As you read this do you feel rushed, your mind wondering if you have time to read anymore – meetings to go to, stacks of e-mails to respond to, links to read, texts to answer? Is this how it is for you most days, evenings and even some weekends?
Well, you are not alone – a recent study of CEO’s and senior policy makers for the Churchill Foundation (“Thinking the Unthinkable” by Nik Gowing and Chris Langdon at the bottom of this page on our website found that most leaders were overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information and demands on their time, with one saying he didn’t even have time to write down ideas he had, let alone time to development them! I heard a CEO admit to reading his 6-year old a bedtime story on autopilot while planning tomorrow’s board meeting! I hold my hand up to having done that at times.
The heart is the lifeblood of the body and of organisations. For me being in my heart means being in touch with what really matters to me, spending my time doing what I am good at and love doing, being present with my colleagues and being truthful to those around me. As a leader, I also need to be mindful of those I lead, ensuring they feel seen and heard, that they are in touch with what matters to them and are doing what they love doing.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t do that if I am in wall-to-wall meetings, filling in gaps with e-mails and other demands on me. I find my mind racing, trying to move onto the next task so I can at least make some impact on my never ending to-do list. And I am never still, and lose touch with myself.
Towards the end of last year, while all the ‘heart’ work we had done at Thornton’s Budgens allowed me to play my role as leader in one day a week, I found myself taking on too much in sharing my dream of a more heartful business world. Even my daily meditation was an active rather than a still one. In the end I got exhausted, my body said ‘enough’ and I caught a nasty virus that wiped me out for 4 -5 weeks.
Although I missed the warning signs, I have now (I hope!) got the message. So what’s different? I start my day with a still meditation and try and spend a few minutes in total stillness a few times a day, especially when I start to feel my mind racing. I am in less of a hurry to share the Heart in Business Limited vision, I don’t say ‘yes’ to everything and am not packing in too many meetings. Most things important things in life won’t suffer from dealing with them in a few weeks rather than right now. And in that space between meetings, I allow myself time to be still. I used to feel guilty if I wasn’t ticking stuff off the to-do list or clearing my inbox, and while I still hear that guilt voice, I acknowledge it and give myself the space to reflect, to think or if needed to just rest. And slowly I feel my energy returning, I feel the quality and clarity of my thinking improving and find that I much more effective than when I am chasing around. I may be doing less but what I do has much more impact.
So I hear some of you say I can’t do that – I am far too busy! Yet I run two companies, have two adults sons and a young family, have friends and family I want to see, keep fit etc. And while I have the advantage of working for myself so I don’t have someone else set my agenda, we all need to start to change how we are. How we are approaching the working world is not working anymore and as leaders, it us who need to model the change.
So I encourage you to take your own small steps towards having time to breath!
Andrew Isaac Thornton