Entrepreneurs and leaders – listen up. You need to find time to be alone and seek out quiet space to be one with your thoughts. You may think you always need to be visible, out front, with your people, but you also need to set aside time for you and you alone. You need to create those moments where you can slow it all down and think. Think really hard. It’ll bring about so much more strategic upside from you, I promise. Your people will benefit.
Never the same day
My day is different every day. It’s one of the core things I love about my job. I get energy from shifting from seemingly unconnected projects, discussions, topics, activities or meetings and bringing cohesion to them or a semblance of learning and purpose to them and what comes next. Context switching and dot connecting has become a super power I’ve mastered both over many years of honing my work style and then being able to deliver value across the board from those independent segments of my days, weeks, months, years and overall career — making them compound to a bigger and enhanced whole business world view.
I’ve written about this approach – but in summary, I try to operate in what I like to call a “flow-based” work style. I even covered this at length in talking about the vision for York IE in our launch blog last September. “I love working in the flow – context switching from one company; one industry to another. I can never shut off my brain. I go to bed late and wake up early because mentoring, looking for new opportunities, doing deals, pulling levers, solving problems – all of the things that go into helping a startup grow – makes me feel alive. It’s my passion.”
Yet, the reality is that it’s exhausting. I’ll admit it. The always on, 24/7/365 approach, operating in shades of work/life, can get tiring.
Taking a step back
I need to unplug. I need to recharge. I need to focus on the other important aspects of my life. My family and my hobbies. We all do. Those things flush out the noise, remind us of what’s most important, and bring us back stronger for the work that needs to get done, that next mountain we need to conquer. These other passions also remind me, personally, why I work so hard and commit the way I do to my craft.
Beyond that, I need to spend time alone to collect my thoughts, move around the chess pieces, jump from chess board to chess board, map out the playing field and bring it back together into a strong, scalable and sustainable vision — and execution plans to realize the dream. It takes dedicated time, reflection, course correction. Thinking comes in spurts. You can’t always expect it all to make sense in your head. Many times it won’t in one fell swoop. You’ll need to string together several sessions. Sometimes the brain is overwhelmed and other times it’s just right. I take long walks, I sit alone, I think before bed, I think when I wake up, I think in the shower, while working out, I eat lunch alone a lot. I take a copious amount of notes on my phone. I draft a lot of blogs, emails, tweets, vision decks and execution plans before I ever press publish or share with anyone.
I commit to me time and my leadership outputs are stronger for it. I’m stronger for it. My team and my company are stronger for it. It makes me the most prepared person in the room. I challenge you to do the same.