I coach high performers who share a common problem: they are great at getting stuff done but at the cost of their energy and happiness.

Consider your energy levels right now —

  • How would you rate your energy level out of 10? 
  • How would you rate your level of joy out of 10? 
  • How would you rate your stress levels out of 10?

If you have answered anything over seven, then you clearly have remote work figured out. If you answered a seven or below, it’s time to consider a new approach to how you manage your days.

Shift from your comfort zone into the courage zone

The way forward is to move out of your comfort zone and plunge into the depths of your courage zone.

Courage means coming face to face with your biggest enemy, something you fear the most — white space in your calendar. Not only do you need the courage to face this foe, but you need to become friends with it, embrace and hang out with it for a while.

White space in your calendar brings up many fears in you. You are worried about wasting time and can’t bring yourself to use that time for anything that is not work-related.

Taking the plunge and using that hour for yourself brings up even more fears, such as stillness equals stagnation. The biggest fear of all is that if you slow down slightly, you’ll land up in mediocrity.

The best antidote to anxiety is exposure; if you are scared of heights, go and climb a mountain. If you fear mediocrity, go and do something non-work-related for an hour and discover not only are you more energised, but you have time for it.

How can you reframe your mindset to time and move from your comfort zone of ‘doing’ into your courage zone of ‘being’?

What is your story for success?

“Slow down to speed up” — Rich Litvin

Consider your role models for success and what you think success should look like? Depending on who you follow or listen to, you will hear phrases like ‘sleep when you’re dead, success is about the grind’, and these become your blueprint for achievement.

Your story becomes that to be successful; I must push as hard as I can. You begin to associate recovery time as weakness and couldn’t even contemplate giving yourself a few extra hours of sleep.

I am sure you have come across the research on sleep and productivity, which shows that anything below 7 hours of sleep will dramatically decrease your productivity.

Pulling all-nighters and bragging how you only got 4 hours of sleep is no longer a badge of honour. It’s like boasting to someone you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. They will look at you like you’re mad.

Have you stopped to consider if there is a different way? If you only listen to people who tell you to grind it out, no wonder you have a distorted view of success. Consider broadening your perspective and understanding how some of the most accomplished people incorporate recovery and stillness as part of their success formula.

In an interview, Jeff Weiner, The CEO of LinkedIn, shared that “Part of the key to time management is carving out time to think, as opposed to constantly reacting.”

William Clay Ford Jr., Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company, shares that ‘Ford incorporates mindfulness meditation sessions and yoga classes into his company’s work culture so his employees can remain calm, alert, and productive’.

Here is the ultimate question to ask yourself:

Would I be proud to teach my approach to time management and productivity to my kids?

The truth is they don’t do as you say; they do as you do. Become aware of the blueprint you are modelling for your kids, and would you like them to emulate you?

Don’t fear white space.

Here is a profound thought — you are allowed to enjoy your workdays.

Think about what would an ideal average day look like? I’m not talking about anything beyond a typical weekday.

· What does it look like?

· How are you spending your time?

· What is your headspace like?

· Compare your dream “ideal day” to your current daily schedule. What could be improved?

· What are you not making enough time for?

· What are you no longer willing to tolerate?

Now that you have identified what’s missing take your calendar and block out time for something not directly work-related, even if it is thirty minutes. Better yet, start with 15 minutes.

Is it a hobby you want to progress, a creative passion like painting, photography, baking, or a skill set you want to develop?

When you think about doing this activity, it expands you and lights you up from the inside. The reality is that when you schedule it, you have every intention of doing the task in question, but when it comes down to it, your anxiety wins, and you convince yourself you don’t have enough time. 

This fear is a time scarcity mindset. It robs you of your ability to enjoy your days and see yourself as more than just work.

Exposure is the antidote to anxiety, and so are micro wins. It is about making progress on something that matters, no matter how small. Perhaps your first step was to order the equipment or download the course material.

You need to permit yourself to value time spent on something outside of work. You don’t need a return on investment for every minute of your day. You justify reading a business book because logically, it ties into your job but spending time outside taking photos feels like you are doing something wrong.

I’m not saying ignore your work obligations; you have to deliver on your outputs and commitments. Remember this — you don’t get rewarded for working hard; you get rewarded for working smart and delivering results.

Quality results can be achieved more effectively from a state of joy, appreciation, contentment, and expansion. From this state, your best ideas will flow, and you will make better decisions.

When you have spent time on something that matters to you, your energy will be at its highest because you have shifted yourself into a peak state.

You crave a different way of doing things, but no one is coming to give you permission to change. No company or person can give you work/life harmony; it is a choice.

What do you value?

You are not just your work; you have many roles, including partner, parent, sibling and friend. Where do you place more value?

If you only value work, you will find it difficult to value the time spent helping your kids with homework or having coffee with a friend.

When you begin to place value on all your roles, you will stop seeing the rest of your life as one big distraction to work.

Of course, work matters, and it’s where you spend most of your time, but only when you can place the same respect for your other roles can you begin to appreciate and enjoy them.

It’s easy to value time spent on work because it gives you a direct outcome, and you can justify the return on the moment. You can produce a tangible result like a spreadsheet or a report.

To move into your courage zone, you need to value time spent developing your future self where the immediate value is not tangible. It is the intangible joy that you need to place more value on. 

If you continue on the same trajectory where your day is purely about work, where will your future self be in one year?

· What will their headspace be like?

· What skills have they developed?

· What hobbies have they made progress on?

· What is the relationship like with their family and friends?

· What is their health and level of joy like?

How about valuing the time spent on learning a new hobby, watching a TED talk or just sitting in the garden for no reason at all other than to enjoy the sunshine and give yourself a breather?

If you don’t begin to change now, nothing will change in a year.

Final thoughts.

In his book ‘Emotional Courage’, Peter Bregman summed up this comfort zone dilemma so beautifully:

‘Here’s the key: you need to spend time on the future even when there are more important things to do in the present and even when there is no immediately and apparent return to your efforts. In other words — and this is the hard part — if you want to be productive, you need to spend time doing things that feel ridiculously unproductive’.

The most significant mindset shift to know you are in your courage zone is when you can value your happiness.

You don’t need a reason to justify the time spent on things that bring you joy — the joy is the outcome.

Creating space for intentional thinking and strategic pauses makes you more productive, not less. When you operate from a peak state, you will make better decisions and have even more energy to dedicate to work. You are bringing your whole self to the table, fully charged and ready for anything.

When you can value the intangible rewards that making time for yourself produces, your life will shift in ways you cannot imagine.

Here’s to stepping into your courage zone.

Warm wishes