Helena Clayton | Space to breathe…
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Space to breathe…

22 Oct 2015, Posted by Helena Clayton in Uncategorized

‘I need to operate more strategically …I need some space’. This is a common cry when coaching at senior levels in organisations. How to step away from the operational octopus that threatens to suck us back into the depths of the detail, how to create boundaries , how to find space in all the busyness – to think, to breathe, to plan, to be creative, to focus on the important as well as the urgent.

When we are able to find way to do this, it makes a huge difference – to levels of performance but also to stress and anxiety – it can feel hugely liberating, clients so often say, that sense of finally being able to rise above the reactive and step into the proactive. Much has been written about how our busyness has become a badge of honour. By all means, wear the badge with pride. But also recognise what it’s costing you, what gets sacrificed, what your missing.

Most clients know they need to find more space. But it’s not a simple thing to put into place and most leaders find it difficult to let go of operational stuff and privilege reflective time instead, time to think. And I get that.

A little while back, I had a very quiet month, workwise, which had never happened before. Good in so many ways but I noticed that I also felt really unsettled, and wasn’t at all sure what to do with myself. I was a bit twitchy. I felt purposeless and found there was room for a lot more negative thinking, more questioning of things. If I wasn’t working flat out, who was I?

So, here are two things I often do with clients who are stuck with this. You might like to try them to help you explore the edges of your own busyness and see what comes up:

Do a piece of journalling to explore what you associate with emptiness and space. Using the technique of ‘freefall writing’ a client has recently found some of the following questions helpful, and you might like them too:

  • From the past: what are your associations from childhood about busyness? What messages have you taken on about being useful? Where did you learn that it wasn’t ok to take time for yourself?
  • Explore your fears: what worries or frightens you about being less busy? What do you think people will say about you if you, for example, work from home or close your office door?
  • Be honest: list as many reasons as you can think of as to why you don’t delegate more (it’s not unusual for people to identify 20 or 30 reasons, so keep going…)
  • For/against: what is it costing you to keep doing things this way? Health, effectiveness, reputation, family, career… What would be better if you had more space – for you, for your team, at home?

You don’t have to do this on your own. So ask some people who matter to you at work ‘what do you reckon I could do to help me create space for more strategic thinking?’ I’d suggest you include your boss and your team, and maybe 6 -8 other people from your immediate stakeholder group, and also from your wide group of clients or suppliers. You might be surprised at what they can see from their perspective, and what comes out of such conversations …

And finally, you might like this book, Consider, by Daniel Forrester which explores how reflective thinking is vital for organisational success and flourishing.

And, come back here and tell us what you’ve found helpful in creating more space to breathe.

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