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Leadership challenge #3: Expand Your Mental Bandwidth, Ten At A Time

Leadership challenge #3: Expand Your Mental Bandwidth, Ten At A Time
Published: December 17, 2019
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Commit to this 30-minute (three blocks of 10 minutes) challenge and we predict you’ll see dramatic results. Periodically, IGC will post additional leadership challenges just like this. Let us know what you think!

Leadership Challenge #3: Expand Your Mental Bandwidth

Step 1: Mark in your calendar three 10-minute meetings to be by yourself, uninterrupted.

  • Frequency: Either three times in one week, or once a week, for three weeks.
  • Location: Someplace you feel confident you will not be interrupted—sit in your car for 10 minutes before you enter your workplace, reserve a conference room, take yourself to lunch, or sit on a park bench.

Step 2: Go on your all three “dates” with yourself. Congratulations! You are joining the group of leaders who successfully take care of their teams and tasks by committing to time to think.

Even a regular 10-minute regimen of focused time to think will result in better decisions, the ability to handle curveballs with more agility, and being present. Time Poverty (too many tasks, too little time) usually gets the blame, but the real culprit is Bandwidth Poverty (lack of mental resources for higher-level thinking). The best leaders fight Bandwidth Poverty by prioritizing and protecting their own time to step back and gain a clear line of sight.

So you are on your first “date” with yourself…now what? Here are some options:

  • You know all those small notes you jot in the margins or put on your mobile phone to check later? Or those nagging feelings about a conversation? Address those now!
  • Map out a plan to work on that task you keep delaying.
  • Identify three tasks to delegate, how, and to whom.
  • Read an article that you have been putting off.
  • Review your calendar and make sure your tasks are aligned with your priorities.
  • Review the day and identify one thing you did well, one thing you would like to do differently next time.
  • Stretch.
  • Really listen to all the sounds you can hear.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Meditate.
  • Make a list of people you admire and why.
  • Think about who in your team needs more of your attention.
  • See if you can name what motivates everyone on your team.
  • Draw a picture of what is motivating you, today.
  • Dream…

This time is for you.

Challenges: If you feel guilty taking this time, if you feel expectations have been set that you are always reachable at all times, or if you feel the “itch” to keep checking your txt/phone/email, use this time to be curious about why. You’ll be surprised at how much you learn about yourself and your corporate culture once you stop to look at it.

Three Unbreakable Rules

  1. Pick an achievable amount of time. If you can only afford 5 minutes, take 5. If you can expand to 15 or more, try that. Experiment with a cadence and duration that works for you.
  2. Commit to attend. Cancelling or abbreviating your “dates” sends the message that your mental bandwidth is not valuable.
  3. Silence all interruptions. Do not look at or answer any incoming txt, call or email.

Make this a habit. The best leaders commit to time to think, and so they think better. If this is already a habit—forward this article to your colleagues who have not yet made the leap.

You have the choice: Continue to respond to the increasing demands on your time and attention by trying to be everywhere at all times to handle everything, or…Expand Your Bandwidth and lead the way you want to lead.

Caitlin McClure is an Associate at Impact Americas.