Permission to pace

by | Jan 22, 2021 | Leadership

I took the opportunity of Christmas being “cancelled” to plough on with getting my book ready for the deadline with my editor. After a final push, I despatched the manuscript the Saturday before last. And then I fell off a cliff.

Not literally. I just felt exhausted and under the weather for almost a week. I tried to work, but I was struggling to function. It wasn’t that I’d been working all hours – I’d been protecting my sleep and exercise on a daily basis and taking weekends off. But I hadn’t clocked that I was out of gas from the sustained effort of driving towards the deadline.

I’m hearing alot of people around me say how fatigued they’re feeling right now.

Interestingly, a survival psychologist quoted in the weekend papers said that this may be because the Covid/lockdown situation has been going on so long and we don’t know when it’s going to end so our body/brain is adapting to what it perceives as a sort of captive situation – we don’t know when it’s going to end – by conserving energy levels.

My husband is a long-distance road cyclist and I was dipping into a book he had lying around called “Endurance” by Mark Beaumont. One sentence jumped out at me, “The endurance bike rider is always protecting themselves for tomorrow, making their ride sustainable”. A key element of “protecting themselves for tomorrow” that Beaumont calls out is recovery, the opportunity for the body (and mind) to heal and adapt.

Right now, it seems that we’re essentially in an endurance situation.

That means we need to “protect ourselves” in the same way as an endurance bike rider – for the benefit of our own physical, mental and emotional health, but also to be able to be there for the people who need us whether that be family and friends or, if you’re a manager or leader, your team and colleagues.

That means firstly living and working at a pace that you can sustain for the long distance and, secondly, building in recovery. We don’t always realise we’re running out of resources until it’s too late, unlike our car which has a fuel gauge to keep us posted.

So you might like to ask yourself :

  • Is the pace you’re working at sustainable for you? Pace is a very individual thing – what works for you might not work for your colleague.
  • What recovery time do you need, on what frequency and what duration? How does that marry up with the recovery you’re actually allowing yourself?!
  • Finally, what permission do you need to give yourself to resource yourself? We are most often our hardest taskmaster.

What do you think? Drop me a line at


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Alison Reid is an experienced executive coach who helps senior managers and directors lead with confidence and step-change their influence and impact. She works with them 1-1, empowering them to focus on what matters, communicate with impact and stay calm under pressure so they can lead themselves and others to great results. She's the author of Unleash Your Leadership : How to Worry Less and Achieve More. Download an extract or buy the book.

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