Wake Up. Get Dressed. Prepare the kids for School. Send the kids for school.
Drive to the office. Get stuck in Traffic. Work. Drive back home.
Get stuck in traffic (again). Arrive home. Spend some time with the family.
Prepare the kids to sleep. Send the kids to sleep. Send the kids to sleep, again. Take a shower. Spend some time with my wife.
Watch TV/Read a book/Play Games/Workout/Work some more. Go to sleep. Wake Up….
Well, I think you got the picture…
This is my average day with minor tweaks (well I’m lazy so I don’t really workout…) and it more or less worked out pretty well for me.
Well, that is at least until I started to lead my own team.
One of the most intense time in a leader’s life is during the transition period from a “maker” to a “manager”.
As a maker, you have your own tasks to worry about, own them, deliver them on time with great quality and that’s about it.
Now, as a manager, you need to lead a whole team. One of your main responsibilities as the leader of that team is to take the time and think about the future of your people, your product, your business and form a strategy around these topics.
During this transition phase, I constantly experimented using different methodologies and tools to manage the noise, keep up the pace and make sure I don’t drop any balls.
This helped me manage the day to day but I didn’t manage to find the time to think about the bigger picture.
“Thinking processes” usually don’t work for me during traditional working hours and definitely not in the office where I’m a target for constant interruptions from my beloved colleagues.
Pretty fast I realized that when I don’t take the time to think about the big picture things get stuck and I drop the ball on one of my biggest responsibilities.
I needed my quiet time.
Luckily for me I found out that there is a shortcut to my office that is passing through the beach. I started to use this route.
After a few days, I realized that this can be a perfect spot for my “quiet time” and I decided to start an experiment.
Instead of just driving through, I would stop at the beach and use the time to arrange my thoughts.
And this is exactly what I did.
Each day, I would drive by the sea and stop for a time frame that varies between 5 to 30 minutes.
The time spent was directly related to the time I arrived at the beach, the amount of topics that bothered me that day, and, the tasks I wanted to accomplish.
I didn’t always do the same things each day, but I did have three basic habits that helped me start my day in a better starting point:
During my stay, I had a lot of tasks I wanted to accomplish.
Each day was different and I planned what I wanted to accomplish during my stay on the way there.
Here are some examples of what I did during my stay:
The purpose of the experiment was to see if this method will change my work habits.
I wanted to see if it can help me better control my day-to-day and most importantly help me improve my “thinking process”.
Well, it did.
I noticed a big difference between the days in which I stopped even for a short period of time (up to 5 minutes) versus days that I just drove straight to the office.
This method worked great for me and helped me both organize my thoughts and my day.
As the time pass, you will notice that the nature of your self-management skills changes. You will face different challenges that will require different solutions but one thing will not change, you will always need the time for yourself, the time in which you take a step aside away from the day to day, away from all the noise and take a look at a distance.
This is what I mean by saying you need to “Lean Back To Look Forward”.
For me, the sea was just a tool (and maybe an excuse) to help me better manage my “thinking process”.
You should find the right tool that best work for you.
Now, 1.5 years after I started to use this tool I don’t feel any obligation to stop in the sea anymore (although this is still my favorite method).
My context has changed and so are my challenges but one thing didn’t - the fact that leaning back is crucial in order to face my everyday challenges.
For me, this experiment was a success.
It helped me understand the importance of taking the time to clear my mind, ponder about different issues and challenge myself with hard questions that help me drive my team and myself to success.
This is the real importance of “leaning back to look forward” .
You owe it to your team and even more important, you owe it to yourself.