Lacking Clarity & Creativity? Schedule Some “Unscheduled” Time
For my entire professional life, I’ve engaged in the “tactical” discipline of creating – usually each evening for the following business day – a list of about three critical tasks that I need to accomplish. I always include other tasks below those three, just in case time allows (which it rarely does). Among the deluge of emails, Slack and Spark chats, video conference calls, in-person meetings, and the inevitable urgent inquiries, I – like most professionals – feel productive if I at least look at my list during the day.
Earlier this year, an article in the New York Times caught my eye – probably because my last name (albeit spelled differently) appeared therein. Entitled "You’re Too Busy. You Need a ‘Shultz Hour,’" op-ed columnist David Leonhardt reported on his interview with George P. Shultz who – among many other accomplishments – served as secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan.
In order to rise above the ceaseless tactical demands of helping bring an end to the Cold War, George began setting aside “one hour each week for quiet reflection.” As David reported, “his hour of solitude was the only way he could find time to think about the strategic aspects of his job. Otherwise, he would be constantly pulled into moment-to-moment tactical issues, never able to focus on larger questions of the national interest.”
Put another way, “constant activity isn’t an enjoyable or productive way to live.”
Leading business, economic, and cognitive psychology experts agree. Consider Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s groundbreaking book Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011); Gino Wickman’s concept of the “Clarity Break” in his book Traction (Reprint ed. 2012); Manoush Zomorodi’s TED talk entitled “How Boredom Can Lead to Your Most Brilliant Ideas” (April 2017); and Martin Reeves, Roselinde Torres, and Fabien Hassan’s article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “How to Regain the Lost Art of Reflection” (Sept. 2017).
Many companies – Level 2 Legal included – use the final calendar quarter of the year to conduct business planning for the upcoming year. As part of that process, one of my “new business year resolutions” will be implementing my own “Schultz Hour.” Following Martin, et al.’s advice, I plan to fill my list for the hour not with yet more tactical issues to be dispatched, but instead with strategic questions such as “what would I do in the new business year if there were no legacy constraints on my actions”; “what do I not know about the eDiscovery industry”; and “what imprint do I wish to create as a leader on employees and other stakeholders”?
I'll report back in January as to how things go.
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