Commitments: Take Time to Think


Over the last month, and in particular the past two weeks, we have been in the midst of fall planning.  I tend to love this time of year, despite the fact it makes us really busy, because it causes us to step back from our day to day and assess how things are going and where we should go from here.  These reflection and assessment times are key elements to helping us propel our organization and our business to the next level.

After a tiring and inspiring two weeks, where I stepped away from my daily whirlwind for a full five days, whether it be for our executive retreat or my team’s leadership planning summit, I wonder out-loud (if that is what writing a blog is?) why I don’t do this more often? There is something ceremonious about the fall planning retreat, but truthfully I felt like we moved the needle on our organization more in the last few weeks that I may have all year.  So, why not do this more?  Why do we as business leaders see stepping away from the whirlwind as a luxury, or a bi-annual event, versus thinking of stepping back as more of the norm?

To be clear, I am not talking about having more “retreats” or big, off-site events, but instead I am advocating for creating more brain space in our schedules as leaders.  Time more regularly to think and reflect, to innovate and be creative.  This year, I have been working to create 90 minutes of unscheduled time on my calendar every single day.  This is really hard.  I have more than 100 people who want regular one-to-one meetings with me, as well as being a part of business reviews and accountability sessions with my team and others in the organization.  I am a part of at least two teams (mine and our executive team) whose team meetings alone take 10-12 hours a month out of my schedule, not to mention the working teams that break out of these groups to help to move key initiatives and projects forward.  How, amongst all of these pulls on my time, can I create more unscheduled time in my calendar?  And, since I am not used to having it, how will I prevent myself from losing it to distraction if it arrives?

With this pursuit, I have definitely improved my time dedication to assessment and reflection, but not near to where I would like it to be.  Here are a few things that I have learned that may help in this journey, or at least remind me in the future, as I am sure I will have times I forget.

  1. Have a plan or a goal.  I (and likely many business professionals) work better with a plan or a goal.  Whether it be 90 minutes a day of unscheduled time, or simply a bike ride a week, this helped me focus my energy and time effectively.
  2. Tell people about your goal.  Accountability is an amazing thing.  The more you socialize what you are doing, the more I have felt accountable to not just myself for this improvement exercise.
  3. Don’t be down on yourself.  Change is hard.  I failed more days this year than I have succeeded, but if I get down on myself for this, it defeats the purpose.  Being kind and forgivining to myself is hard, in fact, sometimes almost impossible.  The more accepting at my own misses, the better I am at improving.
  4. Get creative on solutions.  For me, unscheduled calendar time isn’t the only way to create time for reflection (despite the original goal).  Ensuring that I have time dedicated to other activities like riding my bike, working out, outside learning time, reading, community events has helped this journey.  During these times, although my mind is far from quiet, I think and reflect.  In fact, my best organizational structure idea in the last two years came while on my mountain bike riding “Flying Dog” trail in Park City, Utah.

I guess it would be fitting to close this blog post with a commitment.  In a life with a lot of things pulling at me – my adorable children, a desire to have quality time with Jon, my job, business travel on both sides of our family and a desire to stay healthy – it is easy to not keep up with this.  My commitment today is that I will keep trying, and not be frustrated with my progress or failures.

Back to the Blog – The 5 Things That I Love About Blogging

Summer is officially over.  Kids are back at school finishing the end of their 3rd week. Time to get back writing the blog.  I have missed it, but with the busy schedules of the summer it was a nice break.  One of my goals this summer was to be outside as much as possible, and taking a break from the chains of my laptop was a big help in making that happen.

I am refreshed after three months.  I have overcome my lack of ideas which was plaguing me in June.  I have created a mental list of “breakthrough” content and I can’t wait to pour it onto the screen.  Oh wait, when I open the WordPress template this morning, and try to figure out where to start, nothing.  Nothing at all.  How can this be?  Where did all of those late night ideas go, or the ones I had while on the mountain bike trail this summer.  Lost in the land of writers block.  Nothing.

So, the only place for me to start is by reminding myself why I do this.  Here are my top five reasons why I blog.  Let’s hope that this helps me remember that I do love it.

  1. It makes me grateful for what I have in my life.  When writing, I often step back and think about all of the good things around me.  When I am going at 100mph daily, it is so easy to overlook the all of the good around me.
  2. It allows me a vehicle for creative expression.  I have an amazing team at work, and because they are so great, I don’t get to play in the work as much.  Good problem to have, but the blog becomes necessary.
  3. It is something that I do for me.  Given my job, my kids, my husband my family and my friends filling up the time in my life, I rarely do things just for me.  I am realizing this may be a little ironic assuming that someone out there is probably reading this.
  4. It allows me to think further out than just about today.  Often in reflecting about what to write, I take a longer view of life than normal.  When writing, I am not worried about today or tomorrows schedule but instead focusing on something in the future.
  5. It helps me to open up.  I was reading an article today about 5 Habits That Are Destroying Your Ability To Lead.  The first one of these is about “Isolating Yourself.”  Isolation as a leader can take many forms – from physical to mental to emotional.  I never intend to isolate myself from my team, but sometimes schedule makes it happen.  I find that when I write, it helps me become ready to be open with my team and takes some of my personal walls down.

So, it is worth it.  It is worth the writers block and the frustration associated with ideas not flowing.  It is worth directing my small amount of personal time this direction.  At least, that is my conclusion for now.  Stay tuned as I am sure that over the next few weeks as I get back in the swing of things, you may find me writing a blog titled the “5 things I Hate About Blogging”.  But, for now, my commitment is to stick with it!

The Art of Prioritization: One Small Choice At A Time

On the quest to find time for brain space at work, I have been ridiculously focused on prioritization. And, practice makes perfect….or at least makes things better. There is no easy way to become great at this overnight, but I am commited to continuously improving my skills.

The attempt this week is visualization.  As a former gymnast, one of the techniques that I would use prior to competing in a meet, literally right before I would be up for my routine, was visualization.  This is a simple step…closing my eyes, and picturing myself completing the perfect routine.  As a teenager, I thought this was a stupid task.  My coaches would insist on it, and half the time, I would close my eyes and start thinking about what I was going to do the next Saturday night.  Now, looking back on this training activity, it was a brilliant way to calm my mind and to focus on the outcome that I wanted to achieve.  Maybe if I would have realized this then, my gymnastics career woudn’t have been so average!  Nevermind on that, most of the average came from my athletic capability…nothing a visualization could change.

So, over the last week or so, I have been visualizing the things that I will dedicate my time and brain space to on my way to work.  A simple five minutes of quiet time in my car (don’t worry, no eyes closed), provides me a window to visualize what I want to accomplish with my day.  I find myself sorting through priorities, thinking about the problems I am trying to solve, and focusing on what I want to accomplish.  So far so good as I feel not only more relaxed as I head into the day, but also more focused on the tasks at hand, and willing to focus my calendar time towards the most important things for the day.

Is it sustainable?  We shall see.  Let’s hope it works better than it did for my gymnastics career.

Commitments: Create Space for New Ideas

This week I was at the CMO Club Summit in Beverly Hills. It is a great event, drawing 150+ heads of marketing from across the country for a few days of networking, inspiration and learning from each other. This is the second time I have attended, and something I am excited to continue to be a part of in future years.

One of my favorite sessions was one from novelist and screenwriter Justine Musk on “Finding Your Creative Voice.” Justine authors a blog that I have followed for sometime about embracing your creative badass. During her time at the CMO club event, she spent time discussing the hero and the heroine’s journey in a story. You can find her take on it in a recent post.. One thing that really stood out for me was in her account of the heroine’s journey. She spoke of how the heroine goes internal to her (or his) own space to to deal with whatever internal demons are there, and emerges in a better place. She describes this journey in a story as enclosure, transformation and re-emergence. Gender aside, Justine shared that as a heroie goes to this private place to think it is a place of “creative incubation.”

This speaks so much to me because I feel like to truly accomplish creative solutions in my job and my life, it takes me moving into a quiet, internal place of my own to be able to think clearly and to figure things out. Often times I find this quiet (internal) spot on my mountain bike, at the gym, or when traveling alone. However most times, I find that I crave for more time in my “own” place. This could be the ultimate example of marketing meeting motherhood. I need that place to think both for my success as a marketer, my own sanity as well as to be a better mom. And.there.just.isn’t.time. Or at least that is how it feels.

So my commitment for this evening is to create space (time) for new ideas and for my own transformation of ideas to happen so that I (as a heroine) re-emerge with strength. I don’t know how I am going to make this happen, but it needs to happen. I need my creative incubator running. Continue reading