A prospector walked his old mule into the dusty Western town, tied it to a hitching post outside of the local saloon, and went inside for a drink. A few minutes later, another prospector walked his mule to the hitching post, tied it up, and went inside. The first mule noticed that the second mule was so laden with heavy gear that its back was bowed; its belly nearly dragged on the ground.
Finally, the first mule said to the second, "Pardon me, but how do you handle carrying that load?"
The second mule blinked and replied, "What load?"
In our lives, it's easy to take on so many responsibilities and tasks that we become bent under the weight. We lose the ability to notice how burdened we have become. While we may realize that we're constantly exhausted and that we're not thinking with the same acuity as we did in the past, we don't clearly understand why. Blaming our age or circumstance is a common, and mostly ineffective scapegoat for this lack of awareness.
Building in and honoring rest stops in your routine, much like we do when we're taking a long drive, allows you step to away from the journey and gain some perspective. With this gift of perspective, you can see more clearly if you have taken on more than you should-the emotional burdens of team members, the responsibilities of direct-report colleagues-and if so, the effect it's having on you. Only when you see the load you're carrying can you make provisions to manage it, shed some of it, or even take on more if the situation calls for it.
Are you aware of the load you're carrying? How would a dose of "load management" affect your leadership and your life?