The importance of managers ‘creating space’ for themselves

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The onset of the digital age, where people are contactable 24 hours a day, and the boundaries between our personal and professional selves have become increasingly blurred through social media, making it more and more difficult to ‘create space’ for ourselves.

Modern life, particularly work, fills space and time indiscriminately and many managers and business owners feel overwhelmed and unable to ‘create space’ to reflect. So argues Derek Draper, leadership consultant and coach, and former aide to Labour spin doctor Peter Mandelson, in his new book ‘Create Space: How to Manage Time, and Find Focus, Productivity and Success.’

Draper says we need to create space to think (make decisions, problem solve, innovate), connect (collaborate, work in a team etc), do (deliver, manage change, mobilise) and be (create a better work-life balance, purpose and personal meaning.)

“Creating space is essential for unlocking performance both at work and elsewhere. Ask yourself: ‘Do I have the energy to think, explore and be curious? And will I be able to connect with others, share and live in the moment?’” Draper says.

“Many of us would not be able to say a clear ‘Yes’ to these questions. We feel we have little or no space to have that chance. Those who do, however, take decisive control over their working lives.”

So how can managers and business owners create space for themselves?

Create space to reflect

One of the first things we need to do, according to Draper, is create the space to reflect.

“To be able to mull things over and test our conclusions is not a luxury – it is essential,” he says. “We need to do this before we make decisions and afterwards, so that we can constantly improve the quality of our thinking. While we feel a pressure to act quickly, to do so short-circuits the time we need to know what to do next. So when you feel you are too busy to sit down and reflect, perhaps that is in fact the precise moment when you should do exactly that.”

Connect with your colleagues

There was a time when hierarchical working structures, where managers ruled their minions and set a clear pecking order, were the norm in most workplaces but these days it’s more about collaborating and connecting with your colleagues.

“To connect with colleagues is a fundamental part of creating better working lives and relationships,” says Draper. “An important means of connection is to share habitually what you have to offer with others and accept what they have to offer you. Otherwise how can any individual or team think good thoughts or complete tasks effectively?”

Take the time to create space for building a relationship with your colleagues and understand them, Draper advises. “There can be longstanding issues getting in the way of our ability to work well with others. If we don’t take the time to understand these, we will end up sabotaging our own success,” he notes.

Take stock of where you are

“Finance and accountancy is a world full of numbers, but sometimes we need to look up and around and find the space to dream,” says Draper. “Too often we fall into things, or keep going out of habit or a lack of imagination. We feel the pressure to produce more, and we don’t make space to sit still, take stock and think, on a deeper level, about what it is that we want from life and how we might achieve it. To do this can free up all sorts of possibilities.”

Unplug and switch off

Draper says the ‘always on’ culture, which is so prevalent in accountancy and finance can damage your well being and productivity. “For anyone with a lot of ambition, the temptation to just keep going and going is strong. But this mentality ignores one crucial fact: we are human beings and we are not designed to be permanently productive,” says Draper.

“The truth is, if you’re waiting for things to slow down before you finally give yourself permission to stop and just be, you’re going to be waiting a very long time. We need to take care of ourselves, and work out who we are, what we want, and what we need, on a basic level, before we can try and master everything else. If we don’t, we run the risk of existing but not living, of feeling lost or overwhelmed.”

Make time to plan

“If we don’t adopt clear goals and have a well worked out plan to realise them, we will limit what we can achieve, no matter how good our business ideas are or how hard we work,” says Draper. “A failure to plan can cause real damage to a business. This is about making our vision – and plans – a reality and actually getting things over the line.”

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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