Gut Check: Can You Make The Time To Just Think?

September 30, 2014 Vince Molinaro
Gut Check: Can You Make The Time To Just Think?

I was working with a group of senior leaders recently who admitted to constantly feeling overwhelmed in their roles.

The pace of change they were experiencing was unrelenting and they felt compelled to take on new things without having adequate time to think and assess the value of what they were doing.

As one leader described, “It seems we always focus our attention on the next new and shiny object. We just keep going from one thing to the next, often without really thinking clearly about what or why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

I know this is something we can all relate to as leaders. There are days where the pace is unrelenting. You know the ones where it seems that every millisecond is jam packed with things needing your immediate attention.

For many of us, it’s the reality of the job. Leadership roles are big and unwieldy. Many times, you are bombarded with tasks requiring your input. Sometimes you feel that if you don’t take full advantage of every minute, you won’t be successful.

But I have often wondered, is this sustainable? I think we all know the answer to this question – NO!

So what’s the way forward?

  • Better time management? Maybe.
  • Delegate more work to others? Possibly.
  • Make your job smaller? Not likely.

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn provides an interesting insight that may be valuable to many leaders.

Weiner has learned to set aside up to two hours each day to “just think.” Let me repeat that: two hours every day to think!

“It’s a system I developed over the last several years in response to a schedule that was becoming so jammed with back-to-back meetings that I had little time left to process what was going on around me or just think,” Weiner wrote in a blog.

He does this by scheduling what he called “buffers” in his calendar – 30 to 90-minute blocks of time specifically used to separate key tasks from one another.

At first, Weiner recalled that the buffers felt like indulgences. “I could have been using the time to catch up on meetings I had pushed out or said ‘no’ to. But over time I realized not only were these breaks important, they were absolutely necessary in order for me to do my job.”

Weiner said that every organization is in a constant state of change, and that there are critical moments of transition that leaders must “get right” to be successful. The moments require leaders to be deliberate and have “uninterrupted focus” to question assumptions, synthesize data, connect dots and testing various scenarios.

It’s okay to be busy. It’s not okay, as Weiner points out, to be so busy that you simply have no idea what you’re doing. “The buffer is the best investment you can make in yourself and the single most important productivity tool I use” says Weiner.

I believe if you aren’t really taking the time to think meaningfully as a leader, then chances are you aren’t really leading.

So this week’s gut check question asks: Can you make the time to just think?

About the Author

Vince Molinaro

Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.

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