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Making Time to Think

By LeaderTalk Contributor — November 16, 2009 2 min read

I heard the CEO of a Fortune 50 company speak about what the organization expects of senior leaders. One of the points he made was that once you move to an executive role, you are expected to be able to dig into deep issues that will affect the organization both in the short term and the long term. His next comment struck home: “You MUST make time in your calendar to think. That is what the organization expects of you. If you simply move from event to event, you are doing yourself and your organization a disservice.”

I’m sure I’m not alone in that I am guilty time to time of moving from one meeting to the next, scheduling them back to back and not making the time to do my homework to dig into the issue. As I looked at my calendar this week, I found myself in the rut that the CEO mentioned. Monday and Tuesday-Meetings back to back to back all day. Wednesday-clear but have 20+ tasks that HAVE to be completed that day. Thursday-onsite with a colleague working with a client on a research project on Senior Leader Transitions. Friday, early morning meeting followed by unscheduled time to catch up and get set for the next week, which (oh by the way) is a short week. How do I get it all done?

Last night, I went back to my notes on effective personal priority management. It’s ironic that I’ve collected and used all of these techniques before, but if I don’t discipline myself, I get wound up completely around the axle and go round and round (one of my friends in the Navy calls it “grind without gain”. I find I have to go back to the fundamentals periodically and remember some keys of effective personal management.

1-Prioritize: It’s the 80/20 rule. What will give you the biggest bang for your “Time” buck?
2-Build Think Time. I have a 30 minute commute daily-I’ve found myself listening to radio stations, rather than making intentional decisions on this 30 minute block of time twice a day. I’m reminding myself to use the commute time to think through a knotty problem or listen to a podcast on a topic of interest. I’ll do the same on the way back from my meeting on Thursday. I’ll turn off the radio on the way down and walk through final prep. This morning I turned off the radio or iPod and simply thought through what was critical and important to get accomplished today.. Decreasing the white noise and clutter that swirls around inside myhead is an effective way to get some clarity, focus, and attention.

I also made an appointment with myself to prep before going into each meeting this week. I’m again) using that 15 minutes on my calendar and hold that time as being as important as an appointment with another person.

It’s early AM today, I revised the post (yest, on the way in, I reminded myself that my commitment to Scott was that I post today). The day and week will be crazy, but I’m already seeing a little more clarity and focus for my day and week. One day at a time.

Question for you: What tools and strategies do you use to keep yourself sane in our world that has as the “new normal” 75-125 emails daily along with all of our other responsibilities?

All the best,
Chris

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