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5 Reasons Leaders Need Time Out

4mins 22s watch time or read below for 5 reasons leaders need to take time out.

In working with leaders, and facilitating leadership programs, one of the key things I am hearing is from people regularly is that leaders are increasingly critically time poor, and that is not going to be a surprise to you. I had a couple of days recently with a group of women leaders in a program and the key theme that came out was how valuable it is to take time out to reflect. So what are the key benefits of creating reflective time in your diary?

The first one is that you can implement and practice new learnings. One of my observations of leaders is they are often really keen to learn, and enjoy development, but lack the time to properly implement.

It is a classic story, and we have all done it. We attend a really amazing conference or program, and we are excited by all the things we can put into practice. Back at work the next day, we sit the folder really prominently on our desk, and we promise to put the learning into practice immediately. We fire up our computer and start to wade through the 300 emails that arrived while we were out of the office, the phone rings, and people are queuing up to see us. At the end of the day, we dig through our in-tray to find the folder and promise that we will do it tomorrow.

By the end of the week, the folder is taking up valuable space on the desk, and it gets moved to the bookcase. Tomorrow, we promise ourselves, we WILL look at it again.

Months go by, and occasionally a situation arises that has us saying to ourselves “I must get that folder out, I am sure we covered that in the program”, but the folder stays on the shelf, just gathering dust. We know that it contains absolute gold – ideas, concepts and tools that will help us be better leaders, but we just DON’T HAVE TIME to put it into practice!

How much more effective would you be, if you made regular time to implement key things you have learned?

Secondly, you can spend time prioritising and doing what is important, not what is urgent.

An exercise I often do with leaders is to ask them to define leadership and define management. Then to think about the percentage of time they spend doing each. Then I ask them what percentage of time they should spend doing each to be effective.

It’s really rare that people say “I have the balance right”. Most people agree that they need to change something to be as effective as they could be. Most people say that they spend too much time ‘fighting fires’ and not enough time with the team, doing strategic work, or planning. Taking time out regularly lets you clear the decks mentally and consider your priorities.

Thirdly, it’s actually good for your stress levels. Being a leader is high stress. We make lots of decisions, often on the run and the pressure of quick decision-making can amp up the stress levels. Making space to think really slows the pace down and reduces stress. A leader I know takes 30 minutes in her office every day to pause, think, and do a short meditation and she raves about the benefits.

Number four, you become more productive when you take time out. When we don’t take time out to reflect, prioritise, think and plan, we are operating reactively not proactively. We all know this to be true. It often takes a leap of faith to book out that time, to commit and to actually follow through, but it WILL pay dividends.

Number five is we role model the right behaviours to our team and the rest of the organisation. We know time out to reflect is healthy and makes us more productive and we know that we should do it. But what we often don’t think about is the impact our behaviour has on others.

When the boss does something, the team will follow. If we are always flat out, we don’t take lunch, we work long hours, our people feel pressured to do the same. Even when we tell them not to. By developing a more moderated approach, we are not just doing ourselves a favour, but all the people around us.

So, if we all know the benefits of reflection time, why are we not doing it? What holds us back is the choices we make. Try reframing your beliefs about your time. “I am too busy to take time out” you could reframe as “I am making choices that prevent me from taking time out”. Now obviously there will be times when deadlines, board papers, requests from the minister, and other priorities outside your control will impact your ability to make choices, but a lot of the time it is about our choices and our habits.

If we examine our choices, we often see that we are making choices that are not as effective as they could be. Let me give you a simple example: If you had 100 fewer emails in the week, could you take out 2 hours a week to reflect? Yes? Have a look at how many emails you double handle and open more than once. How much time would you free up if you dealt with emails once only? The email comes in, you action it, delegate it, file it, or delete it.

I’d love to hear from you – what benefits have you seen in your life and your work from taking reflective time?

Let’s book a time to chat about how I can help you and your team. Click here to find a suitable time.

Read more from Ros at the Shaping Change Blog and pick up your complimentary e-guide “Leading Change” while you are there.

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