The ‘Let Down Effect’ is a condition where high energy or activation levels in the body are immediately followed by a rapid drop in activation levels – just like before a holiday.
During a performance coaching session with one of my students I was asked, “Why is it I always seem to fall ill over holiday periods?” It is true many of us seem to get colds, flu and other ailments just before periods of annual leave and even over the recent Christmas break – in fact just before we have the opportunity of relaxing.
I explained that it is known as the ‘Let Down Effect’. The result of a sudden change from being stressed and possibly overloaded is to leave your body’s immune system ‘run-down’, compromised and open to illness.
I see it in managers quite often and not just around holiday time. I often see it immediately after they have met an important deadline where they have been under pressure ‘burning the candle at both ends’. I also see it where managers are not as strong as they should be in the way they prioritise and manage time where they end up adopting what I call it ‘flip flop’ management’.
Flip flop management occurs when a manager spends too little time in what Stephen Covey refers to as Quadrant 2: that is on activities which are important, but NOT urgent and too much time in Quadrant 1 – urgent AND important. By spending too much time in Quadrant 1, they experience ‘burn out’ and compensate by spending time in Covey’s Quadrant 3 working on activities which are not important AND not urgent. In other words because of being overload, stressed and burnt out they ‘flip flop’ between Quadrants 1 and 3.
The trick is to spend more time in Covey’s Quadrant 2 working on activities which are important BUT not yet urgent. Quadrant 2. To guard against the Let Down Effect and post-holiday illness, consider “cooling down” gradually. Focusing on Quadrant 2 activities will help to increase your long term personal effectiveness and you will find that spending more time on planning results in better time management and fewer crises.
So that you are not a victim of Let Down Effect start working on Quadrant 2 activities – make plans and preparations; build relationships with your team; recognise new opportunities; minimise the risk of crises happening. I am not suggesting that you will eliminate all of the urgent, deadline-driven work you need to accomplish, but that your levels of activity will be more consistent.