Business journalist Hana Stewart Smith writes for Greenbank and makes the case that the best performers make sure that they take time to breathe; time to think and step off the treadmill and focus on what is really important for success both at work and in their personal lives.
Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, recently wrote an article called ‘The Importance of Scheduling Nothing’. His message was the importance of allocating specific free periods in your working calendar to avoid the dangers of getting stretched too thin. He recommended that making this ‘free time’ should be an essential technique for individuals working at any level.
Of course we all wish we could have more hours in the day; our schedules can fill up far more quickly than we realise, and we find ourselves scrambling for extra time to get things finished.
So it’s vital to take back control of your calendar- and here are some of the reasons why.
The 24/7 Business Environment
We live in a world of all day, every day business because we work in a global business environment.
Advances in technology have facilitated the ultimate business network – which allows us to meet the demanding needs of clients across the world. However beneficial this may be to our business, it also means that we are all ‘on call’, all the time.
Making yourself accessible 24/7 may be vital– but the consequence is that we can become slaves to the ‘urgent’ demands of others with increasing pressure to respond immediately whilst items on our own agenda are pushed further down our ‘to do’ list.
V.U.C.A- Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous
In addition to being 24/7, most of us are now operating in ‘VUCA’ environment; an acronym that stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
As a result it’s not enough to just work harder and for longer hours– that just leads to being burnt out and stuck in an uphill battle. To both survive and prosper in a VUCA world we need to:
- Be flexible, innovative and agile
- Be able to anticipate and look for new ways to satisfy the needs of your clients
- Be effective and adaptive
All of which requires the one thing nobody seems to have enough of – time
The truth is that time is always our most valuable asset so how we use that time is crucial for both the success of the business and for our own lives and careers. When we fail to allocate sufficient time for strategic thinking, problem solving and developing our people we reduce our ability to spot new opportunities and ways to deliver greater value to our clients or grow our own careers.
So how do we generate time in a 24/7, VUCA business environment?
The solution is simple- although admittedly not easy to do. We need to find a way to set time aside for ourselves and feel comfortable with doing it. After all, it is when we might do our most valuable work. Just because you’re not ‘busy’ doesn’t mean you are not using that time in a valuable way.
Here are some ways to do this…
Block out time in your Outlook calendar for; thinking, problem solving, anticipating, looking for partnerships and consolidating your workload. What could you get done in 2 quality hours, free of distraction?
You need to build problem solving time into your working days rather than letting it infringe on your free time; or you might find yourself having sleepless nights and be less productive the next day.
Whilst we do have to be flexible — which can mean making sure your schedule is open to the unexpected – we also need to prioritise in a way that is productive and leaves us time to anticipate tomorrow.
Remember; scheduling free time is about creating more effective time, not wasting it.
Things to remember
We need to ring fence time in our own schedule. If other people can automatically book appointments for us, or through our teams, then we’ll find ourselves overloaded with back to back meetings.
We need to delegate and to do that effectively takes time. The best managers know that they need to be skilful delegators both for personal success and to develop their teams. To do this we need to give them valuable time, not just any time.
6 Things that clearing time in your schedule can do for you as a Leader
- You will have uninterrupted, quality problem solving and thinking time at regular intervals in the week. This will help you plan ahead and pre-empt issues, but will also give you the flexibility to change your plan as new situations develop.
- It will give you time to reflect on what is and isn’t working for both you and your team. Recognising the best use of your time will, in turn, help you to generate more time to work in without extending your hours.
- It will build trust with your colleagues, clients and team members by helping you deliver on your commitments.
- It gives you time to scan the horizon- what new technology is coming your way, what are your competitors doing and what new needs do your clients have which you could help them with?
- It gives you space to think about your own development; seek feedback, develop your professional network and build relationships with your key stakeholders.
- … and finally, it gives you time to refresh and re-energise with quality time for yourself, your friends and those who are nearest and dearest to you.
So over to you: what secrets can you share that have helped you to carve out ‘time to breathe’.
What has worked for you?
Hana Stewart-Smith is a business journalist with Alliance News