Making room to grow


Much of what we do at Performance Insight is focused on enhancing performance and igniting growth, in both individuals and organizations. We help people be more insightful and strategic in the way they approach their business and their lives, because it promotes both organizational success and personal wellbeing. Over the years, I have realized that an underappreciated piece of this puzzle is the idea of having “room to grow.”

We have touched on this topic in our posts about walking meetings, mindfulness at work, engagement, and stress management. In order to bring enough to the table to create the future we desire, we need to make room, carve out time, and nurture our whole selves. But someone who is at their max simply may not have more to give – they don’t have the space to think strategically, the emotional energy to be creative, the time to cultivate a new skill.

Some people don’t want this margin. They like going through life with every single moment full of something. Maybe it is because our culture promotes the notion that busy people are important people, valuable people. Or maybe they are afraid of what might bubble up in the quieter spaces. Some people just don’t know how to widen their margins, but they want to, or know they need to – and this advice is for them.

All of our actions are a functions of choices we make within time. The important thing to realize about time is that you cannot make more of it. It is impossible. We can only use the time we DO have in the best way possible. Being thoughtful about what you do with your moments is what will allow you to free some of them for the high-value activities that are necessary to support your long-term growth and success.

  • Doing less – Spending time cleaning her house soothes my sister – but for me, it is just an irritating fact of life, so I hire a cleaning service. Delegation is a way of doing less – especially if you are willing to accept and ask for help. Doing less may also require you to learn to say “no” to other people or to exciting prospects. Learning that you can’t do everything (or do everything well), is a difficult lesson to learn. Doing less may also look like doing nothing – blocking 15 minutes on your calendar a day where you just sit can be incredibly valuable.
  • Doing more – Delegating or eliminating activities that don’t serve you frees up time. But if you aren’t careful, life will conspire to fill that time with more nonsense that doesn’t serve you well. You have to create protected time for the activities you do value. Block time on your calendar for regular strategic planning. Schedule a regular meeting with your running group or tai chi class that you refuse to cancel. Insisting on this “self-care” time feels selfish and indulgent to some, but there is ample evidence that people who take this time are happier, healthier, and more productive – and that is good for everyone.
  • Being strategic – Inefficiencies both at work and home sap the time that could be spent on high-value activities. Even little ways of being organized minimize frustration and chaos. Doing things like scheduling jointly with your team or your family and setting yourself up for a productive start to the day preserve both your time and emotional edge by minimizing frustrations.

You could call this time management, and to a point that would be right. But blocking time for long-term planning or phasing out of a committee obligation so you can attend a leadership development program isn’t enough. Allocate your energy to things that are important and meaningful, but also ensure there is time for “non critical” activities that allow you to recharge, stay in tune with yourself, and stoke your passions. Taking a walk in the woods with your dog each week may not appear to be important or urgent, but it cultivates a healthy body and mind, both of which are necessary to optimizing your performance and your experience of life.

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” Ovid

“The mind should be allowed some relaxation, that it may return to its work all  the better for the rest.” Seneca