FROM THE TOP: How do you stay fresh?

FROM THE TOP: How do you stay fresh? - You can't be tired. You've got too much to do. But how do you cope with the pressures of work and stay on top of your responsibilities when there is so much noise out there ... so many distractions? How do you stay f

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

You can't be tired. You've got too much to do. But how do you cope with the pressures of work and stay on top of your responsibilities when there is so much noise out there ... so many distractions? How do you stay fresh for the fight?

We asked six leading business people how they face up to their challenges time and again, ready to perform - without going stale. What are the secrets of a constantly fresh, energetic approach? Find out in the following pages.

And in the coming months we will be asking business leaders how they view other questions, drawing on proven experience to provide MT readers with useful insights.

Look out for their solutions. With Management Today, you can take it from the top.

SIR MARTIN SORRELL - CEO, WPP GROUP

For me, stress is more a question of when you're not having fun. The key thing is that if you're interested in something and love what you're doing, it's not stressful. Having said that, what do I do to take a break?

In the winter I do a little bit of skiing, in the summer I play a little cricket, and I take a winter and summer holiday, usually for about 10 days at Christmas and New Year, and two weeks in the summer. The Christmas and New Year holiday is particularly good because everybody seems to stop working now for two weeks at Christmas, so I don't feel that others are getting ahead while I'm sitting on the beach.

Apart from that, I read a fair bit, often related to work - trade magazines and trade newspapers, books to do with the industry and the occasional piece of fiction or non-fiction. I see a lot of films and a bit of theatre.

Sir Martin Sorrell is chief executive of the world's largest advertising agency WPP, a post he has held since founding the company in 1986. He was finance director of Saatchi & Saatchi between 1977 and 1984. Sorrell has led WPP's rapid growth of the past few years. Its most recent major deal was the pounds 3 billion purchase of Young & Rubicam.

BARBARA THOMAS - CHAIRMAN, WHITWORTHS AND CO-FOUNDER, NET INVESTOR

I have a house in France up in the mountains. I leave to go there on Friday night, and I come back on Sunday night. I go as often as I can.

It's very relaxing, and it's not very social - you don't have to see anybody if you don't want to. The other thing is: I love to eat. If I'm facing a big decision, I get some French macaroons and I eat them .. all of them.

When I'm finished I can usually sit down and make a good decision - it's a wonderful way of relaxing.

I tend to get up very early and get dressed slowly - over an hour on a bad day. There's no radio on, I don't want the news, just silence. I make lists to work through all day. A list is my bible for the day - it tells me what I haven't done and what there still is for me to do.

I always have a breakfast meeting at eight - a very good way of starting the day. I work through my list religiously, and I don't work late at night.

Barbara Thomas is a lawyer, international banker and entrepreneur. Formerly she was commissioner of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. She is currently executive chairman of Net Investor, non-executive chairman of Axon Group and deputy chair of Friends' Provident Life Office. She is also a director of Capital Radio and Whitworths.

HANS SNOOK - CEO, ORANGE

Well, I would put it the other way round. The business keeps me fresh because it's something I'm passionate about. It's difficult to stay fresh around something that doesn't inspire you.

I would characterise it this way: I have a passion for doing the job differently, and a passion for excellence. This means constantly pushing the boundaries of what we are doing.

What are the motivating factors for me? It's the commitment to the vision, being open to new ideas, not being afraid to experiment.

We deliver on our brand promises - we're straightforward, honest, refreshing, dynamic, friendly. We're true to our beliefs: teamwork, honesty, fun, inspiration, results, simplicity and trust.

Hans Snook is one of the world's leading evangelists for the 'wirefree future'. He led Orange's float in 1996, with a subsequent sale to Mannesmann in 1999. After the February 2000 takeover of Mannesmann by Vodafone, Orange was bought by France Telecom in May for pounds 25 billion.

ANITA RODDICK - FOUNDER AND CO-CHAIR, BODY SHOP

There's one sure-fire way for me to keep moving, stay passionate and avoid going stale. I take it personally - 'it' being the imbalances, injustices or irrationalities that I come across every day in my job.

'It' is why the Body Shop has spent two and a half years creating the world's biggest human rights award. 'It' is why I joined the protests against the WTO in Seattle last year. 'It' is why I've just been in eastern Europe helping Children on the Edge, the initiative we fund there, to mark 10 years of work in Romanian orphanages.

But 'it' is not just the urgent need I feel to inject some sense of responsibility into the way the business world operates. 'It' is also the satisfaction of finding a trading project that will help a marginalised community to help itself, and 'it' is the products that result. I find a pure and personal pleasure in these projects.

Anita Roddick founded The Body Shop in 1976. She has been a campaigning icon ever since.

MARK STRACHAN - CEO, GAMEPLAY

The absolutely fundamental point is that you've got to enjoy what you're doing, and show other people that you're enjoying it. It's important how your work colleagues perceive you. If you are enjoying yourself but not showing it, you won't get the feedback you need.

People love to see other people having fun and enjoying themselves. It's like when you're at a concert - if the players are just going through the motions you won't enjoy it, but if you feel you're getting a special performance you get into it. To stay fresh, try to pass on your enjoyment and enthusiasm to everyone else - you get it back.

Many people struggle today because of e-mail stress. They say: 'I haven't read your e-mail.' The point of e-mail is to get a quick reply. I stay on top of it all the time by replying immediately and keeping them short and sweet.

I don't think it's necessary to run five miles every day to stay fresh, but getting in early helps.

I took two weeks' holiday this summer. It makes a tremendous amount of difference, so much better than one week. You must take your holiday - we kick people out of the door here if they don't take it.

The bottom line: it has got to be fun. If it's not, you don't get the best from everyone.

Mark Strachan is the co-founder of Gameplay. He has been involved with the computer games industry since 1984, when he co-founded Domark Software. Eidos - the people who brought you Lara Croft - acquired Domark in 1995 for pounds 10.5 million.

SIR GEORGE RUSSELL - CHAIRMAN, 3i AND CAMELOT

Don't take your holidays for granted. It's a mistake a lot of people make, but you need them. And don't take the mobile phone with you. If you have to receive a message, let it come on a bike. In the era of the internet and e-mail everything's running at a far greater speed. That's a danger. Letters take a day or two to arrive, allowing things to calm down a bit. You need a break and you should get away from as much of the business as you dare.

Networking is important too. It's good to meet other kinds of people, freshen up your ideas, hear what other people have to say.

And then there is the concept of the second career. At some stage you're bound to go stale, especially if you're running things.

I decided to give up the CEO route and take on a range of duties, trying to be as broad as I used to be long. Better to be dealing with a whole range of subjects, all very interesting. Of course, if you're younger you've no excuse; you should have the energy to keep busy.

If all that fails, then take on the chairmanship of Camelot.

Sir George Russell has been chairman of 3i since 1993 and chairman of Camelot since 1995. He was formerly chairman of the Northern Development Company, Marley and the Independent Television Commission. He considers himself lucky not to have been tempted to accept an offer from Sunderland football club to join as an apprentice in 1958.

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