By Bart Fischer, Sr Public Administrator, WSB
Welcome to Q4! Over the past year, I’ve been writing quarterly updates that offer advice for public professionals – what to watch out for, plan for and anticipate. This update is slightly different. My past articles have largely focused on ways you can serve your community and your residents. However, the end of the year is always a great time to reflect on how you can better yourself, which in turn makes you better able to effectively serve your communities. It goes without saying that 2020 has been a year with unprecedented challenges and unknowns. As public administrators, we are often on the front lines of managing challenges as we do our best to provide some form of stability and certainty in our organizations, professional lives and personal lives. We are often looked to as the problem solvers and are the people others rely on for help, direction and support.
This responsibility provides professional meaning and value, we are always up for that challenge. However, it leads to a question: are we taking care of ourselves too? International City/County Managers Association (ICMA) Executive Director Marc Ott recently wrote in his blog about this very topic. While we are prone to putting our energy and passion into helping others, there is a real danger in not helping and taking care of ourselves. Sometimes it may seem counterintuitive; however, if we aren’t attending to our needs, health and emotional well-being, we often are less effective at helping others.
As we move into the 4th quarter of 2020, let’s look at five ways we can take care of ourselves.
Maintaining, Building and Expanding a Support System
Let’s face it, we need others to help us through the tough times. Now is not the time to isolate yourself from those that can, and are willing to, help you. I have seen it in myself as well as my family. It’s almost easier to “hole up” and self-isolate during these times of social distancing. This is actually the time we need to utilize, build, and expand our support system both professionally and personally.
Take the time to reach out to and attend professional networking opportunities, even if they are virtual. If you do not have a close network of peers that you can go to in times of crisis, consider starting such a group.
On a more personal level, take the time to be with family and friends. It may look different this year, but as the holiday season approaches, take the opportunity to safely gather with family and friends. Focus on those relationships that give you energy and that truly matter in your life.
Focus on What You Can Control
As we have been working together to meet the challenges and unknowns of 2020 at WSB, our COO Jon Chiglo has continued to remind us to, “Focus on what you can control.” There will be many things that will demand attention, worry and concern from us. Often, these are the things we cannot control. Seeking to focus on what you can control, much of which is our attitude and how we respond to situations, will lessen the stress of worrying.
A Healthy Lifestyle
Exercising and eating right are the areas I struggle with the most. I love food and I like the couch! We all have heard the studies that shows how eating right, exercising and getting the proper amount of sleep are excellent for physical and mental health. A couple of practices that I have put into place to help in my struggles are to track my food intake and maintain a calorie counter. I also track my exercise. This tracking allows me to set goals and compare how I am doing month to month. In addition, having an accountability coach is also very motivating. My wife and kids do a great job of keeping me honest in these areas. Finally, since I schedule everything else that I do, I also try to carve out time and schedule sleep into my calendar. I find that a calendar notification going off is more of a motivator than I realized.
Energy Boosting Activities
Just as it is important to be with people that give you energy, it is also important to do those things that give you energy. Carve out that time to do what you love. Again, put it in your calendar and keep that time sacred. For me, it is kayaking, playing board games, and Friday pizza and movie night with my family. Also, meeting friends or extended family on a patio or deck just to catch up and swap stories. Whatever it is for you, make sure you are intentional about creating opportunities to recharge your batteries with activities that boost your energy level.
Taking uninterrupted times of solitude and spiritual reflection are also a vital way in which to take care of yourself. No matter how you practice interpersonal or spiritual reflection, you must take the time to do it. It is difficult with family and work schedules tugging at every spare minute; however, taking the time to quietly disconnect for even an hour per week, will pay dividends in your health and productivity.
Our families, friends, colleagues, and communities all rely on us for support and guidance. In order to do that and be our most effective selves, we need to be taking care of ourselves physically and mentally. Remember, you cannot effectively help others without first taking care of yourself.
Bart has been a City Administrator/Manager in the public sector for over 16 years. He is a strategic leader known for relationship development and connecting people around common themes and goals. Bart’s experience lies in leading and creating an organizational culture of collaboration where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
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