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Do You Need a Time Out? Most Likely, Yes

Alone time for leaders is critical – for thinking, visioning and just breathing.  However in our “do something now” world, spending time alone can trigger a number of unproductive narratives that we tell ourselves, like “I’m not being productive by just sitting and thinking,” or “I don’t like the feeling of not doing something, because I’m a do-er,” or even, “When I’m not doing something I feel lonely, and that’s not working for me.” 

We are conditioned in our work to want to be doing something, otherwise we aren’t working, right?  That’s one of the reasons why our smart phones and email are so seductive. They keep us busy and make us feel connected to something, and the reality is that both of these can be distractions to being in the work that needs our attention and building the real-time relationships that we want.

The simple act of scheduling time to think – and by that I mean actually entering it on your calendar – is critical for a number of reasons:

  • Having an appointment on your calendar validates this time as important and meaningful.
  • Creating an agenda and regular rhythm of how you will use the time will lend enough structure so you are actually being productive.
  • If the stated purpose of the time is to unplug, make that the goal of the time. This reframing of how you begin to language this time will help you believe in its value and honor the commitment that you’ve made to yourself.
  • If you are in a stressful situation or have to have a tough conversation with someone, allowing yourself some time to be calm and quiet will help you manage the situation more effectively.

Start small. Simply sit by yourself for five minutes or take a 10-15 minute walk each day as a way to begin the process. For many effective leaders, carving time out during the week for a longer period of time (30 minutes to an hour) to just think about their leadership, their relationships, and their own health and well-being are meaningful and reasonable ways to recharge and generate more energy and focus for all of the doing that is waiting for them.