It’s sabbatical time. When I launched my business, I set the intention of taking a one-month sabbatical each summer. It is one of the commitments that I hold to with a powerful discipline. Why? Because I need to step back from delivering on work and engaging with clients so I can restore my perspective, engage in creative pursuits, dream and ponder.
It is also a commitment to walking my own talk. To be authentic in my own leadership, I choose to model the practice of purposeful pauses. I encourage my clients to do this so I need to live this too.
Most of the leaders I work with crave time to reflect, reset, revitalize, reboot, or re-imagine. As accomplished and caring leaders they give their all to their organizations, staff and clients. They are always present for others yet give little time to themselves to pause and restores themselves.
As an executive coach, I frequently work with my clients to build planned time outs so they can strategize, dream, and restore their perspective. I work with them to create strategies for leadership renewal days or mini breaks. Most struggle to do this and will tell me endless reasons why this is not possible. Yet, they yearn for time and space to ponder and pause; to get back in touch with their call to purpose as a leader. When they actually do it they rave about the experience and how it is soul-filling.
Here is what I believe:
· Leadership is creative and requires time and space to cultivate new ideas
· Time outs are strategic. They offer an opportunity to get out of the weeds and back in connection with your bigger vision
· New perspectives only come with a change of scenery and energy. If you keep slogging it out the same way every day little shifts, changes or evolves
· We always have choices and sometimes we can’t see them when we are reacting to current realities or the needs of others
· Doing nothing is productive. It allows our brains to stop churning and to drop into a more creative rhythm that is fuelled by dreaming.
· Leadership is an evolving process and requires us to stretch and grow. Continuous learning is an integral part of staying fresh as a leader.
Time Out Tips
· Before you take your time out, write a list of all the things you are working on and that are important to accomplish when you get back. Then park them so you can fully embrace the freedom of time you want and need to flourish in your pause.
· Put your time outs in your calendar and do not give the time away. Ask someone to be your ally to help you honour this vital commitment to yourself. Do it weekly for a few hours, monthly for a day, quarterly for an extended weekend, or annually for a week to a month. There is no perfect way. Try it. Refine it. Stay committed to it.
· Get away from your familiar environment – get on a train, drive somewhere, take a plane ride. Literally shift your perspective by changing your geography. New spaces and places bring new information and insight. Hang out in an art gallery or museum. Go to a different café or browse in a book store.
· Go to nature and let it inspire you. I love horizons – they remind me of the vast possibilities as I stand on the edge of a beach looking out towards a big open lake. I also love looking up into the sky versus down at the ground. By lifting your gaze, you dream up and out. I also love going to a higher elevation – a mountain, up in a tree, to the very top of a tall building. You can’t help but see things differently and start to find patterns and possibilities that are not normally available to you.
· Get a hammock. Seriously – this has been one of the best ways for me to let go. Lying outside, looking up into the trees and sky, swaying as the breeze blows while being held and supported in the cocoon of a hammock has been a magical release tactic. It is also great for inducing naps that are an essential part of a time out plan!
· Try free form writing. Practice writing each day letting your ideas just flow. Don’t edit or filter, just write ideas and thoughts as they come. Do this a few times and start to notice what themes are emerging. This is a vital way for letting the flirts of ideas that you submerge in daily life to come to light. Notice what is exciting and find ways to intentionally integrate that into your leadership.
· Go on a retreat – a silent retreat to learn being present and still or a yoga retreat to get back in connection with your body and find your flow. Some people need the structure of a program to keep them disciplined and committed to a time out.
· Take a course on creativity to explore new channels for developing ideas and getting unstuck
· Spend time alone. Just hang out with you, your thoughts, your dreams and imagination. This is a way of tapping into your own inner wisdom, making space for your authentic self to emerge. You don’t have to please anyone except you on these time outs. It’s a decadent and necessary gift.
Need Help Taking a Time Out?
If you like the idea of taking Leadership Time Outs yet are thinking that you could never do it, let me be your ally. Together we can create a vision for this part of your leadership practice. When there is a compelling vision, a clear plan and a caring ally supporting you it can become a sustainable practice. I’d love to support you in taking purposeful pauses so you remain vital and creative in your leadership.
NOTE: This blog was written sitting on the deck of a cottage overlooking the shore of Lake Huron. My vista was a crystal blue sky, wide open horizon, and lapping waves on a sun shine filled day.