Want to be the best leader you can be? You need to sleep well, eat well, exercise well and pray well, says Natalie Williams. Here’s how she changed her daily habits


Towards the end of last year, a text message flashed up on my phone: “What have the aliens done with the old Natalie?”

I can’t remember what triggered my friend’s message – but, to be honest, it could have been any number of things. Since taking on the leadership of Jubilee+, almost all of my daily habits have changed.

I’ve always been fairly ill-disciplined but, somehow, I’ve managed to get away with it for most of my adult life. Aside from when I was a teenager, I’ve never had a job that required me to arrive at a set time, so it became my habit to casually rock up at around 10am, sometimes even 11am, unless I had a meeting.

While this annoyed some of my colleagues, I never felt guilty about it because I worked late into the evening, often until 7pm, 8pm or even 9pm. Bosses and line managers didn’t ask me to change because, although I liked to sleep in and arrive late, I wasn’t lazy – I worked hard, was a committed employee and (most of the time) would do whatever needed to be done to get the task finished on time and to a high standard.

When criticised by colleagues, my argument was: “I’m not a morning person. There’s no point me being here early because my brain doesn’t kick in until mid-afternoon. I get my best work done in the afternoon, or late at night.”


And I completely believed it. Until my job no longer allowed it. After I became chief executive of Jubilee+, it wasn’t long before the tiredness and pressures of leadership started to take their toll. Pretty quickly, I realised that my patterns around sleep, food, prayer and exercise were not going to cut it for the long haul. I needed to make some changes.

The pandemic had already helped me in some ways: lockdown meant being out late most nights at friends’ houses were a thing of the past (and I’d had to learn to cook something healthier than tinned macaroni cheese now I had to fend for myself).

When I confessed to friends during the first lockdown that I was mainly surviving on chocolate, crisps and gin, one encouraged me to try intermittent fasting; another gave me cooking lessons and healthy eating advice over FaceTime. People don’t seem to believe this, but I honestly learned to cook peas and broccoli for the first time in 2020!

Fast forward to today – and I can hardly believe this is true – but 6am to 9am is my favourite time of day. I stopped my chronic alarm-snoozing (four alarms, each going off every nine minutes for an hour), and now get out of bed at the first alarm every day.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that this feels like an astonishing miracle. It’s one of the reasons my friends joke about alien abduction, but, actually, it’s about leadership. To my surprise, I’ve learned that to lead well, I need to sleep well, eat well, exercise well and pray well. Just like God told Elijah. Just like Jesus modelled through prioritising alone time with his Father.

I now think of 10pm as a late night (honestly, I’m not sure I know who I am any more!) I absolutely love my morning routine of reading the Bible, worshipping, praying, Wordle, a daily devotional and exercise (even if it’s only for ten minutes some days).

I’ve discovered that my brain does work in the mornings. And it turns out that if I look after my spiritual, physical, emotional and mental health, I am a better leader. Even at 9am.