The process of creating space to think and breath is not new. Buddhist monks have been taking vows of silence for centuries. Stephen Covey, back in 1988, introduced us to ‘Sharpening the Saw.’ Fast forward almost half a century and ‘mindfulness’ is scheduled as part of the curriculum in primary schools the length and breadth of the UK.
Whatever its mask, the concept remains the same. It is in our nature to require time out, silence and solitude.
In a world of the omnipresent device, when a phone is checked on average 200 times per day, emails are expected to have an immediate response, social media notifications ping in front of our eyes night and day and the hours of the working day have blurred to the point that a 9 to 5 is barely recognisable, is it any wonder that the desire for silence and solitude is, to leaders, like the song of the Sirens was to sailors in the times of Greek mythology?
The noise of daily life endless distracts us from the things that are most important. Writing a document whilst being interrupted by email, being called on the phone whilst attempting to focus on a complicated task, means that in the world of work, we are far less effective than we would like to be.
The pedagogy of leadership engrains in the leaders of today the requirement for the door to always be open. To be the constant support to the team and to be always available. Although Covey’s concept of paying into the emotional bank account is fruitful for the development of the team, for trust and belief in those around you, the leader must also remember that they need to keep their own purse full to engage with the fulfilment of others. How? One suggestion would be to schedule blocks of time for tasks- including solitude and stick rigidly to these.
Giving the same importance to annual leave, a lunch break- even just a couple of times a week and protecting an hour of silence in a park is a step in the right direction. Silence and solitude can, however, take multiple guises. If you are trying to work through a problem that presents multiple solutions for which you must choose one, your silence may be in a room with a whiteboard and coloured pens. If your greatest need is to step away from your present reality into a parallel universe of calm, an hour escaping in a book by your favourite author- even better a well leafed book which you can pick up and enjoy for an hour without being frustrated by not knowing the end could be the answer. It makes sense, therefore, to set goals and targets for these times in the same way we do for all other tasks.
In a local school, the parents are regularly encouraged to allow their children to be bored, for out of boredom, preaches the Head Teacher, comes imagination and from imagination, the leaders, scientists and inventors of the future are born. We do not need the constant entertainment of an activity, the TV, computer games and each other. Sometimes it is healthy just to stop.
And why should this be any different for business owners and leaders?
Why not try and take that slice of time away for yourself. It could be the best thing you do for your business. It will definitely be the best thing for your team. It will allow them to step off, to think, to breath and to see that you are human too.
The ultimate goal could be to take a year off- take a sabbatical. Travel, spend time with the family, write a book, or fix up the garden. In reality, even small steps are leaps forwards. Try closing the door, going offline, or asking for calls to be held for an hour every day. Turn off the music, take a break from a podcast or only check your emails once in the morning and once in the afternoon, then schedule your work around what comes in.
When you are able to take that silence, or create that solitude; take a drive, take a walk, meditate, go for a run, start a hobby. Whatever gives you peace.
As with everything, the solitude must become a habit, or it will be the first thing to drop from a list. Make time for the time and make space for the space. Your team- and your accountant, will thank you for it in the long run and your effectiveness and productivity will soar.
For more productivity-boosting advice, call Phebys on 01480 896267.