I’ve coached hundreds of professional women since I started my business in 2007. The vast majority of these women are super busy, often juggling a challenging career and personal time. There is never enough time! Can you relate? I’m sure you are probably stretched too thin as well. So the last thing you think you should do when you’re overwhelmed is carve out time alone, quiet time. Yet this is precisely the time you need to do this.
At work, your schedule is jam packed with meetings most of the day, right? It’s a treat when you are able to have lunch somewhere other than your desk. And then there are people constantly popping by your office unexpectedly taking up more time. And though you’re more than happy to help (most of the time), it’s another example of how your time is not your own.
Next there’s your to-do list. Why can’t we ever seem to cross off everything on the list? More tasks get assigned regularly or we foolishly volunteer for things because we think it will help us get ahead when in reality, it ends up being busy work. Now we have the company-wide picnic to organize on top of our normal workload.
I’m exhausted just writing this!
If you were to write down everything you do in just one day, I’m sure the list would be daunting. Yet we do it. We do it at least five days a week, perhaps more. Certainly, our health suffers from the stress of our workload or our need for perfection. Regardless, the stress is real.
Despite all this, despite the fact that you are working really hard and performing very well, you career suffers if you don’t take time for yourself, quiet time to think.
First of all, you run the risk of falling into what I call the Doer Trap. In your company, as a doer, you gain the reputation as someone who gets things done; the go to person. And though you may take some pride in this title, the go to person is never viewed as a leader. This is a trap that many women fall into because they believe the more they do, the better positioned they are for advancement when, in fact, it has the opposite effect. You want to demonstrate your leadership potential not your capacity to complete lots of tasks, and your leadership can best develop with quiet time to think strategically.
Think strategically about what? About your career.
We are so busy that we never have the time to think about what we want or create a plan for how to get there. We are performing really well, but we don’t take the time to think strategically about how we can leverage the results of our work across the organization for increased credibility and influence. Who else in the organization needs to know about your work and your results? Can your work help other colleagues, your boss, or your company reach its objectives? Have you thought about that?
I coached Patricia for one year and over the course of that year, she received two promotions. According to Patricia, the game changer for her was my advice that she schedule time for strategic thinking. She was a classic doer. And though she was extremely busy both at work and at home, she carved out time at least one day a week on her train commute to unplug and think. And the results were amazing. This quiet time without distractions provided her the opportunity to think clearly about what she hoped to achieve and how best to position herself to accomplish her goals.
She had the time to not only plan her career, but how to build a strategic network to support her career goal. During her quiet time, she planned how to leverage her work and who in her network would benefit from learning about the results of her work.
So yes, I know you’re busy. But if you are also ambitious don’t get stuck in the Doer Trap or you will be stuck there a long time. Unplug and schedule time to think strategically about your career. Make it a priority. Put the time on your calendar. You will be pleased with the results.
Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed, is an executive coach, author and keynote speaker focused on women's advancement in the workplace. A former corporate executive and CEO, Bonnie is the author of The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, and co-author of Lost Leaders in the Pipeline: Capitalizing on Women's Ambition to Offset the Future Leadership Shortage.
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