My friend and colleague Ann Deaton, a leadership coach and consultant, starts each new year with a one word theme that expresses something she wants to live into that year—words like joy or boldness or innovation. I decided to follow her example and my word for the 2013 is ease.
Ease to me is not about being lazy. It means having enough space in the day to feel grounded and calm. It means giving myself enough time to enjoy life, to sleep soundly, and to recharge my batteries. Ease is an important part of coaching the way Dava cooks, because to love what I do I can’t be exhausted by it.
One of my biggest barriers to leading a more easeful life is my failure to build in time to transition from one task to another. I first read about transition time in 18 Minutes by popular Harvard Business Review blogger Peter Bregman and immediately saw it as a missing link in my quest to give myself more space.
Transition time is the time it takes to get somewhere, whether it’s time to travel from one engagement to another, time to prepare for the next meeting, time to pick up the phone and dial it, time to switch your attention from one task to the next. People who are on time are people who take transition time into account. They think about all the things that have to happen to get from here to there (literally and figuratively) and they plan for them.
This is what it looks like. If I have to get to a meeting and it takes me 15 minutes to drive there, I can’t get up from my desk at quarter of and expect to make it somewhere on the hour. It takes time to stop what I’m doing and give myself some kind of place marker, I have to get my coat and gloves, I have to walk to the garage, start the car and once I’m out of the garage I have to wait for the garage door to close. Once I reach my destination I have to park and gather my things before going inside. That 15-minute drive is now 20 or even 25 minutes. That's the real transition time.
I’m one of those people who are usually late and, like most of them, I hate it. It’s uncomfortable, unprofessional and rude. But until recently, I never really recognized how little transition time I give myself. Why is that? Because I hate to waste time and so I’ll work at my desk until the last minute—I just want to finish up this one thing. I routinely wait until it’s time to leave or past it and then hop up and rush. But by then it’s too late.
I don’t think I’m alone in this behavior. Anyone who schedules back-to-back meetings is doing the same thing. How can you realistically finish one meeting at 2 and start the next one at 2? You can’t! Even if people come to you, one group has to leave and the next group has to come in, sit down and settle in. You’re ten minutes into your next meeting and you haven’t even started yet.
The point Bregman makes is that transition time is the opposite of wasted time. It gives you time to plan how to use the time in the meeting or at your next task more productively. It gets you focused and ready so you can be more efficient in your work. It gives your brain time to switch into the new task and give it full attention. It keeps you from wasting time in the meeting or on a task.
It will take me at least a year to live into a more easeful life. Old habits die hard. But an important step is to remember to build in enough time for each transition. I hope you will too.
Plum Cluverius, PCC is an executive coach with over 30 years experience in leadership and professional development. She lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.