Are You Taking Time to Think?

The task of managing and leading a business is a consuming responsibility. There are many things to consider, issues to deal with and problems to solve. It can become so hectic and demanding that you can fall into a habit of being controlled by events, reacting to circumstances, and dealing with the unexpected. The result of this reactive environment is that too little time is invested each day on how the business is operating.

A major contribution to this chaos is a lack of thinking.

Warning Signs
When your day is too busy to devote to collecting your thoughts, gathering data and operational feedback, and anticipating what hazards lie ahead it is time to put a stake in the ground and budget time in your day to think.  Put the phone messages aside, defer looking at your email, out off the blinking voice mail light, put your cell phone on vibrate and collect your thoughts.

Recast Your Priorities Daily

Your Value
Take time to reflect on your value and role in the organization.  While you might be the best problem solver, you need to remember that you are there to help others in your organization successfully solve problems. Lead and delegate, advise, direct and consent.  Do not willingly take the monkey off of others people’s shoulders that should wrestle their issues to the ground on their own.  You need to remind yourself of your value and role everyday.
Past Due Issues
What was the number one issue from the day before that needs to be dealt with today?  Keep short accounts and do not let issues accumulate from day-to-day.  Devote 5 minutes to an action plan (that will be executed by others) to move it from critical to work-in-process or an acceptable resolution.
Unexpected Events
Reflect on the state of the business and identify (exercise your intuition) from what direction you may encounter an unexpected event or crisis.  If they occur, are you and your organization prepared to deal with them.  If not, what would be the appropriate action to deal with them. Walking through mentally on how you would deal with something unexpected helps prepare you when and if that event or similar circumstance occurs later in the day.
Touching Others
Who are you going to communicate with today on how well they are doing?  As we process all of the reports, emails, voice mails, interruptions we can overlook that we need to reach others personally and recognize the job they are doing and their value to the business.  Do not be consumed by your workload and fail to give those you work with the attention they need to do a good job for you.
Forward Look
What is the one forward-looking action/strategy you want to review today to see if it is on schedule, properly resourced, understood by those involved and meeting (or exceeding) objectives?  Your day may become busy with the crisis-of-the-day but some part of tomorrow also needs attention.
Top Five
List the top 5 important objectives that you intend to accomplish by the end of the day. This may be a challenge because new issues that you have yet to become aware of are still waiting for you in email, voice mail, etc.  However, if you don’t start with the intent to work on these 5 they will, most likely, not get attention by accident. You might surprise yourself and complete them early in the day and may even list another 5.
Ask yourself everyday if you are using your time wisely.  What is distracting you from your daily goals?  Are you stepping in when you should be delegating?  Do you have a recurring source of distraction that is not being constructively resolved so that it does not recur?
What is the time/performance of your day?  Are you just working long hours to be busy or are you really producing a quality product (your work product) when you work longer hours.  Be honest with yourself and realize that after awhile working long hours erodes your performance.
Is your schedule of appointments and meetings for the day appropriate for what you feel you need to accomplish for the day.  If it doesn’t fit then change it now.  Either schedule those that you need to meet with or cancel a meeting that would be unproductive for either you or the attendees if held as scheduled.

Taking 20 to 30 minutes everyday to “think” will enable you to get a head of the power curve and have a chance to be proactive in executing your responsibilities.  This may be difficult to master at the outset but keep notes from day-to-day and after awhile you will notice:

  • Progress in completing your Top Five consistently.
  • A consistent habit of seeking people out in your business to recognize that will become obvious to others.
  • Regular attention to forward looking tactics and strategies.
  • Positive results from applying your special value to the business.

Thinking is a precious capacity for a leader. Leaders can be guilty of not taking the time to just think about their business before they start the day.

Use this special capacity to be a more productive and successful  leader.

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