An executive’s days can be bumpy and noisy without a moment’s pause to reflect, make plans, and contemplate solutions to problems. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of becoming a taskmaster that ends up doing the same things over and over again without ever actually advancing the ball forward. These times are essential to build into your routine in a way that best serves your needs—an undistracted slot of time for your brain to explore and put issues to rest.
If you’re not delegating enough tasks to others, start doing so. You should only ever be doing the most important thing for your company at a given moment, so fairly and appropriate assign regular tasks to your employees in order to reduce the strain on your free time.
Stop everything and take a walk. It will only help to physically remove yourself from the environment where you do your work in order to let some ideas flow free, to get some productive mind-wandering done. Some incredibly famous thinkers made walking a regular part of their work routine—follow their lead and fold it into your own.
Go to bed an hour earlier and wake up an hour earlier. This effectively sneaks an unoccupied hour early into your day, first thing. You must resist the temptation to check your phone for emails, tweets, or whatever else, because it’s only downhill from there. Use this time to get the things done that you would too easily put off until tomorrow. The only way to get these big-ticket items done is to do them. So do them.
Schedule it. Reinforce your downtime as scheduled yet unstructured by specifically blocking out an allotment of your choice to use for whatever you want to use it for. Remind yourself that this is your time to be thinking creatively about how to better steer your company into the future. If your phone rings, give it away to someone you trust for an hour. Get alone with yourself and get busy.
Meet lots of people. For some this is easy. A natural result of many business processes is that you come away having met someone new. Be friendly and ask what they think about things. Remind yourself that you can learn something from anyone if you ask them the right question. For others this may be difficult. If your business is of the type that doesn’t see you engage in human interaction on a somewhat regular basis, make it a point to get out and about to bounce your ideas off of people and see what comes back; it may just be better than what you had before you left.
What else works for you when it comes to protecting that valuable semi-downtime that sees us get a lot of the bigger-picture work done? Let us know in the comments. It’s important, yet it’s also easy to forget just how important it is.