Do you regularly make time to get away by yourself?
As your life gets busier, how often do you just spend time with you?
Most of us don’t think we have the time for this. We rush to work. We rush to the store, to pick up the kids, to the gym, running errands like a hamster on a wheel.
Want to try an experiment? I love to watch this event, which plays out in every restaurant I have seen. A couple is eating dinner. One person will get up. See how long the remaining person waits before fishing out the cell phone and playing around on it. Likely, it will not be long. It seems we are that uncomfortable with being alone, even in a crowded restaurant.
What would happen if we made alone time a priority?
Jesus did it. He would regularly remove himself from the crowds to be alone and meditate.
Thoreau did it. His book Walden is a classic, filled with the wisdom of his time alone in the woods.
But today? Take the time to be alone?
Studies show taking time out for you increases memory, creativity, and mood.
This morning I went for a walk in the woods behind my house. It’s that time of year when winter’s line is blurring into spring, and spring is beginning to win. The trees remain leafless, and yet, if you look closely enough, you can see the tiniest hints of green scattered here and there. Days are beginning to shift and I feel the restlessness of nature. A slight wind is at first cold and biting before it shifts to a warm, teasing breeze. Walking to the back of the house, I glance up and watch quietly as a small bird ducks under the deck, carrying twigs to make a nest. Spring, undoubtedly, is on the way.
The changing of the seasons. I’m not sure why, but it makes me stop and think more. It’s time for a pause, a look back and a look ahead. Spring is an exciting time, filled with new possibilities. To fully take advantage of its hope, we need to discard what we are carrying to free us to take on new opportunities.
“You cannot change the seasons, but you can change yourself.” –Jim Rohn
Not a day goes by when I don’t hear, “I’m so busy!” or, “I don’t have any time.” It seems that in our overconnected, overscheduled, overcommitted world we have lost all sense of margin. Time to breathe? Maybe, if it’s a scheduled yoga class or meditation session. Otherwise, on to the next task!
What happens when we don’t have time to reflect? Why is it so critical to spend time on reflective thinking?
“$650 billion is lost each year because we don’t give ourselves time for reflection.” -DP Forrester
What are the top 3 benefits of reflection and reflective thinking?
1. Getting the big ideas right
CEOs, COOs, business leaders, and leadership boards have no shortage of ideas that must get done. They drive high-performing teams and cultures to implement their best ideas. Now, more than ever, organizations are in the midst of a tumultuous business market, facing questions of relevancy and sustainability. Only through reflective thinking can leaders know if their big ideas will work and if the organizational culture can support idea implementation. Reflective leaders embrace the questions: What would make this idea fail, what could we do differently, and how can we solve this problem?
2. Finding meaning
We live in a world where data and meaning fight for our attention all day. Emails, text messages, social media updates, and other information are constantly bombarding us. We can’t process one piece of data before we are confronted with another. There’s simply no way to comprehend the meaning of all of this data unless we make time to think.
This Basex study breaks down how the typical leader spends his or her time each day:
28% — Interruptions by things that aren’t urgent or important, like unnecessary email messages and the time it takes to get back on track
25% — Productive content creation, including writing email messages
20% — Meetings (in person, by phone, by video, and online)
15% — Searching through content, like the Web, digital communications, and paperwork
ONLY 5% — Reflecting on all of the information
Nearly a third of the time is spent in interruptions, while a mere 5% is left for think time. How can leaders make effective decisions with such a balance? The answer is simple: they can’t.
Leaders must understand the meaning behind information and the implications of their decisions before they act. Meaning is what leaders bring to their organizations. When meaning is found, intention is found.
“When meaning is found, intention is found.” -Daniel Patrick Forrester
When we take time to think and reflect, we find ourselves in control rather than subservient to the Pavlovian urges that so often drive us to choose technology and connectedness rather than reflection. This past September, I spoke at a conference called BoardSource in Washington, D.C. BoardSource is the nation’s largest annual convening of nonprofit leaders, board members, and chief executives. In my speech to the 850 executive leaders in attendance, I explained why boards and leadership teams should act with intention and focus on becoming greater than the sum of their individual parts, which can only be achieved through continuous reflection.
“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” –Mark Twain
Dr. Joelle K. Jay is an expert in personal leadership. She has coached executives in numerous companies, written several books and numerous articles, and is a principle with the Leadership Research Institute, a global leadership development firm.
“Leading on the edge” is about challenging ourselves to take the leadership position in our own lives – pushing ourselves not to sit back and hope for things to happen but getting out in front and making them happen with our own intent and effort.
“Most true happiness comes from one’s inner life.” -William Shirer
What are some of the benefits of mastering personal leadership?
I believe that everyone is a leader – if not the leader of a team or a company, at the very least the leader of his or her own life. Strong companies have learned that better leadership equals better results – higher profits, bigger market share and a global advantage. Personal leadership helps us get the results we want for ourselves – a more fulfilling career, a more rewarding experience, a happier life.
Your book outlines ten practices of personal leadership. Let’s discuss a few of them. The first is “get clarity.” How do you help leaders understand who they are and where they want to go?
I recently heard a speaker say, “Clarity is everything. Confusion is the enemy.” In our fractured and distracted world, leaders need to learn to cut through the noise to hear their own voice. They do this by asking themselves powerful questions – chief among them, “What do I want?” When leaders can get clear about what they want, they can outline the steps to get there.
Tap Into Your Brilliance
I love “Tap into your brilliance” because I am often amazed at people’s strengths. How does a leader encourage an environment where everyone is operating in the strong zone?
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” -Confucius
When leaders learn to leverage their strengths, they positively burst into action. Suddenly their efforts are infused with energy as they discover they can finally do things their way – the way that comes naturally to them and the way they do them best. That has a contagious quality, so strengths-based leaders are naturally encouraged by their own successes to help the people around them – their managers, direct reports, their teams – to organize their activities around the strengths in the group. It’s a more satisfying experience for everyone – but more than that, it’s also far more effective.
“See possibility” is another practice. One technique you call is “Let it be easy.” Would you elaborate on this practice for us?