As I sit here on July 4th staring into my laptop screen while most of the rest of the nation is out watching fireworks (because I am looking at my calendar for tomorrow), I came across an interesting read on FastCompany.com. In an interview with LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner entitled “The Value of Under-Scheduling“, Weiner intimated that if we get caught up looking at our ever-growing to-do list, we are hardly able to focus on problem-solving. It is precisely for that reason that he schedules “buffer time” between meetings to think of creative solutions for business challenges that he and his company face.
In essence, he said that slowing down and taking a break from ticking things off of our to-do list, by putting some jobs on hold to take care of the things that are truly important, helps to solve problems faster and better than constantly charging full-speed-ahead. This is something that struck me not as odd, but as valuable. While I am certain that he, in his role as CEO of LinkedIn, has a much more robust meeting schedule than I do, I can relate to what Weiner is saying. I am sure we all can.
Scheduling back-to-back meetings without a buffer is counterproductive. It doesn’t make you more organized; it stifles problem solving abilities.
It seems like everyday I find myself staring down at any one of the vibrating, squawking technological devices that I carry around in my pocket or laptop bag (it’s not a purse, it’s a satchel) only to see a notification that I have another meeting or conference call, all while sitting in, or walking out of a meeting or conference call. I am not alone in having meetings, video-conferences and conference calls stacked back-to-back-to-back like cords of firewood. We all find our days filled with endless collaborative sessions and countless emails that are just begging to be answered. But think back on those days and try to remember the last time you came up with a truly creative or groundbreaking solution for a problem that you, your team, or your organization faced while simultaneously rushing off to your next meeting.
Conversely, think of the times that you took a break and tuned out all the noise and came up with something truly great. I never really gave it much thought until I read Weiner’s interview. For me it happens in the shower. I have said on more than one occasion, that I think it would be wise for me to install a whiteboard in my shower. I come up with so many ideas that I think are great (and some actually prove to be pretty decent) in the shower. Now, I talk to myself while I am in the shower a lot. I’m seriouswhen I say that I have full-on conversations with myself. It helps me think. It’s like having a brainstorming session with myself, and it works pretty well.
Not to belabor Weiner’s point, but I really think he is on to something and I am going to adjust my calendar for the next few weeks to try to insulate my meetings from other meetings and give me some inter-office “alone time”.