holiday break is that the change in our daily routine “reboots” our brains. Don’t forget about this during the rest of the year: use your vacation time, take a new route to the office, work from a different location, or learn something new.

Where do you feel off-kilter?

Because work-life balance means something different for everyone, I don’t give my clients a prescribed formula for how to spend their time. Instead, I take them through a “wheel of life” assessment.

This is an exercise that’s easy to do on your own, too. Take a piece of paper, draw a large circle, and divide it into six equal sections. Label each of the six sections with one of your top priorities. These are personal to you; no one’s wheel will look the same. Then rate yourself on each area using a scale of 0-10 by drawing a line across the section. A zero rating would be at the center of the wheel and a perfect 10 would be along the outer edge.

If you rated yourself a perfect 10 in all areas, you would have a smooth, round wheel. Most of us, however, find that our wheel is quite bumpy. For example, perhaps advancing your career and improving your fitness are both high priorities for you. But while the career “spoke” of your wheel is at a 10, the fitness spoke is only a two because you’ve been putting in too many hours.

After reviewing how you ranked yourself, pick one area as a priority to improve. Resist the temptation to tackle everything at once so that it’s not overwhelming. Instead, just identify the first step you will take and exactly when you will take it. Once you accomplish that step, define the next one.

By doing this intentional work now, you set yourself up for months filled with purpose, productivity, and possibilities. When obstacles arise—as they inevitably will—you will have established the habits and mindset to handle them. Rather than getting swept up in a reactive whirlwind, you’ll lead from a place of self-awareness. And you’ll proud not just of what you accomplished, but of how you accomplished it.

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Neena Newberry is the president of Newberry Solutions, the creator of New Lens, and adjunct faculty member at SMU Executive Education. More

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