What do you do when the Tank runs low?

We’ve all had the moment when we look down and the needle on our gas gauge is touching “E” for empty. If you’re like me you have that sudden moment to ask yourself how close is it really and how much farther can I go? Yes, I know all the newer cars have the digital calculator or even the voice that says, you have XXX miles left. Most of those systems will not even let you get that close to empty. But I digress.

Running on Empty
Courtesy 123rf.com

With a car, the worst case is you sputter to empty, pull over on the side of the road, and either enjoy a hike somewhere or put your destiny in the hands of a stranger to give you a ride. OK –  I’m living in the 60’s. No, we grab our smart phone and call for help.

Anyone who has ventured to get a pilot’s license knows that the chief cardinal rule of flying is DON’T RUN OUT OF GAS. Why is that? Well, the obvious answer is, there are no convenience shoulders next to the road in the sky on which we can just pull over. Running the tank to empty in a small plane leaves you in a panic mode; let the emergency landing procedures begin!

So I use these two pretty specific scenarios to ask you the question, what do you do when your tank runs low? I mean that psycho-emotional tank. You know the feeling. You have been running a marathon at work, stuff is going on at home, the rest of the family has been pulling on you, and you feel like you  have nothing left to give? Call it your gas tank, your batteries, whatever. You are feeling beaten down. What do you do?

In both of my stories above, the systems tell us pretty clearly when the tank is running low. Now, forgetting about system malfunction, if we ignore the gauges, we are creating our own problems. Our real life situations are much the same.

Everyone I have ever known will admit they can recognize early warning signs when they are starting to run out of gas. The usual symptoms may include tiredness, fatigue, short temper, or clouded thinking.

Too often we choose to ignore the early warnings because we just ‘have to keep going’. Taking this approach may lead to radically different endings. Like with the car, will you be able to just pull over and deal with it? Or will you be like the plane and need to resort to emergency procedures to make a soft landing after the tank runs out?

Keep going without taking time to refuel, you will stop. One way or another, you stop.

So here’s my blinding flash of the obvious, my “BFO” – pay attention. Read the gauges. When they start tilting past half full, begin thinking about what you can do to refuel. Plan that break. Schedule the getaway. Call for reinforcements. Whatever you do to get recharged, start planning for the pit stop, make time to do it.

This is one of the most direct influencers of work-life balance that I see with my clients. They push so hard for so long, the tank runs empty. Then the rebound takes longer.

If your performance was a plot on a graph it would include very sharp highs and deep lows. We all have those cycles in our day-to-day lives. Rounding the edges off the low points (no gas) by managing your need to recharge, helps to smooth the balance. Being proactive with a monitoring plan helps to make the necessary adjustments so that you eliminate the sudden stops, and heaven forbid, the crashes.

Your spouse will love it. Your family will value it. And your business will thank you for it.