The Discipline to Do Nothing: 3 Tools to Do Less and Get More Done
By John Grubbs
Being busy does not mean you are effective. The higher you are in an organization, the more demand exists for your time. If not disciplined, schedules expand like that “great-stuff” expanding foam to fill each day. A full calendar is not a sign of efficacy but rather a lack of decision making and effective delegation. Temporary activities and conditions may create periods that require more time. However a chronic full calendar is a serious problem for most
aspiring leaders. Sadly, too many people equate activity with success.
Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 Hour Workweek, has a thesis about work that is nearly impossible for most of us to comprehend, much less implement. But let’s be honest, are you truly effective in your work all day, every day? Or is it more likely that you spend large amounts of time on tasks that merely soak the time from your schedule? Do you spend time doing work because you enjoy the activity and or feel comfortable in that space? As a leader, you have a
choice. As a CEO or business owner, you have the power to choose how you spend your time.
The first step toward normalcy and success as leaders is a stop doing list. Most people use a “to do” list daily. This is a paper or electronic list of things you check off as completed. The problem is that these lists become so large that you never get them all done and you resign yourself to never feeling like the work is ever accomplished. I do advocate having a list of things to do in a given period. I recommend this list
be limited to no more than today and the next day. My ADD and poor memory need such a list. Stop doing lists are powerful because you honestly look at activities that you can or should stop doing. For example, stop doing work that you already pay someone else to do. Stop getting involved in work that others on your team are responsible for completing in your absence. Stop writing a report that no one reads. Stop filing a hard copy of a
document that is electronically backed up to the cloud on your computer every night. You get the point. We are all guilty of doing work that adds no value to our business.
The second step toward doing nothing is slack time. If you are in a leadership position as a front-line supervisor or seasoned CEO, I recommend 2 hours per day of nothing on your calendar. One hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. This may sound counterintuitive but it actually allows you to get more work done. Sound crazy? Stay with me, I promise it will make sense.
Planned slack time makes you more productive as a leader by requiring you to reexamine your to do list. You can think about what you should and should not be doing. Slack time is used for many things. Most importantly, it allows you to walk around and have spontaneous conversations with your team. These unplanned interactions allow you to truly lead the organization. Call it a daily journey of discovery; this is your leadership time. You
will discover problems at infancy, find out a co-worker is dealing with a health issue, and truly invest in the relationships of the people around you. You can think strategically about a problem, call a valued customer, or read a blog. The time is open
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