Clearing the Slate
Success takes time. This means leaders and teams will need to productive and high-performing year or over year, over year. To run this marathon, we need systems and philosophies that can consistently hold our production without burnout. Clearing the slate has been a term I adopt to make this happen.
Clearing the slate means that I come to work each day with a discipline of delegating as many items from my to do list to others. I explain ahead of time that I am passionate about what we do and I think about it a lot. The thinking generates many action items, that I alone could never accomplish. Thus, I hand them off to people who can do a better job of them that me. I cannot do each of these tasks, but I can follow-up and support each one. Each day, my clearing the slate frees me up to ensure the items only leaders can do get done without dropping other important balls. Those balls get done better by others, allowing them to invent and giving them a sense of ownership, purpose and reason for coming to work. It allows for more ideas to be cultivated and more actions to be piloted, all while ensuring mental durability for years to come.
Why do leaders have slates to clear?
When you are truly passionate about something and in the right job, you think about it. It wakes you up at 4am and life’s daily minute events remind you about it. It becomes a ubiquitous obsession. Therefore, in order to avoid becoming a prisoner of your mind and find balance between work and life, you must be able to turn the work off at the right times.
How can leaders clear slates?
A nightstand notepad allows you to jot down thoughts in the middle of the night. This clears the slate so you can sleep. Without sleep, the productive ideas become obsessions and you become a “user” of your work, being sucked into the addiction of finding answers. Recognize that thinking should be done standing and sleeping should be done laying down.
Discuss, don’t rehearse. Re-playing conversations, scenarios and to do lists in your head without your team around to make something of it is rehearsing. Instead, jot it down and trust that your teammates will help you decide if it is worth more time or not the next day.
Schedule the worry. When the endless loop of an unsolved problem has the potential to linger beyond the end of the workday, schedule the thinking of it the next day. Before ‘punching out’ for the day, make a list of tomorrow’s action items in order or priority and trust that the worry will find an answer then.
Rarely will great success happen overnight, so you and your team need to last. Implement systems and structures that permit the spreading of high-value energy over long time periods by intermittently turning it on and off at the right times.
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