Autumn; described by Keats as the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. For me it’s also the season of board strategy days; a time to review, reflect, and plan. When board members and their senior executive staff take time out from the day to day, to stand back and get some perspective. To acknowledge what they’ve achieved in the last year, to reflect on what they’ve learned, to consider their operating environment and to confirm their future ambitions.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the parallels with my coaching work. In the last week I’ve spoken with three people who are new coaching clients. During our conversations, when I asked each person the reasons they think coaching will help them, each said they ‘… want some time out from work ’.

Having time to think, to review, and to plan has become precious. Our lives are so full, so busy. We even carry our busyness as a badge of honour.
We ask others ‘Are you busy?’ We cheerfully and wearily confirm ‘yes I’m busy, too busy’.

We may be busy but are we really that productive?

The brain can only do one thing consciously at a time and its working storage is small. What about multi-tasking though? Certainly we can do automatic tasks at the same time e.g. brushing our teeth and checking our phones, but to carry out a task requiring conscious attention we have to focus on that task alone. When we switch between tasks we lose brain energy, we slow down, and we make more mistakes. (There’s no difference between the genders either, so the myth that women can multi-task is just a myth!)

So when you’ve got some important decisions to make or some tricky problems to resolve take some focussed time to think about them. Whether you’re a board member or a member of staff, having time out from day to day work is valuable. Whether you arrange a strategy day, invest in some coaching, or just get away from your desk, taking time out to think is essential. So give your brain a chance to work at its best and give yourself the edge over the people who are just too busy.

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