by Justin Standfield
Where do you have your best ideas? Where are you and what are you doing when those moments of clarity come, and you manage to answer those questions that have been niggling you for weeks? I’m going to make some bold predictions here. I’m willing to bet that they will be when you are:
- Making dinner, probably whilst chopping vegetables and listening to your children moan about how Harry (it’s always a Harry, isn’t it?) snatched the ball today and “the teacher didn’t tell him off or ANYTHING!”.
- Driving home, sitting in traffic and listening to the radio whilst competing in the M25/M6/A34 karaoke championship (by yourself, being careful not to let the guy in the Presto-Drain-Clearance van catch your eye).
- Walking the dog and being careful to step around the ankle turning potholes and hidden delights in the long grass.
- Clipping your hedges, wondering how long your arms can hold the weight of the over-priced leaf masher you’re holding.
- In the shower, wondering if your next door neighbours can see into your bathroom as easily as you can see into theirs….and what’s in that glass on their windowsill? Are those teeth?
- Queuing up at Slimming World behind Susan (could she take any longer getting her shoes off?) and wondering if that sizeable buffet incident last Friday is going to show up on the scales this week.
The one place I would be genuinely surprised to hear you say would be “at work” or “at my desk” or “in a meeting”. Being at work, being constantly busy and relentlessly ‘doing’ can actually prevent us from ‘being’. It’s the moments of ‘being’ that fuel our clearest and most creative thinking times, in which our best ideas come, our energy levels replenish and we feel a better sense of balance.
As a manager, I know you’ll want to ensure that you are personally demonstrating the behaviours and attitudes you would like to see from your team. Maybe for you this already includes taking time out for thinking – if it doesn’t, perhaps it’s time to start? What about taking time out for breathing? For being ‘pre-productive’? In order to be effective and clear, our minds need regular de-cluttering and this happens when we aren’t consciously trying to think or problem solve. From personal experience I know that the more work I have to do, the more urgent and important meetings I need to attend, the more things I must remember to do and the higher my stress levels, the slower I am to solve problems effectively and to find innovative solutions. This usually leads to me solving the problem temporarily with a quick fix and then having to go back and solve it fully at a later date, effectively re-working everything.
My new approach around being pre-productive is to take time out to slow down and think, to enable me to clear some space in my very over-crowded and sometimes quite weary brain, before tackling anything important or urgent. A walk outside in the fresh air on my own is the quick, daily fix and just allows me enough space to recoup energy and clarity. Slowing down before thinking and ‘doing’ will usually result in me finding the optimum answer first time, which also saves me time. Pottering around at home, preferably in the garden or greenhouse, is my longer investment in achieving the space to think and I try to do this for at least a few hours each weekend, whilst involving my six year old and paying attention to how he views the world in a much simpler and appreciative way. When you see how a six year old sees the many different uses for a watering can, a piece of chalk or the patterns in the clouds, it seems to help refresh those creative pathways in your own brain which are the motorways for ideas that are usually choked with traffic whilst we’re attempting to be busy and effective at work.
These moments spent not-thinking, not-solving and not-doing are starting to become as normal and important a part of my routine as being busy and showing people what a hard worker I am! I believe that if we show our colleagues and staff that it’s OK to slow down – in fact, more than that, it’s incredibly important and valuable to do so – it might even catch on and be the new management trend.
- What can you do to embrace the need for space and rest periods this week?
- How will you show to your team that it genuinely helps us to get better and faster results?