Pause, Think, Scale, Repeat
A few weeks back, I wrote about why it is important for leaders to take a break or a short holiday. In the article, I spoke about the dilemma associated with taking a break. While completely switching off is extremely important, it is equally important to create shorter mental spaces which allow you to pause and focus on items that really matter. This becomes even more important when you are trying to scale up your business or your own performance.
The Importance of Creating Mental Spaces
I realized the importance of creating mental spaces the hard way. For the most part of my career as an entrepreneur, I rarely stepped back to gauge, strategize or think. I had largely been a fast thinker. Thinking on the go!
For example, when I founded EduKart, we were early to the market which meant that I had to make my own mistakes and had no case studies at my disposal. Later, when I started to introspect the reasons of why we failed despite having an early mover’s advantage, I progressively came up with various reasons including early to market, lack of investment in tech stack and lack of skill diversity in the founding team.
After going through this journey of introspection, I realized that all this time I had been trying to shift the blame away from myself. Today, I believe that the primary reason why I could not scale up EduKart beyond a point was that I didn’t create enough mental space to look at the bigger picture. I worked very hard, but probably not smart enough. For example, I was very late in creating a North-Star for the company. If I had stepped back and done it earlier, I would have been able to align the team on common goals and made considerably more progress, faster.
The Power of Taking a Pause for Deep Thinking
The pandemic has resulted in most of us attending more meetings than ever, and working significantly longer. One of the biggest responsibilities of a leader is to have clarity of thought. Slow thinking allows one to look beyond assumptions and existing knowledge and move towards creative leadership. The ability to create mental spaces has become more important in today’s scenario where businesses are faced with a lot of uncertainty and unprecedented complex problems.
Make Space to Think
As a leader you need to move beyond that urge to ‘do’ things. You need to realize that thinking and strategizing is as productive as constantly executing. It allows you to be more proactive and not just reactive.
And, remember this will not happen between odd gaps during meetings. You need to be more disciplined than this.
Set focus times on your calendar. I have carved out few hours worth of blocks every week essentially to focus on things that matter and think about how it plays long term.
Find what ‘space’ works for you. It can be sitting down with your eyes closed, playing some music or a quick walk. I love walks, especially when I am thinking of long term strategic priorities. For me, staying away from any device is a big reason, why I choose walks for deep thinking.
Keep a note of all your questions and not just ideas and answers. This is critical as sometimes the answers will come to you later. Having questions written down is a first powerful step to get to the answers!
These are just some of the ways that have worked for me. Tell me how you create a mental space for yourself to think, slowly.