EPISODE 48: Mastering the Art of Sustainable High Performance—with Sky Jarrett

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to episode 48 of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. My guest today is Sky Jarrett. She was a consultant at Accenture for many years and now she's an independent consultant and coach. And I have to tell you, I had a really difficult time stopping this podcast because I wanted to keep talking to her about how, as consultants, we can—and this is the term she uses which I just love—master the art of sustainable high performance. And she focuses quite a bit on the sustainable pieces. How do you, as a consultant, achieve high performance but still be able to balance your life and not do it by endlessly grinding? She borrows from neuroscience and mindfulness, and we get into a lot of great details about why it matters but also how to do it. I’m very, very excited about this episode. Let's get started. I want to welcome my guest today, Sky Jarrett. Sky, welcome to the show.

Sky Jarrett: Thank you so much, Deb, for having me.

Deb Zahn: Well, let's start off, tell my listeners what type of consulting and coaching you do.

Sky Jarrett: So I focus on leadership and team coaching. And my consulting work is primarily focused on helping organizations figure out how to bring mindfulness programs into their organization.

Deb Zahn: Wow. That's fantastic. And that's really where I think a lot of organizations and companies are headed, so that's wonderful. And how did you get into consulting in the first place?

Sky Jarrett: Well, I have a background in industrial organizational psychology, and I had been doing work in the HR field for a couple years and wanted to shift away from that and go into more learning and development, human development, and organizational development. Accenture had a pretty robust talent practice that would allow me to step into that work. I loved the world of consulting and the opportunity to do really high-impact work.

Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. Well, I was eager to talk to you because I saw a posting you did on Facebook for consultants where you talked about—and I love the way you phrased it, which is, mastering the art of sustainable high performance. I got very excited to have you on the show after I saw that. So describe what that means.

Sky Jarrett: Well, I think all of your listeners can relate, that the world of consulting requires one thing from each one of us. Right? And that is high performance. Our clients expect it, and especially for those of us who are working in the high premium consulting companies where I had clients who have told me, "I'm paying a very high price for you, and I expect that your work is the same.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Sky Jarrett: So we put ourselves under pressure to perform at a very high level. It's what we're expected to do. It's the reputation we build for ourselves. It's our professional currency. Right? That's who we are. We are high performers. And what I noticed being in that world is you can only do that for so long before you start burning out. And if you don't have certain things in place, which I'm sure we'll get into some of those things, then that high performance you've now prided yourself on, that high performance that you build your entire reputation on, that high performance that your company, your clients expect of you, is not going to be sustainable.

So what I mean by sustainable high performance is being able to operate as a high engine. Right? Imagine a high luxury, high quality, fast car with a really strong engine that's able to sustain that high performance over time because it has the fuel and the mechanisms in place to support the engine to function at that pace for a sustained period of time. And so helping consultants to figure out what is that system of high performance that will allow them to sustain that high achievement for a long period of time and not burn and crash. Right? Or crash and burn.

Deb Zahn: That's right. I think a lot of consultants don't know that it will run out. That your fuel will run out. There's actually a very funny Instagram page called ConsultingHumor, and it's a bunch of consultants mainly from the big five. I watch what they post and what they say, and they're trying to find humor in the unsustainable high performance that they're experiencing. And I'm thinking, "I know you're laughing, but you're probably also crying." And it's…

Sky Jarrett: Of course.

Deb Zahn: ... you can't do it.

Sky Jarrett: And then here's the mistake that a lot of consultants make. I've seen this with my friends, my colleagues. They think, "Oh, it's this company. For me to make a change in my life and to deal with the overwhelm, to deal with the stress, the burnout, the exhaustion, I'm just going to change companies." But what they don't realize is, that's who they are. This level of high performance that they pride themselves on is an internal operating system that's driving that performance. So to make a change and experience a shift from burnout, stress, being exhausted, having anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, to really being able to sustain your high performance, you've got to upgrade that internal operating system that's driving that level of performance.

Deb Zahn: I love that.

Sky Jarrett: It’s the important shift that they need to figure out how to make.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Because there are external forces certainly, but a lot of this is an inside job.

Sky Jarrett: It's an inside job. And the external factors might be different at other companies, but that's who you are, and that's how you perform. Right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah. So when you look at other consultants who haven't figured out that sustainable piece of it yet, what are the one or two things they're doing that are causing their life to be headed down that burnout road?

Sky Jarrett: Yeah. A lot of consultants—and we sort of gathered data from the company I was at before to figure out what people were experiencing and what was at the root of that experience. And I think for many of your listeners, they can attest to some of these things where we want to play hero. Right? And we all suffer from this hero syndrome of having this smart idea, having this smart solution to the client's big problems, being the first one to respond to the email, and just wanting to help. Right? There's sort of this dopamine rush that's so rewarding because we are the one that came in and saved the day for the team. We saved the day for our leadership. We saved the day for the clients. And that becomes the thing that fuels us. Right? And that can manifest in a couple different ways. We are the ones who are responding to emails at 11:00 p.m., 12:00 a.m., 1:00 in the morning because we want to be the first one to give the answer or help solve a problem. We're staying behind. We're working on weekends. We're compromising time with the people in our lives who actually mean the most to us so we can be there for our clients and our team and our leaders in times that are not required. But we make the choice to do that because we want to be the hero. I think playing the hero is one of the biggest things that these consultants do.

And yes, it's a way that we add value. But what I like to challenge consultants to be able to do is to be able to perform at that level, to be able to drive those outcomes and help their clients see those results in a way that's not draining and taking from them. But they can sustain both. They can be the high achievers who are having impact and driving outcomes and results, and they can also have a balance in their lives and a level of energy that’s leading to a more quality life. So they can have both. It's possible to have both.

Deb Zahn: I love it. And first I'll say, “guilty as charged.” I've done exactly what you're describing. But it also is that yeah, it's the desire to wear the cape.

Sky Jarrett: Yeah.

Deb Zahn: But that cape will tatter over time because you cannot possibly do it. So I love that. What else do you see that's driving it?

Sky Jarrett: So I've actually done a lot of work in this area, having been in consulting for over 10 years and living this myself, right? I wanted to really uncover what's at the root of this. And what I mentioned before is the internal operating system that we all have, right? This is the underlying belief system—the underlying mindset and assumptions that we all have—that’s driving the choices we make, the thoughts we have, the behaviors we have, and how we operate in the world, how we perform when we show up at work. So this internal operating system is pretty much created by our life experiences, right? How did we, growing up, figure out how we're going to add value to the world, right? And that is shaped by our parents and things our parents told us. What we felt we had to do to earn love and acceptance and a sense of belonging. And those experiences now shape how we show up in the world and how we perform in the workplace.

And so there are a bunch of different factors that drive a lot of people for consulting. It's primarily drivers, right? High performers, perfectionism, right?

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Sky Jarrett: Perfect work products, sort of a level of compliance, like wanting to make sure we're playing by the book and following the rules. There are a ton of different factors based on each individual's internal operating system that are sort of driving that need. A big one that I see in consultants is a sense of wanting to be right. Right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Sky Jarrett: I work with a lot of IT consultants who are engineers, and I don't blame them. Listen, engineers, the work they do, it is a life or death matter.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Sky Jarrett: One miscalculation and the whole bridge crashes.

Deb Zahn: That's right. We want them to be right.

Sky Jarrett: Right. And I had a coaching session with an engineer, and she said, "Listen, I don't think you understand. My professional currency is being right. If I'm not right, people lose their lives, right? So my worth depends on being right." Well think about how that shows up in a team brainstorming session: You're brainstorming a solution for a client, and you have this internal operating system that's telling you, “You've got to be right. You've got to be right. You've got to be right.” Now you're showing up with a level of arrogance and putting people down. And the overall impact is that the team is not able to drive to the best answer because you made your answer the right answer.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Sky Jarrett: So now you're compromising the quality of a team's work. It's not serving you because they're preoccupied with, “No one's listening to me. Why is no one taking my ideas? Oh, my gosh, I just said that. Now, they're listening to her. She just said what I just said. Why?” Right. These are the stories that are going on in our heads as the team is trying to brainstorm. It's exhausting for the individual. It's annoying for the team, and it compromises the quality of solutions that team can offer their clients. So it serves no one. And so it's bringing an awareness of how these different things…Are you driving for perfectionism? Are you hard charging for results? Are you always wanting to be right? And multiple other things that inform what's going on in our thoughts, in our minds, the stories we tell ourselves, and how we show up and work with the teams and clients who want to benefit from the gifts we have to offer.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And I think that's a great example because I've had that as I've coached or mentored others where it has to be right. You don't have to be right. So when precision matters—so I work in healthcare where there are times when I'm working on things that are truly life and death and I know that the solution has to be correct, but I don't have to be. And that's a really different way that your internal operating system functions, and I think that's such a great distinction to be able to tease out that nuance.

Sky Jarrett: One of the things I tell people in a lot of the training courses I do—there’s an organization that has incorporated this as part of their value system—that I am not my idea. I am not my idea, meaning, who I am, my identity, my worth, my self-worth, and the value I bring to the work I do is not based on the ideas that I provide. Right? My self- worth can be very different from the ideas I come up with. So I can offer an idea. Let's put it out on the table and actually challenge your team members to take my idea and make it better. Right? To have that sense of humility to be able to do that is so powerful for teams and individuals, but so many people, especially consultants, are so wrapped up in their identity. Who they are and their self-worth is so wrapped up in their ideas that they really struggle to separate themselves from that.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, this is great. And when you say internal operating system, that's not just a metaphor because I know some of what undergirds what you talk about is neuroscience. Can you say a little bit about how you bring that to bear to the type of things you're talking about?

Sky Jarrett: Absolutely. So this internal operating system basically represents the thoughts, the beliefs, the assumptions, or mental models that have been defined over time that we tell ourselves and that, subconsciously, is driving how we show up and how we perform at work. And the reason that it has become our internal operating system is because the brain has a really efficient way, where it says, “You know what? I've got a lot to process. This brain that I'm trying to operate and what I'm going to do is…The things that you think, say, and do repeatedly, I'm going to store them in memory and hard wire them so that it becomes automatic.”

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Sky Jarrett: That hard wiring is what's creating the internal operating system. And so if you're not cognizant, if you don't have a consciousness to know what's driving that internal operating system, the brain is going to allow it to run on autopilot. And so the work I do brings neuroscience into the mix to help people see. There's a whole assessment that I have people do, it tracks them on a chart. Are you a perfectionist? Are you a high achiever? Are you arrogant because you think your answers should always be the right ones; you always want to be right. Where do you plot on the graph? And then we start to investigate what are those thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that are driving your operating system.

And then we use the brain science to help them redirect, to basically rewire their brain to think differently, to believe differently, so that they can operate differently and perform, still have the same impact, right? If not more impact but with less exhaustion, stress, anxiety, and overwhelm because now they're operating from a different realm. They're operating in a different space. They're operating from an upgraded internal operating system that can actually sustain this high performance that they want to contribute to the world.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And to use how the brain efficiently does things to your benefit. So I know that one of the reasons your brain does that is because everything can be an executive function where you're actually making decisions because that's exhausting.

Sky Jarrett: Exhausting.

Deb Zahn: So your brain is super smart and says exactly as you described, “Let's make this a habit.” And so anytime I've wanted to switch how I do things…So, perfect example with what you're talking about is, if I know that I'm trying to be the hero, I'm more likely to say yes to projects that I should say no to, for whatever reason, I should say no to them. But because my cape is right there, and it feels so good because of my habits of thinking and the things that have become, in my brain, habitual. My knee-jerk reaction is to say yes, and if I don't rewire that, which I've spent a lot of time doing, then that's what I'll keep doing because my brain is trying to be efficient.

Sky Jarrett: Yeah, your brain has registered, “Oh, OK. So this is how it works. When I say yes to projects that I don't actually want to do, I feel accepted and I'm able to contribute.” Right? “There's meaning behind what I'm doing.” So quite frankly, Deb, these habits that we have, these tendencies that we have that our internal operating system is driving, we do it because it serves us; we do it because there is a benefit to doing it.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Sky Jarrett: And our brain has said, "Oh! Oh, this works really well. Oh, I get accepted, I get... This is so rewarding. I'm just going to keep doing this. This is wonderful." And then the fuel runs out and you crash and you burn. So it serves you up until it doesn't, right? And so what I always challenge these consultants and business professionals I work with is, “So you're at a place of success, right? You have now been promoted. You are having this successful consulting career. Wonderful.” And my challenge to them is, “What got you here won't get you there because you are now running out of fuel, and it's time to upgrade.”

Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. I love that. And so how do you bring mindfulness into it? I know that mindfulness impacts your neuroscience or the wiring in your head but talk a little bit about how you bring that into the process.

Sky Jarrett: Oh my gosh, that's a big one.

Deb Zahn: It is a big one.

Sky Jarrett: There are multiple benefits of mindfulness. I think the ones that people hear most commonly are managing stress, managing anxiety, bringing a sense of calm. And there is science to that as well. Right? We see that by using breathing exercises we can calm the parasympathetic nervous system, which actually relaxes the body. So there is a level of relaxation.

 

There's also a level of focus that you can sort of rewire your brain. One thing that I know from consultants…and I teach mindfulness programs to multiple consulting firms. I brought it to my consulting firm before I left, and we hadn't focused on performance and focus, right? So in consulting, we thrive on multitasking, right? We're in a conference call and people are asking us questions. But because we're so busy responding to that email or responding to that i-message that just came in, we didn't hear the question. So, “What did you guys just say? What was the question again?” That’s happened to us. Right?

Deb Zahn: Right. Or they fake it and say, “Oh, could you rephrase that?”

Sky Jarrett: Right. Right. “I was listening. I was paying attention. But could you... I'm not sure that I'm clear on the question.” Digging ourselves out of these holes.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Sky Jarrett: Alright. There are some examples of how multitasking shows up in your professional life. We all try to do it, right? And science is showing that it shrinks the brain, it actually drains your energy. There are so many disadvantages to multitasking. So mindfulness allows you to choose the thing that you want to focus on, right? And you have control over you. You can train the mind to decide where it wants to focus its attention and energy, and be able to execute on that. But the deeper…so there is relaxation, calm, anxiety, overwhelm, right? Helping us to focus far more effectively. For me, the deeper benefit that I've experienced from mindfulness—this is what I help leaders cultivate and really make it part of their practice—is the self-awareness and the ability to observe the thoughts, the beliefs, and then to make a choice, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Sky Jarrett: Let's take your example of the project that's now available to you. And you have the choice to decide if you want to take it or not. If you're operating on autopilot, you're going to say, yes.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Sky Jarrett: There's a ripple effect to that choice you've just made. Now you're doing a project that you don't want to do. So you wake up every day and you're like, “I got to get out of bed…” And there’s like frustration and annoyance, and you're just, “Oh…” It doesn't feel good, right? Then you're thinking about this project that's not serving you. Because the moment you said yes, it was the only reward you got, and now that's gone. Right? So mindfulness, by bringing an awareness to our thoughts, we create more power in the moments where we have choice because now, we're able to say, “Oh, I'm at a decision point. I can either do A and allow myself to make the choices that I always make but no longer serve me. Or in this moment of choice, I can actually say no. And it's creating that space in those moments of choice, that power in those moments of choice, that allows us to choose differently, right? Because we have that awareness of what's going on.

I don't know if you’re familiar with Viktor Frankl, he was in a powerful story, right? And he liked to say that between stimulus and response is choice.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Sky Jarrett: There is power and freedom in that space. Mindfulness helps to create more of that space between the stimulus and the response that we all encounter every single day. That can be most powerful.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, I love that. So I always talk about making deliberate choices and I tag on deliberate to make sure that it's not the default setting that you have in your head. But to me, one of my most powerful lessons is when I realize that all choices are relative choices. So if I choose to say yes, or I default to saying yes to something, I'm actually saying no to something else, whether I'm conscious of it or not. So I'm saying no to my husband, I'm saying no to my mom, I'm saying no to my garden, to my health and my exercise.

Sky Jarrett: And your joy.

Deb Zahn: That's right. So in that moment of choice, those are also the choices to be made, which I love. Which I often tell people, “If you have a hard time, just do a space maker.” I used to teach women's self-defense, and we talked about space makers that allow you to do something after that. And so if you need to say, “I tell you what, let me get back to you tomorrow,” because you don't want to have the knee-jerk response. That gives you an opportunity to actually do some…but I'd love to hear. So you work with people on this all the time, and I think this is wonderful stuff. What are the two things, like a couple things, that you tell either consultants or leaders you're working with as the most important thing to help them get on a better path?

Sky Jarrett: The first thing that I think is important is to build self-awareness, right? And there are tools and techniques you can use to do that. There are 360 assessments, etc. There is cultivating a mindfulness practice so that you can bring a level of consciousness to your thinking, that can manage the default setting of the brain, right? And to manage this internal operating system. So that's the very first and most important thing, is to bring self-awareness so that you can know what is the programming that's driving my internal operating system. What is that, right? Because what you know, you have more power and control to deal with. I watched this interview with Jay-Z, the famous rapper, and he said, "What you reveal, you can heal."

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Sky Jarrett: And if you don't know that it exists then you can't do anything about it. And so, rather than having control of it, it controls us. And I know that a lot of consultants, we are type A, we want to…we are drivers, we want to control things. And so if you want to control things then learn to control your mind. What's more powerful than learning to control your mind? So that's the number one thing that I think will open the door to so many other things.

Deb Zahn: I love it. And look, let me dig on that a little bit. Because, which I love, I always think of myself as my favorite project. But so often I've seen…and I know this is true when folks start to meditate or when they start to try and cultivate self-awareness. They realize how much on default they are. They realize how much is truly going in their heads because they've never looked at it before. And it's easy to use that sort of as another stick to beat yourself with. How do you do it with gentleness and kindness to yourself?

Sky Jarrett: I'm so glad you asked that question. OK, so a perfectionist…

Deb Zahn: Yeah, exactly. Since you mentioned type A.

Sky Jarrett: Right. A perfectionist who...I like to pride myself, Deb, as a recovering, overachieving perfectionist, OK? 

Deb Zahn: There you go.

Sky Jarrett: So when you look at my assessment, it shows that I am a perfectionist, and I'm an overachiever. So the combination of the two is a perfect storm for a disaster, right? Take me in the world of consulting and we've got a perfect storm like it’s just, No, no, no, it's me. Right? And I think is really important, so I'll explain it this way:  There are two wings of mindfulness, right? Mindfulness brings one, the insight. So to your point, we can observe our thoughts and sort of see the thoughts and beliefs and assumptions that are driving our behaviors, and we can really step back and become an observer of that and be like, “Whoa, my mind is on overdrive today. Oh my gosh, look at this problem-solving and planning that's going on.” We can have that insight.

The other wing of mindfulness is the self-compassion and acceptance we can bring to that. So I've had moments, Deb, when I wake up, and I'm like, “I have six projects that I'm running, there's a lot at stake. The clients are really depending on us to pull through on this. There is crap happening on the team. We are falling behind.” And I wake up and I'm like, riddled with anxiety. “How am I going to do this?” And then I'm like, “Oh my gosh, I'm anxious. Oh no, this is bad. I'm not going to have a good day. I can't afford to not have a good day. I've got to be on my game today. Why are you anxious?” And now I'm beating myself up for the fact that I'm being anxious. Right?

Deb Zahn: But how does that help the anxiety?

Sky Jarrett: Not at all. It makes it worse. Now it becomes this ripple effect on a storm that I've created because I'm anxious. And I'm anxious about the fact that I'm anxious and I'm beating myself up for being anxious. And now my day is a catastrophe, right? What cultivating a mindfulness practice allowed me to do…not to say that the stress is not going to be there, not to say that the overwhelm is not going to be there, but I can wake up in the morning and say, “Whoo! I am stressed. I am really overwhelmed and I am having some anxiety. Wow.” And I can, rather than beat myself up, I can be with that anxiety. Right? And I can almost hold the anxiety as if I'm—this is going to sound crazy—but as if I'm pushing a baby, like, “It's going to be OK. We are going to get through this. I've got your back.”

And then I become my best friend, right? If I were to pick up the phone and call my sister and say, “Holy crap, I am anxious as hell. I don't know how I'm going to get through the day.” How would she comfort me in that role? Right? I learned to comfort myself in the way that I rely on other people to do for me. So I wake up and I say, “OK, today's an anxious day, we can do this, right?” And I try my breathing exercises. And I'm not trying to fix the anxiety. I'm learning to hold that anxiety with a tenderness and love and self-compassion that we would rely on our friends to give us in those moments of grief and stress.

Deb Zahn: I love that, and I always look at it as also, I'd like to bring the gentleness and the humor. So sometimes when I see myself in my default settings, acting out and trying to cling to them, I very gently laugh at myself and I will say, “I'm terribly creative. I'm terribly creative at figuring out ways to keep going down this path that I don't want to go on. You're adorable, I'm taking the wheel.”

Sky Jarrett: I'm taking the wheel. I am in command in this ship, please go have a seat.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right.

Sky Jarrett: That is the difference between allowing these default settings, this internal operating system, to be the driver of us or us being the driver of it. It's like, “Who is in control here?”

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Sky Jarrett: Right? And as a group of professionals, consultants who like to be in control, that's my challenge to them. Like, “You want real control, then this is the path you need to go down.”

Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. So what else would be another thing that you would say, “Consultants, for the love of God, do this.”?

Sky Jarrett: Well, there's a ton of things that I've learned to do throughout the course. There's so much, it's been such a journey, but I would say one of the biggest things is learning to create boundaries, right? And it's one of the benefits we have when we’re able to make that shift from being the hero to being able to drive the same outcomes and drive the same levels of results with boundaries. For example, as a consultant, we've got competing demands and things that are constantly coming at us, right? We wake up in the morning and we think, “This is how the day is going to go. I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that, I'm going to do this.” And before we even get to the office, we get this crazy email or a request for a meeting, or a meeting invitation shows up on our calendar that we weren't expecting.

And the hero has a tendency of just allowing that to happen. Oh, well, now I've got a meeting. So I'm going to show up to the meeting, right? By taking command of our ship,  one of the most important things we can do in creating boundaries is scheduling our priorities, not prioritizing our schedule.

Deb Zahn: I love that. Dig in to that a little bit. What does that mean?

Sky Jarrett: It's one of the things I teach in this mindfulness program to multiple consulting firms, including at Accenture, where we help people to bring a level of mindfulness and intentionality to their calendars, right? To their priorities. And rather than allowing the meeting invites that are coming in from people…I mean, how many of us have a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly meeting on our calendars, and we're showing up to these meetings and getting no value and adding no value.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Sky Jarrett: We keep showing up because the hero wants to be part of the conversation. The hero wants to be seen in those meetings because we feel important somehow, that this meeting that's taking away an hour and a half, even though the meeting is 30 minutes, but we've got to stop what we're doing, transition to the meeting, and after the meeting, right? So it's taking up more time than the actual time stop on our calendars. So that's one very tactical thing that we can be mindful about. “OK, let me look at my calendar and see which of the meetings am I not adding value or getting value out of.” And have a conversation with the meeting organizer to say, “Is it really important for me to be here?”

Deb Zahn: That's right. Yeah, I call those zombie meetings because they're the living undead meetings that have no value. And if you really want to be a hero, kill them.

Sky Jarrett: Yes. Call the meeting or remove—the very least you can do is remove yourself from the meeting, right?

Deb Zahn: Yep.

Sky Jarrett: And so that's one thing, looking at your calendar to say, “What are the meetings on there that I don't need to be going to?” And also, if you have planned your day in such a way that you want to spend the morning working on something, for example, and a meeting pops up, it’s challenging that person to say, “Hey, I've got a conflict. It's not a meeting, but my conflict is work that I need to do for the client,” as an example, right? And protecting this time that you put on your calendar because this is a priority for you.

Don't make other people's urgencies become your priority. Prioritize your priority by blocking time on the calendar and protecting that time and really creating those boundaries. Now, of course, there are certain scenarios that take precedence. If your leader or your client is requesting time from you, then you can mindfully make that choice and say, “I'm going to choose to allow this distraction to take precedence over the thing that I thought was a priority.”

But when you're able to exercise, again, that power of choice, you're doing that on a smaller number of times with less frequency, and you're not feeling like you're constantly losing control over your day and feeling exhausted and then not getting anything done. Not getting any of your priorities done because you're busy tending to the priorities and urgencies of other people.

Deb Zahn: I have to tell you; I'm going to have a really hard time getting off of this podcast with you because I love this stuff and I want to keep talking about it. But I am going to ask you about sort of what you do in your life. But before I do that, so this is obviously helpful. I don't know a consultant that this isn't helpful for. So where can they get more from you?

Sky Jarrett: Definitely follow me on Instagram. I do tons of posts with short videos and tips and techniques; things to think about; resources, books they should be reading; meditations they can do in the morning, at night, whatever. On my LinkedIn page, the same, and I'm also offering an online program specifically for busy consultants and business leaders who want to make that shift.

Deb Zahn: That's great. I'll have a link to that on the podcast page so you can easily get right to it.

Sky Jarrett: Yeah.

Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. So obviously, you apply this stuff in your life. So how is it you bring balance to your life and you exercise some of this? What does that look like?

Sky Jarrett: Well, for me, Deb, as a consultant, I got really good at implementing systems, right? Systems for the team to operate more effectively, systems for the client so that their organization could operate more effectively. And I had to look at myself and say, “OK, well-oiled machine, hard-charging race car, to perform at your optimal performance, what systems are you going to put in place for yourself?” And I just think really being intentional about implementing routines and rituals in our daily lives is so important. And so just systems around how I manage my workload, how I manage my time. That's one area and one of the very things we talked about today is an example of that, right? Am I scheduling my priorities rather than prioritizing my schedule is an example of a system that I use.

But the other thing, too, for me as we're thinking about balance is, what are the systems of refuge? Right? Really carving out that time in my day, in my week, in my quarter, every year, that I can truly unplug and seek refuge. And I don't wait until the end of the year over the Christmas holiday to find refuge.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Sky Jarrett: I'm doing that every single morning. I wake up, I do yoga, I meditate. This morning, I only had five minutes to meditate. That was OK. I still meditated. Every week I try to schedule things I can do that bring joy to my life. I love dancing. I love moving so I will go kickboxing or I'll go to a Zumba class and I try to make that a system. A routine in my week that I can have that joy, right? I try to be connected with friends on the weekend; I make that part of my system. I've lived in D.C. for 10 years and I had nature thirsts where I just wanted to be in green. I needed to go by the water and sit for 20 minutes because I found that for me…and science has shown that there are healing properties to being in nature.

So those are some of the things I do. And it took me some time to figure out what are those systems of refuge that really worked for me. And I will tell you, I go a couple of days and I don't meditate and do yoga, That anxiety is going to creep right back in.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Sky Jarrett: I have to have these systems of refuge that I can really use to manage. I mean, I left the big corporate consulting firm, but the high-achieving perfectionist is still very present for me. Well, I've got to keep managing that.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Once you figured out it wasn't their fault. Yeah, I learned that too. But this is so wonderful, and I definitely would love to have you back on to talk about more of this. But I will have a link on my website on this podcast page so if folks want to dive into this and really learn how to do this for themselves, they know how to find you. So thank you so much for being on the show.

Sky Jarrett: Thank you for having me, Deb. It's been great.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. I want to ask you to do three things. If you enjoyed this episode or any of my other podcasts, hit subscribe. I've got a lot of other great guests and content coming up, and I don't want you to miss anything. 

The other two things I'm asking you to do—one is, if you have any comments, suggestions, or other feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those in the comments section. And then the last thing is, if you've gotten something out of this, please share it. Share it with somebody you know who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant, and make sure they also have access to all this great content and the other great content that's coming. As always, you can get more wonderful information and tools at craftofconsulting.com. Thanks so much. I will talk to you on the next episode. Bye-bye.

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