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One of the most energizing ways to become more effective as a leader is to make staring out the window time a regular part of your workweek. Another term for this practice is big picture thinking time.

Building the muscle of honoring big picture thinking time as sacred in your schedule improves your outcomes in a multitude of ways. By regularly interrupting the pattern of reactivity that comes with the ongoing demands on your time and attention, you laser focus on what is most important with regards to your key work priorities for your career, leadership development, and the constituents you serve. 

When coaching my executive clients to institute staring out the window time as a practice, they often ask, “But what do I spend the time doing?” To which I answer, “You don’t do. You spend your time being.” What does that mean? You close down all the ways that people can get to you – and you to them – and sit quietly, centering yourself. From that quiet place, determine the areas that most need your focus to make a considerable difference. Staring-out-the-window time brings you into alignment with your true talents, interests, organizational remit, and opportunities that will make the most impact.


Here’s how to do it:

  1. Pick a time slot and book it in your calendar and let others know it is off-limits. Block 2 hours ideally; 1 hour at the minimum. Make it a recurring weekly meeting.
  2. Go analog. Especially if you feel overwhelmed, get off your computer and phone for this sacred time. Pull out a whiteboard, blank pieces of paper, or a set of sticky notes to play with on a blank wall. Whatever is different from your regular mode of working.
  3. Mentally review your key priorities, culling the huge pile on your professional plate. Distill what is most important for you to pay attention to in order to move forward, whether it’s leadership development, your role’s charter, and/or your career fulfillment. Float between those areas, or pick a lane and focus on just one. 

A sample big thinking session might look like this:

  • Pondering what you want for yourself to continue to be engaged and make the choice to remain in this company, this job, and this line of work
  • Reading a book, white paper, or article on a topic you are interested in and then stepping back to synthesize the learning so you can apply it in the learning lab of your job
  • Scripting a conversation to have with your boss to advocate for what you really want 
  • Looking at what you want to start, stop, and continue doing to be at the highest leverage point in your job, and making an action plan to translate those ideas into real-life practices

Coming out of the session, you may find that you have content to communicate with key team members. My favorite tool right now is Loom, which allows you to record your voice – and also a screen if you want to – and then quickly send off a message to someone to communicate something important. It’s easy and has changed my life! – I use it 20-30 times a week to quickly communicate the most important aspects of my message to my clients and team members. It’s valuable because we speak faster than we can write and speaking allows nuance in the tone of your voice. I have introduced Loom to executive leaders and it’s lowered their effort and improved their outcomes. Communicating in this way also stays within the flow of big picture thinking, which is less about the structure and more about dreaming, creating, and strategizing. Give it a try, you’ll be happy that you did.

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