This past year I have not managed my leave well. I took a large chunk of it upfront in January, which left the rest of the year one long slog with little or no reprieve. In running terms, I shot out the gates too soon and was left having to stagger over the finish line, instead of sprint over it. Lesson learnt.
Now, imagine that your health and energy are a bucket of water.
In your day-to-day life, there are things that fill your bucket up. These are inputs like sleep, recreation, nutrition, time with friends, time off, prayer or meditation, etc.
There are also forces that drain the water from your bucket. These are outputs like work stress, relationship problems, lifting weights, difficult conversations, etc.
Of course, as James Clear notes, “The forces that drain your bucket aren’t all negative. To live a productive life, it can be important to have some of the things flowing out of your bucket.” Working hard in the gym or at the office allows you to produce something of value. To make an impact.
But even positive outputs are still outputs and they drain your energy accordingly.
These outputs are also cumulative. Even a little leak can result in significant water loss over time.
I usually exercise four times a week. For a long time I thought I should be able to handle five or six days a week. However, every time I added the extra workouts in, I would be fine for a few weeks, and then end up exhausted or slightly injured about a month into the program.
This was frustrating. Why could I handle it for four or five weeks, but not longer than that?
Eventually I realised the issue: stress is cumulative. Four days per week was a pace I could sustain. When I added that fifth or sixth day in, the additional stress started to build and accumulate. At some point, the burden became too big and I would get exhausted or sick.
Of course this is not just true of physical stress. The stress of building a business or finishing an important project. The stress of parenting your young children or dealing with a bad boss or caring for your aging parents.
It all adds up.
I may be able to get away with one or even two years of poorly managed leave, but if I don’t change something, I’ll be completely depleted by year three or four. Similarly, nothing drains your bucket like unresolved relational tension. Unforgiveness, bitterness, anger – these are slow leaks that over time leave you completely empty.
That is why it is so important to figure out what fills your bucket up. Because recovery is non negotiable. You can either make time to rest and rejuvenate now or make time to be sick/injured/burnt-out later.
So be intentional about refilling your bucket on a regular basis. That means catching up on sleep, making time for laughter and fun, eating enough to maintain solid energy levels, time with family, and otherwise making time for rest and recovery.
Because a FULL bucket leads to a FULL-filling life!