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Be a More Productive Leader

Thrilled to be quoted in the same article as Bill Gates!

As the boss of MicrosoftBill Gates would take one week, two times a year, and escape by himself to a secret clapboard cabin somewhere in a cedar forest in the Pacific Northwest.

It was what he called his “Think Week.”

Gates would arrive by helicopter or sea plane, and spend the week reading papers written by Microsoft employees pitching new innovations or potential investments. He read as many papers as possible, sometimes doing so 18 hours a day, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, according to The Wall Street Journal.

”…I would literally take boxes out to a beach place and sit there for a week reading them day and night and scribbling on them to putting it entirely online,” Gates said in 2008 video of of Microsoft’s CEO Summit.

Work done during one Think Week eventually led to Microsoft to launching Internet Explorer in 1995. And in 2005, Gates was reading a paper called “Virtual Earth” that described building a virtual map with information on traffic and live images of final destinations.

Gates’ Think Weeks started in the 1980s; the first ones were quiet visits to his grandmother’s house. As they evolved, no visitors were allowed to the cabin during Gates’ Think Week (other than someone who dropped off two meals a day at the cabin, and on year a Wall Street Journal reporter) and Gates’ cabin was stocked with Diet Orange Crush and Diet Coke.

“When I talk about the early days, it’s hard to explain to people how much fun it was. Even with the absurd hours and arguments, we were having the time of our lives.” – Paul Allen

View image on Twitter

Gates’ “week in the woods” idea is smart, says Laura Stack, president and CEO of consulting firm The Productivity Pro. “I would recommend this approach,” Stack tells CNBC Make It. “People should have a ‘third place’ that isn’t work or home, where they can find focused time to think and create and clarify your strategic thinking,” Stack says. “We must create an environment that gives us the ability to focus our minds without interruption from coworkers, spouses, children, pets and technology, or we’ll never be able to concentrate on higher-order activities.”

 

Leadership coach Ellen Faye agrees: “While exercise, yoga, and meditation are great solutions to managing the stress of every day, there’s nothing like disconnecting for a longer period of time to create the space for important decisions and objective creative thought,” she tells CNBC Make It.

“I think of it as a one week long shower. Because we know that in the shower we have these really great thought processes, but those are flashes and moments, and when you go away for a period of time alone you’re able to get more significant results,” she says.

Stack and Faye both employ the technique in their own careers.

“I check myself into my third space — a local hotel up the road — every quarter to write for 48 hours. I’ve published eight books in 14 years using this approach,” Stack says.

Faye says she spends at least four or five days alone at a yoga retreat every year “for deeper creative thought.”

But your “third place” doesn’t have to be far away or fancy. it could be “Starbucks, the library, or the gazebo in your garden. I recommend at least eight hours, but it’s best to take several days to ‘clear the decks,’” Stack says.

As for Gates, his Think Week eventually expanded from just him reading about ideas and providing feedback, to later Microsoft’s top 50 engineering “thinkers” throughout the company doing so.

In the 2008 summit video, Gates said, “We have institutionalized it as kind of a grassroots process and this is a way that somebody who is even just a year or two into the company and has ideas that may or may not relate to the group they are in can write something up.”

 

What is YOUR Success Formula?

Look at how you filled your parking spaces last week.  There are 10 spots. Our math savvy friends know that each spot is 10% of your disposable time.  We will use this to create your formula.

Some of you may have created two parking lots. One that reflects how your life is today and one that reflects how you want your life to be.  The one that reflects the way you want your life to be will drive your success formula.

You are creating a vision for success – a “SUCCESS FORMULA” based on

  • your definition of success
  • your unique focus areas
  • your core values
  • your aspirations.

Keep in mind that each spot is equal to 10% of your disposable time.

Now assign a percentage to each of your parking spaces…

Example:

  • if you have 5 spots for work that’s 50%
  • if you have 3 spots for family that’s 30%
  • if you have 2 spots for self-care that’s 20%

This is my success formula:

Success Formula example

What’s your success formula?

Here are some other examples to spark your creativity:

Success Formulas

Now you have a visual based on YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS.

Use Your Success Formula to Drive your Priorities

  • Create a visual that is motivating and appealing
  • Post your visual where you can see it daily
  • Use your visual to drive how you spend your time, and how you set your priorities; ask yourself:
    • Does saying yes to this support my success formula?
    • If I say yes to this what will I be saying no to?
  • Do the math – if something gets 10% of your formula then it gets 8-10 hours a week. If something gets 40% of your formula that is 32 to 40 hours a week.  Try logging how you spend your time.  You’ll be amazed at what you learn.

Integration: A key component of experiential learning (which is doing while learning, which is what we did in this blog course) is taking the time to integrate the learning.  Here are some questions that can help you to integrate the learning:

  • What did you figure out?
  • What do you see differently?
  • What one change will you make first?

Wishing you SUCCESS on your terms!

Creating Your Very Own Success Formula Blog Course Details – This is the 6th, and final, in a multi-series of posts.  Check this post for the big picture. Future blog posts can be delivered to your inbox by signing up for my blog. And please continue to share this blog course with your friends and colleagues.

 

Life is like a parking lot…   

When the lot is full, no matter how much you’d like to, you can’t pull in until another car pulls out.

  • Is your parking lot full?
  • Do you have more cars to park?
  • What car has to leave to put a more important car in?

We all have 24 hours in a day and we all have 7 days in a week.  We can’t control that.  What we can control, however, is what we do with those hours.

If we break this down, we can agree:

  • We need to sleep: there goes 7-8 hours a day
  • We need time for essential self-care: eating, grooming, emptying the dishwashers, etc. – we’ll give that 3-4 hours
  • 24-12 = 12      or      24-10 = 14
  • You have 12-14 disposable hours a day!  That is 84 – 98 disposable hours a week.

How are you going to fill your parking spaces?

  • For my analytical readers – depending on your disposable hour calculation above each space is 8.4-9.8 hours.
  • For my creative readers – figure 8-10 hours a week per space!

parking spots

Consider your “Unique Focus Areas” you created in Week 2. These can guide you to fill your spots with the things that you identified as mattering the most.

This is how my parking lot looks:  4 spaces to work, 1 space to volunteering, 2 spaces to self-care, 1 space to personal/professional development and 2 spaces to my family.

full parking lot

This week’s assignment: Fill your spots.  You may want to do this twice.  Once for how it is now and once for how you want it to be.

parking spotsparking spots

Creating Your Very Own Success Formula Blog Course Details – This is the 5th in a multi-series of posts.  Check this post for the big picture. Future posts can be delivered to your inbox by signing up for my blog. And please share this opportunity with your friends and colleagues.

Every once in a while I come across a product that is perfect.

I’ve been carrying the Incipio STOWAWAY® for about the past 6 months. I have had more people comment and get excited about this phone case than anything I’ve owned (that I can remember.) Practically everyone who sees it asks about it and says they want one.

This is a wallet case for my iPhone that holds 3 credit cards (Business Credit Card, Family Credit Card, and Personal Credit Card). It does add a bit of thickness to the case, but that doesn’t bother me. I typically carry my cell phone in my jeans back pocket or in my handbag. The thickness doesn’t affect either of these situations. It is great to have what I need when I need it.

(more…)

In the Spring I helped a client organize her husband’s home office as a Father’s Day present.  We were given clear instructions to not touch anything “on the desk,” but everything else was fair game.  Her husband is a Neuroscience Professor at an area university.  Of course he had a large library of books. They were in absolutely no order at all.

I was curious how he could find anything.  Why is it that certain people’s brains need order and others don’t?  (more…)