Are you constantly catching up on e-mails? Is your day full of back-to-back meetings, where you feel that all you are doing is collating more work whilst your inbox is growing ever larger? How does that make you feel? And yes, there’s the planning for your next big thing that you need to arrange…whenever that will be. Then you squeeze in some time and you end up doing the best you can with the time you have left. Never quite what you wanted. Is this the best of you? I think not.
We do not often take time out to really think. We try and bat e-mails back as quick as they are coming in. Meetings are not prepared for and so there’s always someone else driving the agenda. Let me guess, once you were so organised, right?
Whether this is carried out as reflection or just time out to think, this is last on the list of things to do. Yet it can be one of the most liberating. When we take time out, our minds are allowed to put things back into the boxes they belong and a cluttered mind becomes less cluttered. Focus returns and the anxiety reduces. David Rock in his book ‘Your brain at work’ talks about the capacity of our brain to concentrate, like a small stage. There are only so many actors you can get on it at any given time. If more actors are ready to go on, some will have to come off – limited capacity on the stage!
Before you immerse yourself into your work, take time out to plan the priorities of the day. Then, at the end of the day, take a few minutes out to review what you actually achieved. It’s only when you stand still and review what you achieved, that you realise how much you have done. During busy times, you can become deflated, not knowing where you are actually adding value. How can you possibly know when you have no time to take stock?
As well as planning and reviewing, we need regular breaks. We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘sleep on it, things will look different in the morning’. In the same way as our unconscious mind needs time to sort things out whilst we sleep, throughout the day, our minds need time to digest and understand. This can be as short as 10 minute breaks in between meetings. How productive can we be with back-to-back meetings throughout the day? Time out is essential and we should not shy away from it or feel embarrassed about it. It’s like breathing during exercise, sometimes, you just need to stop, let the body recover a little, relieve it of the lactic acid, before you go again. And then you are always able to perform so much better…