If your inbox and meeting schedule is dominating your working life here are some habits adopted by successful leaders that enable them to retain a fresh perspective and intellectual edge.
1. Get out in the field – Management by walking about tends to illicit far more accurate information than reports and spreadsheets. Making time to get out to network and expose yourself to new individuals and experience can really help to inspire new ideas and creative solutions.
2. Make time to work without distractions – Few great novelists claim that they’ve been able to pen their greatest work in a busy setting. Instead they have a simple, private almost sacred place where they are able to focus free of interruptions. As important as getting out in the field is, it is also important to make the time to focus and knuckle down through work.
3. Walk – Spending time outside has been proven to have significant positive effects on both physical and mental health. Making time during the day to have a quick walk can help to completely reset your mind and allow you to come back to the office feeling refreshed and ready to talk the rest of your day.
4. Separate admin from work – Even in the days before email people still had to deal with daily correspondence. All that has really changed is the transmission. What was once or twice a day mail delivery is now constant. Though we can still set aside dedicated time to handle administrative tasks whilst dedicating the rest of our day to the thing we do best, whether that be strategising, designing, writing or some other contribution which is unique to us.
5. Measured accountability – It’s much easier to be busy than to be productive. Establishing and recording the achievements that matter is as critical in the workplace as it is in the gym, yet many of us have no idea what constitutes our ‘personal best’ at work.
6. Make time for relaxation – It’s a myth that a packed schedule is an effective schedule. Many great ideas have come when least expected. Similarly, it’s the chance conversations over a coffee that often result in better outcomes than 2 hour structured meetings. Keep some slack in your day to meet new people.
7. Supportive partner – Andy Warhol’s lesser known secretary Pat Hackett spent 2 hours each day dutifully taking notes and recording Warhol’s thoughts, enabling the artist to concentrate on being creative. They might not dare admit it but many outstanding leaders would quickly fall if it wasn’t for their PAs constantly shoring up the foundations.
8. Get up early – Few successful leaders sleep in, Apple’s Tim Cook reportedly starts working at 4.30am! Although we’re not recommending setting your alarm at that time, setting an alarm at the same time everyday can help you get into a sustainable sleep routine and allow you to feel more refreshed. Unlike the end of the day, early morning can provide an opportunity for solitude, it creates a sense of advantage. The early bird really does catch the worm.