Last week I participated in a webinar that resonated with me because it reminded me of many issues my coaching clients are encountering in 2024. The webinar was titled “Leaders Take the Time to Think at Work.”

As I reviewed the title, I realized that these days there is so much time pressure on leaders to finish one project and move on to the next project that they can literally forget to pause and reflect upon what is most important for their firm, their teammates and themselves. It is easy to talk about reducing unnecessary tasks and being more intentional. It is more challenging to actually do it.

As Juliet Funt, the webinar presenter, stated, most people surrender to a world without “white space.” She suggested that leaders habitually insert “a wedge” – a little piece of open time – between two things on their calendar. It can be 10 seconds during a conversation, a minute after reading an email before responding, or 15 minutes between meetings.

She opined that most companies utilize a process of Research-Consult-Decide rather than a more helpful process of Research-Consult – “Wedge” – Decide.

Part of the problem, she offered, is that most leaders do not understand where their “busyness” is being generated.

Sometimes “busyness” is outside our control because it is based on company seasonality, our boss’s decisions or other outside factors. Often, however, once we do identify our “busyness,” we can examine our decisions and realize we are acting as our own worst enemy. We are succumbing to “time thieves” that show up when drive becomes overdrive, when excellence becomes perfectionism, when information leads to overload, and when activity leads to frenzy,

To avoid these thieves. we must refrain from the “Four P’s” of low-value work:

Panicking – work chosen in haste

Pandering – being slaves to our boss’s to-do list

Procedures – Red tape wasters of our time

Padding – Dealing with too many emails and IMs

Our goal, Juliet asserted, is to create a “Results Only Work Environment.” To do that, leaders must break open their perspective by overcoming an empathy gap that can flow in both directions. How can we do that? Her suggestions included:

-Making vulnerable admissions

-Asking HR to share what they usually don’t share

-Asking our direct reports “What does it feel like to work here?” – then taking the responses seriously

-Sending out employee surveys with new and different questions

-Committing to act on what you hear back

Leaders can ask themselves specific questions that will help them and their team members to become create more “white space” AND be more effective. These critical questions include:

-How can we improve at letting things go?

-Where can we eliminate routine and unnecessary status updates?

-Which non-essential research activities can we stop?

-How can we eliminatie manual data entry?

-Where can we reduce secondary objectives, excessive quality checks and multiple approval layers?

-When is “good enough” good enough for our team?

-What do I truly need to know?

-What deserves my attention today?

-What’s our opportunity here?

Remember that it is easy for people to become addicted to work without ever realizing it. We are all more effective when we intentionally build in “white space.”

So, moving forward, create time to insert that “wedge” and reflect on what is most important. In the short term, think about what is most meaningful and important for you and your team. For the long term, reflect on your job legacy.

If you believe this content would resonate with a friend or colleague, please feel free to forward it along!