How often do you consciously ask yourself whether what you’re doing is the most productive and impactful thing you can do? Learning about the “do/build” model of work inspired me to ask this question, and the answer made me change the way I manage my time.
The do/build model outlines two types of work. Every day, you engage in “do” work -- writing memos, crafting reports, attending meetings, etc. -- and during this time, you’re focused on the task at hand. “Build” work, in contrast, is about enriching yourself as a person and increasing your capacity as a leader, through activities such as brainstorming, networking or simply sitting quietly and thinking.
Scheduling time for "do" work is simple. These activities often consume most of our days as leaders. But squeezing in "build" activities requires a conscious investment of time and effort, and it's something many entrepreneurs fail to prioritize.
Before I implemented the model myself, I found that every time I turned around, another week had flown by filled with "do" activities. So I made the decision to set aside time to do more building, which became my “Saef time.” And that change alone has pushed me to become a more productive leader.
I use the term "Saef time" because it’s my time (I have a penchant for puns -- my last name is Saef, after all), but you can call it safe time, think time, whatever you want. This is your build time -- hours dedicated to strengthening yourself as a leader. You can implement your iteration of safe time using five tips.
1. Always block out your calendar.
Every Friday afternoon from 3-to-5 pm, I block out my calendar for my Saef time. For those two hours, I have complete control over my time. Although it might sound rudimentary, carving your safe time in stone is the only way to truly commit to it. Schedule it for the same time every week, and let employees know what you’re up to.
2. Think about what you want to accomplish.
Two hours may seem like a substantial chunk of your day, but you’d be surprised how quickly it disappears. Whatever you choose to do, go into your safe time knowing what you want to accomplish, and use the time efficiently.
3. Don’t fret about invading the time.
As long as you consistently schedule safe time, you don’t have to be rigid about using every minute. If other business tasks demand your attention (such as meeting with an important client), do what you need to do.
4. Strategically plan your safe time.
Safe time tasks will vary depending on work demands, seasonal demands and other special projects. For example, my January safe time is primarily spent setting goals, while April safe time is dedicated to thinking about major summer initiatives. You may want to evaluate your goal progress in March, plan for the holidays in October or thank key employees at the end of each quarter.
5. Tailor your safe time to your needs.
This is your time; there’s no right or wrong way to spend it. You can collect your thoughts, read up on industry trends, write thank-you notes, plan for the future -- whatever works best for you.
As a busy entrepreneur, you have endless thoughts running through your head. But allowing the noise to drown out decision-making and judgment can severely affect performance. Daniel Kahneman, a psychology professor at Princeton University, discusses this concept in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Many executives get into the habit of fast thinking -- making intuitive, automatic decisions -- and leave deliberate and controlled slow thinking by the wayside. Striking a balance between these thought processes is essential for making wise decisions, but it requires discipline and a conscious commitment.
With work and personal demands vying for your attention, finding time just to think is easier said than done. But entrepreneurs need to slow down and reflect on their decisions; otherwise, their impulsive choices could spell disaster. Don’t overlook the value in safe time. Take a weekly reminder to stop, think and consider how you can be more effective.