Do you find it difficult to carve out good chunks of time to think deeply and plan for the long term?
Last week I hosted a session for The Agency Collective on how CEOs can make the time to work on their business (and what to work on in that time.)
In discussion, one of the key issues that came up was how to protect this 'CEO time' from interruptions and crises. We all know what it's like: you plan a day to do deep work, but then a team member needs your input on something urgently, or a client wants a call. Ping goes your email. Ping goes your chat app. Those little red dots of unread messages appear in the corner of your eye.
As we dug into this question, and the contexts and assumptions behind it, the group came to a few realisations, along the lines of:
- "I think I actually like the excitement of responding to a problem"
- "I like to still feel needed"
- "It's fun to still get involved in the nitty gritty of client work"
It's too easy to get hooked on the dopamine hits from the 'pings' of new messages or people stopping by our desks, seeming to need our input urgently. They're like bungee ropes pinging us back to the realm of work where we can quickly solve an issue and feel good about it, rather than the difficult 'high altitude' work of a CEO, where the problems are less defined and the answers ephemeral.
We need to resist these pings to be able to focus on our roles as leaders working on the business. If you carve out your CEO time, even just one day a week, protect it.
Very, very few pings can't be safely ignored until at least the next working day. And most questions or problems your team bring you are, even then, best handled with the question 'What do you think we should do?... Ok great, do that' rather than you jumping in and getting involved.
So this week, practice resisting pings. Switch off notifications. Ignore the red dots a bit. Coach your team to solve problems rather than you taking them on. Set the expectation of booking time in your calendar for things that really need your input, rather than just dropping in on you. Protect more of your time and energy for the high altitude thinking, and nurture a business that can handle the day to day problems by itself.
- Here's a useful article from The Atlantic linked to this theme — what if we just stopped being so available?
- In June 2021 we put the growing risk of 'International Conflict' on the Agency Radar as part of the theme we identified of 'The Age Of Unrest'. Now Russia has invaded Ukraine, this has become reality. As well as supporting Ukraine, agency leaders need to consider the implications for their businesses if this war expands. We published an article looking at the risks of disruption to the internet, and what agencies need to prepare for.
- If you need something calm in these distressing times, I saw a concert on TV this week by a fantastic young French pianist called Sofiane Pamart. I'd never heard of him before, so looked him up and found this concert under the northern lights. Guaranteed to bring you some peace of mind.
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