Get Your Head Out of That Gantt Chart and Do Some Thinking Once in a While

May 19, 2010

Social Media

 

Do you make time in your day to just sit and think?

I know we’re all busy.  We have deadlines to meet, emails to write/respond to, projects to work on, management issues to take care of, errands to run, families to care for, and many many other things that we do on a daily basis.  To make sense of it all, we create daily routines and schedules – wake up, take the dogs out, go for a run, get the kids off to school, respond to urgent emails, get a first draft of that paper done, attend the status meeting, etc.  Lord knows I wouldn’t get half of my work done with my Outlook calendar to remind me when I have to go to a meeting or make a phone call.  Oftentimes, breaking our day up into more manageable tasks is the only way to maintain some level of sanity in our lives.  But what do we lose when we get into routine like this?  Can you make “innovation” part of a routine?

When was the last time you created an Outlook appointment to catch up on your RSS feeds?  When a project deadline gets moved up, what’s the first thing that gets bumped?  How many times have you said, “ya know, I really should write a blog post or comment on some other people’s material tonight, but I’m exhausted and that can wait?”  How often do get outside your individual project “bubble” and make a concerted effort to just go out and learn something new?

When was the last time you just sat down and thought about your project/organization/contract/initiative and wondered?  About the long-term strategy?  About how to improve your team’s morale? About how to become more efficient?  About how to make things better?  About external issues that could positively or negatively impact your work?  When was the last time you came up with a new idea that wasn’t in your job description or SOW?

I had a great conversation recently with one the senior leaders at my company and he told me that’s the one thing that separates the good from the great.  The good worker will meet all their deadlines, crank out high quality products, not ruffle any feathers, show up on time, and do everything that’s asked of them.  The great worker on the other hand, may miss some deadlines and may make some people mad, but they’ll also be the ones coming up with the next great idea.  What was the last actual idea you had at work that wasn’t tasked to you by someone else? Did you tell anyone about it?  Did you act on it?

So, take my advice and carve out 30 minutes of your day to do some thinking.  This could involve:

  • Catch up on your RSS feeds
  • Read the paper
  • Have a team meeting where the only agenda item is “what can we be doing better?”
  • Go out to lunch with someone from a totally different part of the business and learning about what they do
  • Be like Dr. House, find a ball to toss around and think about how to solve a problem
  • Set up Google alerts for issues related to your organization and commit to staying on top of them
  • Create an “If I were King/Queen for a day” list of ideas for your organization
  • Do a Twitter search for your organization/brand and see what others are saying

Can you find time in your schedule to be great?

*Image courtesy of Flickr user Brian Hillegas

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About sradick

I'm Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

View all posts by sradick
  • Steve,

    Another good post. Agree that being able to have the long view and disentangle yourself from the day-to-day weeds is one of he key to making employees move from good to great. Another piece of advice that I always give people is to make sure that you never bring a problem to the discussion without also bringing a potential solution. Giving supervisors options and ideas rather than just issues to resolve goes a long way.

  • Sradick

    Thanks Andrew – great point about bringing solutions to the conversation too. I always tell my folks that leadership WANTS to hear what's wrong with the org, but they also want to know how to fix it. Otherwise, it just sounds like complaining for complaining's sake.

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  • The next best thing to identifying a problem and bringing a solution is to identify a problem and offer to take on the challenge of finding the solution. I don't want to set the bar at “you can't identify a problem unless you can offer a solution”– I think the skill sets necessary for the former don't always imply the latter.

    One of my favorite motivational quotes for innovation actually comes from Robert Frost: “Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down” — i.e. the mind is most creative when you create a box first, then start thinking outside it. I couldn't agree more on finding the time for yourself– just don't pick on the Gannt-heads, we are a well-organized adversary.

  • This is as sensible advice as “exercising” but how many people actually do it? If we look for quick payoffs and short-term answers we won't. Most of don't notice our own “non-value add” [ see: http://www.shmula.com/223/what-is-waste ] This diagram is the same at home and work. “Great” is easier when good is the waste.

    [v.o.M.]

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  • Lindsey Brothers

    Steve! Love this post, it is so true. So many of us cancel out our personal projects, plans, etc. to keep rolling along with work-related items. I am no different from so many of them. Although I turn my work laptop off at the office, I sometimes turn on my personal one at home to go through more emails, follow up with folks, read attachments, etc. My most common phrase late is, “I'll go to the gym next week.” Well, that “next week” hasn't happened for about a month.

    I am going to try and follow your advice in your post. Next step – calendar apt for the gym!!

    – Lindsey Brothers
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  • Sradick

    I have the same problem Lindsey – been saying that I'll go the gym tomorrow (because I'm too busy, too tired, etc.) is one of my favorites!

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  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your email. I’ll be out of the office teaching a Social Media class from Monday, September 26th through Wednesday, September 28th. While I’m out of the office, please consider reading my blog (www.steveradick.com) or following me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/sradick).
    If you’d like a faster response and your inquiry is related to Booz Allen’s Digital Strategy & Social Media Practice, please contact Tracy Johnson (johnson_tracy@bah.com).
    I will respond to your email as soon as I am back in the office on Thursday, September 29th.
    Steve Radick
    Lead Associate
    Booz Allen Hamilton
    Read my blog at http://www.steveradick.com Follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/sradick.

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