The discipline of recovery: how working an hour less each day gets more done

Just over two years ago I took on the role of CEO for an environmental organisation that was in deep trouble and about to go underwrites Morag Watson. Today our turnover is nearly half a million, our financial backers trust us once more, the staff are thriving and productivity is higher than ever. But this isn’t about how I turned the organisation around; it is about how I got through this relentless, demanding and stressful process without burning out.

I was inspired by Andy Murray, whose journey to becoming a Wimbledon champion is the very definition of relentless and demanding. He attributes his success, not to how hard he trained, but to his recovery regime. I have adapted two Natural Change practices into a daily recovery regime that enables me to remain effective in challenging times.

It takes discipline and commitment, but I carve out one hour every day to leave my desk and head for park behind the office.

First, I transition out of my working frame of mind…

My walk starts off as a high speed stride, reflective of the frenetic pace at which I’ve been working. I then deliberately slow my pace and my breathing; allowing my thoughts to slow with them. I now scan through my body searching for tension – are my shoulders hunched? my chest tight? my fists clenched? As I become aware of each tension, I consciously relax that area of my body.

Next, I shift my awareness to the environment…

I take time to notice the weather and how the seasons are affecting the living things I encounter. My challenge now is to maintain a light but clear focus on the living world, and not allow my mind to stray back to my work. I maintain this for about 45 minutes – the time it takes to complete a circuit of the park.

By the time I get back to the office, I’m clear headed and relaxed, having recovered from the demands of the morning and with the energy and clarity I need for the afternoon.

It’s counterintuitive to work an hour less each day to get more done…

But I would be fooling myself if I believed I could think clearly, make good decisions and be effective, day after day, month after month, year after year without my daily discipline of recovery.

Which is why, if you find yourself on the North Inch of Perth between 12.30 and 13.30 you’ll see me strolling by with a distant look in my eye.


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