Before you decide to pick up your pen and write a list of things that still need to be done before the upcoming camp season, sit back, take a breath and imagine how great it would feel to have the same energy at the end of the summer season as you do right now.
Wouldn't it be great to have some insurance against that worn-down, frazzled feeling when you feel like there are too many fires to put out, too many needy people, and eventually all that you can think of is how can you limp to the last day of camp with your sanity intact and with enough energy to celebrate making it through another camp season?
Listed below are five strategies that you could adopt as part of your personal management style. They are based on truths about keeping your sanity that we have discovered and admittedly have had to rediscover on many occasions. We hope that they will help you as much as they have helped us:
1. Saw Sharpening
Make a plan to take care of you first. Schedule into your day-planner a 30-minute block, three times each camp week, to sharpen the saw.
Sharpening the saw is one of Stephen Covey's Habits of Highly Effective People. It means taking time to renew your energy sources.
If your are committed to taking care of yourself just as much as taking care of camp business, you will take the time to write and preserve in your day-planner these three 30-minute sessions.
What should you do during these appointments? Anything that you believe takes care of your health: exercising, writing in a journal, listening to music, preparing a quiet and healthy lunch, and so on.
You would probably see the biggest dividend from your 90-minute-a-week investment from exercise. The number of health benefits of a brisk 30-minute walk, bike ride or swim (anything that gets you moving and increases your heart rate) is literally in the hundreds.
From lowering your stress level by chemical responses to raising your ability to use oxygen to give you more energy, three days a week for 30 minutes could be the most powerful investment that you can make in your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Use an optimistic explanatory style. Would you call yourself an optimist or a pessimist? You might be surprised if you focused on the thoughts that you have as you go about your business during a day at camp.
Loretta LaRoche, an expert in stress management, is a faculty member at the Mind/Body Medical Institute that is affiliated with the Harvard Medical School.
She offers great insights for cultivating high energy levels and keeping an optimistic explanatory style. She claims that you can learn a lot about how you are managing your stress by monitoring your self-talk.
How you anticipate, participate and recapitulate your management experiences can affect your attitude and your overall well-being.
Here's an example…
If a camp director is anticipating a very long day with a lot in it and it involves working with some employees who can be difficult, do you say to yourself, "I am going to get a lot done and clear the air," or do you say, "This is going to be a rough day. I'm exhausted just thinking about it, and I can't wait for it to be over."
Loretta would say that the first example of self-talk is part of an optimistic explanatory style and the second example is pessimistic.
One of the major reasons she advocates optimism is that even if the day is crazy and frustrating, the optimist suffers once. The pessimist suffers three times: before the day, during the day, and then complaining once the day is over.
Trying to frame things in a positive light and then letting the frustrations go after the day is done, can actually change the way we perceive our situations and affect our behaviors so that they are more constructive. The next time you have a conversation with yourself, listen to the way you choose to frame your experiences.
3. Know the Top Three
Complete your top three every day. Identify your top three responsibilities that you need to meet each day.
Here are some examples:
• Survey the camp environment each morning. Are the essentials in place?
• Touch base with every employee: make an impression as a listener as you make the rounds.
• Prepare for a list of things that you need to delegate for tomorrow based on the programming schedule and the anticipated weather.
4. No Monkeys
Get the monkey off your back. This is a strategy for successfully delegating responsibilities that will give you the time to steer the ship.
Ken Blanchard, author of the One Minute Manager series says the most common mistake managers make when they address problems with their staff is to have the monkey (the work to solve the problem) on their backs.
A more effective approach would be to give the staff member the responsibility of carrying out the mutually agreed upon solution and have the staff member report back to the manager as to whether it worked or it didn't.
5. Seize the Day
End the day with at least one Carpe Diem. Seize the day for you… even if it's just a small piece of the day. What have you been saying that you would love to do but you just don't have any time to spare? A round of golf, a good book, dinner at a new restaurant, a phone call to a friend who you keep thinking of but haven't taken the time to call… anything that you feel is a luxury and that would really help you to feel like life is good.
I do have time for myself. It doesn't have to be all about work, even during heat of the season.
Yes, you can carve out time for you during the summer season, but the carving needs to be done well in advance. If you can incorporate just one of these five strategies as you prepare for the summer season and really make it stick, you are setting yourself up to be a more successful manager and a happier person. Who wouldn't want to feel like that? Now what you need to do is say, "Yes, you may carve out time for yourself."
Give yourself permission to use one of these strategies (or all five) to make this summer season the most personally satisfying yet!
When you can get out that pen and make a list to gear up for the start of the season, be sure that "taking care of you" makes the list.
Dr. Susan Langlois has more than 20 years of experience as a college professor, athletic administrator, camp director and sport facilities consultant. She is currently the Dean of Sports Science at Endicott College.
Laura O'Neil is the head coach of the field hockey and women's lacrosse teams at Endicott College. In addition to coaching, O'Neil serves as the Assistant Director of Athletics and scheduling coordinator for the department.