Graeme was spending all his time on other people’s agendas. His diary was packed with back to back meetings, his emails were out of control, budget forecasts and project reports were relentless and of course staff issues were constantly distracting him. He had no time to think about tomorrow’s agenda, to ponder the strategic issues they faced, reflect on his own leadership or schedule conversations with key influencers in the business. He was ready for a breakthrough in his personal time availability and control of his day. He realised that what was missing was scheduling free time. That would mean learning to say no and making more requests of his team.
At first, he encountered his own resistance to the concept of scheduling free time in his diary. But, he was determined to get off the treadmill and end the conversation in his head that, “If I don’t do enough, they won’t like me.”
He also encountered opposition from those around him who were used to him being on tap 24/7. He experimented with blocking out a half day per week outside the office, free from interruptions. He took the opportunity to reflect on tomorrow’s agenda, including how his organisation could be better prepared to meet the strategic challenges ahead. He shared insights with people from other industry sectors. His free time enabled him to do the deep thinking that was not possible while he was always on.
As a result, Graeme’s unit of the business was well placed when a major reorganisation was proposed. He was recognised for his strategic leadership capability and took a big new role in the reshuffle. He extended his free time practice to a day per week and it has become a non-negotiable habit which people around him now understand and accept.
In his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport argues for carving out time for us to do the deep thinking that we are unable to do while life is pressing in on us. He believes that, “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”
Are you creating free time?
Best regards, Brian
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