Thursday, June 24, 2010

Coaching Lessons: Go Out And Have Lunch

Sometimes an executive will offer rather simple advice. This is what happened when Tony Schwartz was working with a very senior executive at a Fortune 500 company. Once he discovered that this man worked a full workday without taking more than a few minutes to have lunch at his desk, Schwartz recommended that he set aside a half-hour or so every day to walk out of the office and to take a lunch break. Link here.

Schwartz also recommended that this man return to his thrice weekly workouts.

Again, this is rather easy advice. It was easier said than done, but the executive did manage to start working out again, and to go out to lunch twice in a week.

The larger issue is simple. Who owns your time? Does your job own you or do you own your job? Are you the prisoner of your desk or can you freely walk away from it? As Schwartz put it: "Taking back your lunch is the first step in taking back your life."

I have written about Tony Schwartz in the past. He and Jim Loehr wrote a great article called, "The Corporate Athlete," which explains how executives can improve, even optimize their performance at work. Link here.

His advice is simple and direct, but it also has the virtue of being actionable and effective.

Why does it matter that you break up your day, walk away from your desk, and have a moment of respite at lunch?

Schwartz explains that it helps to clear the mind, to refresh the spirit, and to allow a more energized look at problems and issues. Sometimes when we look at a problem over and over again, without a break, we miss the obvious. Solutions yield to hard work, but hard work does not necessarily mean nothing but work.

As I have occasionally suggested, it often happens that you need to step back from what you are doing and look at it through someone else's eyes. This happens with writers and it happens with executives. When a writer is so thoroughly involved with his work that he cannot find anything wrong with it, he is clearly not working at his best.
And, if an executive does not know how he looks to others, then he cannot manage or lead effectively.

One good way to get some perspective on a problem or on your work is simply to step away from it, to engage in a meaningful social ritual, clear your mind, and then return to it with fresh eyes.


Anonymous said...

Hahaha! I liked that one. I remember an incident when I was slaving away trying to figure out the roll-out of a big IT project. I was working through lunch and working late.

An insouciant, and highly skilled manager and IT expert told me: "Always go to lunch, and don't stay late. That's how they take your life and make you stupid like them."

Best advice I've ever taken. With everyone grinding away in a torpor, I leave for lunch and go home at a reasonable hour.

I get dirty looks, and comments, but I'm always the guy with the good solutions and ideas that get adopted by leaders above me.

Yeah, yeah, success is 90% persperation and 10% inspiration, but if you are putting in 100% soporific perspiration, you'll find no inspiration

Shave 10% out of the work-week and you'll find inspiration.

Sheer endurance only allows you to perform the same thing over and over. When you need the Next Thing, sheer endurance is a hindrance.

Be smart, not tired....


wv: ectiva. A new energy drink with 10% ectoplasm so you can "ghost" at work and get ahead.

Robert Pearson said...

Often, I break up my day by reading "Had Enough Therapy?" but that doesn't actually get me away form the desk. After reading this I did leave the building for 30 minutes and get some thoroughly unhealthy, thoroughly delicious Chinese (sweet and sour pork in the unnatural red sauce--umm ummm !)

I do feel great and I have gotten quite a lot accomplished already this afternoon. Thanks for the reminder!

Stuart Schneiderman said...

You're welcome. I have to keep reminding myself to do it too.