If I could offer one idea that will have a huge impact on your success and your satisfaction with work it would be that you give yourself time to think — with purpose. (You can stop reading here if you accept that point!)
I work with so many executives that tell me they would be so much better at their job if they had more time to think. Think about a typical day, week or month in your work. How much time to you spend in uninterrupted, quality thinking time? I know when I was a corporate executive I had the same problem. My calendar was fully booked.
If I tried to schedule time for myself it would get over-ridden with urgent customer problems, staff crises, or “emergencies” from my boss to deliver something to his boss.
My personal thinking time got wiped out.
So I needed to work differently. I have written much on the topics of defending your time and energy, making more time, delegating better, and many other topics which help you use your time more strategically. But today I just want to focus on this one idea: give yourself time to think. Schedule it. Protect it.
This will have a bigger impact on your success than almost anything you can do. If you are giving yourself this time, don’t ever feel guilty about it. If you are not, start taking it.
Key point: Remember, your job as a leader is to build capability underneath you so your team can handle more work and you can apply yourself to solving higher-order problems.
Enable your team
Make sure your team can handle the roll-outs and deliverables, because you need to create the business-changing IT strategy. Make sure your team can handle user escalations, because you need to create the new IT strategy and quality program that reduces them. And make sure your team can handle the application development. You need to create better development processes and backlog management strategies to deliver more, faster.
You will never do any of this if you don’t give yourself time to think. You will get caught up acting and reacting. Think about it this way: If you stay overwhelmed with activity you are not doing a good job.
Schedule time to think and hide. Try it for 2 hours. Tell everyone you are at the dentist. The world will not come to an end. Hide. The hiding part is important. The activity knows where to find you!
Think about how you can improve all of this chaotic, reactive, repetitive activity and do something better. Then give yourself two hours a week to think.
Don’t feel guilty
I can’t tell you how many teams I work with where they all live in fear of their instant message window saying “unavailable” for a second. It’s fascinating that no one holds it against anyone else, but each person feels this huge pressure to always be available.
I know people who work at home who are afraid to go to the bathroom because they think their company will think they are not working if they don’t answer IM’s instantly.
This is crazy.
Why not put your IM status for an hour or two as “working on a deadline” or “on a call” or “be back at 2PM”? If you tell people to expect that you will be away from IM working on strategic projects a few times a week, no one will hold it against you.
Being over-available can backfire. If, instead, you stay infinitely available, but never do anything strategic, you will fail to do your job well. I hear upper managers talking about their workhorses … “Oh yeah, we can throw anything at him, he’ll work round the clock, he’ll travel anywhere, we can always count on him.”
Notice they are not saying, “He is someone we should promote.”
If you work tirelessly 24×7 to accomplish a goal or meet a deadline once in awhile that is okay, and sometimes necessary. But if you work tireless 24×7 for five years you will be stuck. If you never give yourself time to think about how to work better or more strategically, and just keep doing all the work as it comes at you, you will never be as successful as if you figure out how to rise above it.
Today Patty is the CEO of Azzarello Group, a unique services organization that helps companies develop and motivate their top performers, execute their strategies, and grow their business, through talent management programs, leadership workshops, online products & public speaking.