When Keith Ferrazzi titled his book Never Eat Alone I am not sure he meant it literally. He was trying to get across the power of time spent interacting with people in building great relationships and I agree it is very important to spend time interacting with people well. We can all do it better both at work and outside of the office and meal time is a perfect time to slow down and spend time truly connecting with people. But in our always connected lives in which we try and get more done through more technology and systems so we can squeeze one more productive task into our 168 hours per week are we ignoring one of the most powerful things we can do as leaders? You ask what that thing is, well to me it is time in contemplation.
I am more guilty than most of trying to “get one more thing done” with every minute of the day. I feel it is the only way to get it all done and achieve my goals around business, family and community. Then on that rare occasion I find myself with no meeting, my email caught up and no pressing compulsion to make a phone call and I just sit with myself. Not in thought about any one topic but just about “things” as they come into my mind. Many of them are ideas or issues that I have spend time on in those meetings, phone calls and emails but never quite solved or even if we did solve them maybe there were more things to consider. Sometimes they are thoughts about people I haven’t connected with in a while or a connection between people I really should make. Then some times that time allows me to slow down enough to realize that I might not be using my 168 hours as well as I should toward goals that I have set. All of these things are valuable to me and those that I work with, so I am wondering how can I program in time for this so it isn’t accidental and is a committed part of my 168 hours a week.
So I started by trying to convince myself that I spend a lot of time in the car and that is a place that I get enough time to contemplate things. But if I am honest I take and make many calls while on the road, listen to the news and music most of that time. Not to mention I should be concentrating on driving the vehicle, right? So how much time do I really get to allow my mind to bring forward thoughts it has trapped in there it has answered to if I would just listen? I have tried to tell myself that the time I spent exercising in the early morning works well for thought. Then I stop and consider what I think about most of the time when I am running or lifting weights and it comes down to “Just one more, just a little further/faster” and not much about life and issues at work. Which is good for stress relief but not really good for other things. I have tried to schedule time in my day to be able to sit down and think. That only works some of the time because I am so committed to helping out the team when asked that anyone that comes by to talk or ask me a question gets priority over my quiet time. I don’t shut my door often and even when I do everyone knows how to knock. I have also tried to set aside time in the evening to be quiet with myself but I have a 3 year old, a 5 year old, a cat and a wife and they all deserve part of my day. By the time everyone is in bed for the night I am ready to call it a day also or at least spend some time on “easy” things I like to do.
So what can one do to really find time to sit down and let their mind work around and through things? I am starting to think that has to be scheduled, agreed to time, that is away from everyone and everything that you normally allow yourself to engage with. I tried this a few times just staying at home for a day and not looking at my phone or email but that only worked for a short amount of time before I let everything I haven’t gotten to at home that I promised myself and my family I would creep in. So what I have come up with is for me I need to get away from my day to day life both in the physical and technological and just stare at the birds and trees. I am not talking about going far away, maybe just to the park. I am not talking about extended periods of time, just maybe a few hours once every few weeks. But it has to be 100% about not allowing myself to “do” anything other than just be with myself and think. Lunch time seems like a good time to do this as most people are busy like Keith suggests. I do think having a notebook and pen is required so I can catch those thoughts I need to then follow up on later. But nothing else. Who knows maybe I will solve enough things this way to want to spend more time doing it. But at the least we all deserve and need a little time alone. Even if it does mean eating alone every once in a while?
So how do you find time to consider those issues and thoughts that are 100% pressing you in your day to day? Maybe one of you has this solved and won’t mind sharing it with me or maybe you struggle with this issue and we can setup a “eat alone” group to go out to lunch together. Either way please as always reach out to me because it can get lonely out there alone. 🙂