On my way home from work last night, the fuel light came on in my car. At first I was a bit surprised at how quickly the gas gauge had dropped over the last few days — it didn’t seem like it should be running that low. When I stopped to consciously think about the numerous “short trips” I had made in recent days, however, it wasn’t surprising that my tank was almost dry.
How nice it would be for us as leaders to have a “fuel light” that would automatically come on when we were getting close to an empty tank. Sometimes we lose track of all the things pulling on our time and energy and which deplete the gas we have for the trip ahead. Unless we consciously keep track of our fuel levels, leaders may find themselves running out of gas sooner than they expected, and often at the most inopportune times.
Most of us actually can monitor the fuel we have available for the journey before us if only we take the time to pay attention.
• Look at your map— your schedule — for the week ahead. Most vehicles (that’s you) can only travel so many miles before they run out of gas. How many “miles” are on this week’s schedule? Where along the way do you plan to fill up your tank? The more miles you have to travel, the more fill-ups you need. Yes, I know you may feel like you don’t have the time. That is exactly when you need to be most conscious about refueling… or you may just find yourself stranded and out of gas halfway to your destination.
• Fill up when the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes, the best time to fill up is when you still have a half a tank of gas left. Maybe you are in the vicinity, it is a “brand” that you especially like, or you know there is a long stretch of road ahead and refueling now will reduce the stress later in the trip. Give yourself permission to fill up now. No one ever said you have to wait until your tank is on empty to refuel.
• Know your fuel gauge. Sometimes, the second half of your tank drops a lot faster than the first half. Lots of starts and stops or rapid acceleration uses more gas than the same number of miles traveled on an open road. Different types of fuel may result in a different level of performance. And of course, it is always helpful to know how many miles you can actually travel once your fuel light comes before your tank is totally empty.
You may not have the advantage of a fuel light to let you know when your gas is running low, but with a bit of attention you have the tools to gauge when it is time to refuel your tank.