Spring is a time for renewal and rejuvenation. For many of us, it invites a ritual known as “spring cleaning.” To lead others effectively, we need to undertake some spring cleaning as well. Some of our spring cleaning focus is external; some of it is internal. Spring cleaning is a chance for us to address the external and internal factors impacting our ability to lead positive change. Here are three spring cleaning tips for leaders. The easiest one is first.
- Clean Your Space
The first spring cleaning tip involves getting your space cleared out. If you’re like me, things can pile up. From time to time it’s necessary and quite helpful to reduce the clutter and create a clean space around me. This makes my office like a clean sheet of paper. A clean workspace is more conducive to concentration and creativity (at least for me). To help with the first tip, you may need to look at the second one.
- Clean Your Calendar
Giving yourself some space is a great first step. Real spring cleaning involves getting rid of some things that are stealing your time. Every leader I’ve ever worked with spends between 25-50% of their time doing the work of someone 1-2 levels below them in the org chart. Stop it! Look at your calendar for the next two weeks. How many meetings are you attending that you’re not sure what the meeting is for or why you’re going? Look at your desk or your inbox. How many tasks are you working on that could be/should be on someone else’s plate?It’s time for a workload garage sale. This week, look to give a bunch of stuff away. Assign a proxy to handle at least 25% of the meetings you’ve got on your calendar. Delegate at least 25% of the tasks you’ve taken on. Give yourself the time to tackle the tasks that only you can accomplish. Give the other stuff to others. When you think you’ve delegated as much as you can, look for some more. If the thought of delegating makes you stressful, have a look at Tip #3.
- Clean Your Mind
The pace we work at and the complexity we try to manage contribute to create stress. Unless we have a regular outlet, stress accumulates until it causes a breakdown. When that happens we act out. Some people explode at others. Some people implode. Neither is a good thing. As leaders we are called to positively impact others in order to get them to engage and perform at a high level. If we are stressed, our impact may have the opposite effect.
When we are stressed we are more easily emotionally hijacked. We get upset more easily. The cleaner or clearer our mind, the more quickly we can recover from a hijacked state. The third spring cleaning tip is to clean your mind. Building our capacity to recover quickly from an emotional hijacking means practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches our brains to notice the present moment without becoming reactive to it. Here’s how we develop mindfulness:
- Find a quiet place (Close your door. Silence your phone.)
- Set a timer for 30 minutes. (You may have to build to this. Start with 10, then 20, then 30.)
- Sit comfortably in your chair with both feet on the floor.
- Focus on your breathing. Don’t judge it. You’re just breathing.
- Acknowledge whatever comes into your mind then let it go and refocus on your breathing.
If you think you don’t have time to do this, have another look at Tip #2. You’re wrong. You do have time. Find it. Make a commitment to yourself to practice this for 8 weeks. You’ll notice a difference. Cleaning your space and your calendar will help too. Spring cleaning is a chance to own your reality and lead by design. Happy cleaning!