Got a minute?
Actually, I've got 60, and they're already spoken for
For over 1.5 billion people, today is a good day. ⏰
It’s the end of Daylight Savings Time here in the U.S., meaning we turn our clocks back to gain an extra hour, 60 glorious minutes, to do with whatever we’d like.
For some, that might mean more snooze time, but for many others, it’s a scramble to fill the void with MORE.
Look, I get it. And I’ve prided myself on being captain of Team GSD, but staying in constant motion isn’t sustainable.
We’ve been conditioned to think the road to success is only paved with hustle, grind, and never-ending activity. But busy does not equal productive, and — spoiler alert! — career progress doesn’t always happen when we’re up to our eyeballs in work.
In thinking about this week’s Illuminate Me, I confess that my first thought was to include something like Five Easy (And Enjoyable) Ways To Make Career Progress In Under An Hour (an actual Forbes article I wrote in pre-COVID times).
Instead, I decided to offer you something completely different: a chance to apply the same consistency and discipline to carving out time just to “be” rather than to “do.”
Research shows breaks are essential to improving our moods, overall well-being, and performance capacity. It also suggests that creativity depends on something most of us are hesitant to do: daydream.
It turns out our brains operate in two modes: “focused,” when we’re doing creative work, learning something new, or working on our most important tasks, and “diffused,” when we’re relaxed, taking a walk, or daydreaming. Studies have shown that activity increases in many regions of our brain when we let our minds wander, allowing us to solve our most difficult problems while we daydream.
This may be why insights tend to happen when we’re not focused on our problems but rather when we’re doing something unrelated, like taking a shower or walking your dog.
But for those insights to occur, they need room to appear. And that can only happen when you give yourself the time and space to think, feel, and experience; here’s how:
First, conduct a time and activity audit.
Do you know how you spend your time? Most of us move mindlessly through our days, putting out fires, attending meetings, and responding to requests rather than carving out time to do the deep work of thinking that can help propel us forward. Use your awareness to observe your current patterns and track your time. This can be as simple as jotting down on a notepad your activities and time spent doing them or as elaborate as color-coding your calendar on your phone. (And yes, I do the latter. Don’t judge — I’m a highly visual person and it helps me see at a glance where I spent my time.) The method of time management isn’t as important as the results.
Next, schedule — and keep — regular appointments with yourself.
Once you have a clear picture of how you’re spending your time, you’ll see areas that can be improved by becoming more intentional with it. Take back your time by blocking out non-negotiable “appointments” with yourself where you’re free to let your mind wander, imagine, and process. Build in space to take a walk outside, to brainstorm and doodle at your desk, or to close your eyes and meditate for a few minutes. Remember that removing distractions is vital for a productive break—turn off your notifications, silence your phone, shut your door, and close any open computer tabs so you won’t be disturbed.
Finally, realize that time spent “being” is as essential as “doing.”
When you’re used to operating in an “always-on” mode, it can seem jarring to have deliberate breaks in your day. Change your perspective to embrace the gift of giving yourself the time and space to think, feel, and experience as complementary, not contradictory to your career progress.
In keeping with this theme, I’ll be spending time today focused on being with my extended family at the beach (my happy place).
How you spend your extra hour is your choice; choose wisely.
And speaking of choosing wisely, remember that doing more isn’t better; doing more of the right things is.
Enter time management, the in-demand soft skill* and secret sauce of leaders looking to prioritize and protect their most valuable asset.
In my latest Forbes article, I share the eight best ways to level up your time management to maximize your productivity and put your talents to the highest and best use.
P.P.S. When I’m not writing this newsletter or intentionally spending time just being, I’m a social media ghostwriter. (Yep, that’s a thing). I help founders, entrepreneurs, and CXOs craft their stories to communicate and connect better by magnifying their reach and impact. (Think personal branding and thought leadership.) Learn more here.
P.P.P.S. You, my coruscant friend, have great taste in newsletters—thanks for subscribing! Be sure to check out the archives to catch up on previous issues, and feel free to share this one with your friends. Or better yet, invite them to join our Illuminate Me tribe!
*I want you to learn how to cultivate and apply soft skills to your career, so I’ve created a multi-week series of articles on Forbes. My most recent article joins these previously published pieces:
7 Easy Ways To Connect Better With Your Professional Colleagues (Connecting with others)
The Five Best Ways To Boost This Essential Workplace Soft Skill (Collaboration)