Nowadays our lives are becoming more and more penetrated with technologies and it seems that “being connected” 24/7 has become not only a new habit but also an expectation from our clients, partners and even friends. “Always being online” keeps our minds constantly dealing with tons of information, digesting it in some form, generating responses and multitasking. Yes, checking your Facebook account while working on a project IS multitasking 🙂 especially if you’re checking it several times per hour.
A “thinking time” is vital for success
The world is going faster and we’re trying to get everything done faster than before, using evenings and weekends for work, as it seems that we’d miss something otherwise. The pressure is in the air and amount of daily tasks is growing.
While it might seem that this is the new norm, our bodies and minds were not designed to operate under such conditions with constant distractions, stress, and information overload. This is just not how we are wired. We need time to rest, to reflect on what has happened during the day, and to regain our focus.
Otherwise we might be just running somewhere and being busy all the time.
Step 1: Set a “thinking time” each day
Even a small amount of time set aside each day to think about important, but not urgent aspects of our work and life, can make a huge difference. I call this time “thinking about strategic things”:
- goals and priorities
- preventive actions and building preventive processes
- leading people and improving relationships
- how you spend your time
These are important for each of us, who want to deliver peak performance, but especially for leaders, who need to devote more time to long-term issues and not to daily operational tasks.
For many people mornings are the best times to do this – either early in the morning before you come to work or the first hour at work. If you work in the open space – find a place in a conference room or outside the office.
For some people evenings are the best times for such quiet time. If it works for you – great! The idea is that you have this hour each day. It will help you to think about challenges and the bigger picture and regain your focus on the most important and meaningful things.
While it might seem nearly impossible in the beginning, as you think about it, don’t worry – it is possible and you will be glad you did it. Just schedule this block of uninterrupted time into your calendar and plan other things around it. From my experience both as an employee and a leader – in 99% of cases there is nothing so urgent happening that it cannot wait 1 or 2 hours to be resolved. Some people just perceive it this way.
Turn off all your distractions during this hour. No emails, no phone. You need to fully focus on these important things, as they lay the foundation of your success as a person and performer in the long run. If this block of time is pre-scheduled each day, it will also be easier for you to say “No” to other things and people when they approach you. When approached by others, in most cases you can just say – “Unfortunately this time is already scheduled, but we can do it at a different time/day.” 🙂
Step 2: Take a day off each month
Each month you might even want to take the whole day or several days off for this purpose – to turn yourself off from the world and to think not only about issues at work, but in your life in general.
- Why am I doing what I am doing?
- How do I develop a better relationship with my teenage son or daughter?
- What things do I need to focus my efforts on for greater impact?
Take a walk in the park, drive somewhere away from the buzz and pressures of the city. I like to go to the country-side or to the sea to enjoy nature and the quietness of simple living.
CEOs do it regularly
This is what John Donahoe, ex-CEO of Ebay, found useful in regaining his focus and enhancing performance as a leader:
“From time to time, I like to take a “thinking day.” These are pre-scheduled, uninterrupted times to step away from the chaos, zero-base my time, and refocus on the issues that are most important.
I take a thinking day approximately once every three months. I’ll hide away in an empty office, stand in front of a whiteboard (and it must be a whiteboard), and map out what is going on in the external environment and what I see as the company’s most pressing issues in the coming period. I think about what I have learned, which areas require my attention, and what changes I need to make — and remind myself not to worry about events over which I have no control.
My thinking days give me a refreshed, comprehensive view of how I am spending my time and allow me to recalibrate and adjust my goals, my priorities, and my calendar. I also force myself to identify where I can have the greatest impact and then make adjustments in my time.” (excerpt from his post “To Beat the Chaos, Take a Thinking Day”)
If the CEO of one of the biggest internet companies can do it, you can do it too 🙂
So start today – each day schedule 1 hour when nobody and nothing can distract you.
Go for it and see how this small change in your schedule can take you to the new heights of performance and to a less stressful life.
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