Leaders I work with have big jobs, big mandates and big challenges. They also have very little time to think in big ways, yet all feel the need to transform some part of their organization. Each one of my clients is smart, hard-working, skillful and experienced. However, they lack something essential to their ability to lead their organizations to the next stage: time to reflect, intuit and discern new insights.
In the early days, before phones and computers, societies spent time in quiet reflection in dojos and sweat lodges, Roman baths, listening to music, walking in nature and star gazing. Today, we may think of these activities as frivolous, but research would insist that they’re not just good for the body and soul, but good for business.
Many leaders live their days in back-to-back meetings, most of which involve important and urgent content and people. These leaders live their weeks in a crushing whirl of problem solving, working on issues and prodding capability, and not enough time with family or their own thoughts. The weeks feel like moments, and the months are like a sprint. Yet somewhere in the midst of all that activity, a nagging and mounting concern flickers through their minds: wondering just how to move the business forward. (Take the quiz below to see if you’re one of these leaders.)
In today’s modern and hectic world, we’re surrounded by – and perhaps even addicted to “doing.” We’re addicted to action, to quick hits that keep us going, yet actually thwart our full potential and impact. In a small way right now, I’d like to introduce the value and importance of creating space in your day and week for “thinking time.” This is time to sense, reflect, hear and feel the path forward. In this quiet time, our bodies are able to process, digest and bring forth latent insights that can help propel us toward solutions that otherwise fall to the side unused as we go about emails and meetings. Our inherent gifts are often buried and need ample time and space to breathe, and to sense a next action or possibility.
Here are some easy ways to start creating “thought time” in just three steps:
- Carve uninterrupted blocks of time into your day to think (not for email) and develop new possibilities. Often my clients find it hard to turn off the “doing” when they arrive at this spot on their calendar.
- Change your surroundings. Move to a table, a window or another inviting space – without your laptop.
- Then, take 1 minute to breathe fully and deeply. Require yourself to take a minimum of three deep, full and cleansing breaths with your hands unoccupied.
At this point you can reflect, or write as a gateway to reflection. Allow thoughts to float forward. Note them, be curious about them and hold back from “doing” anything about them. Do you remember, as a kid, finding something in the woods or yard that was curious and interesting? Treat your thoughts like that object. Examine each thought from many angles, and ask yourself: What if? What could be? How might? What am I noticing?
What the world needs now are leaders who are curious, intuiting, and actively engaged in seeing the patterns and small experiments that can begin to change the course of tomorrow.
Can this be you? I know it can.
Quiz for Business Leaders of Today
- Do you spend most of your day in back-to-back meetings?
- Do you find yourself cramming emails in between meetings and at breaks?
- How often are you aware of your breathing and exhalations?
- How many times a day do you actually know what you’re feeling?
- How much of what you focus on and accomplish in a day is proactive, intentional, and about designing the future?
If the first two questions are familiar to you and easy to answer, while the last three seem unfamiliar or difficult to answer, then I invite you to consider the suggestions I make in this blog post.