Create your Space-Making Plan for 2024
As leaders, the spaces we create for ourselves in between the ‘busyness’ of our lives matter, especially when it comes to leadership effectiveness. In this article, we encourage you to reflect on the ‘space’ you can create for yourself to optimise outcomes in 2024 and beyond.
In a similar way to French Composer Claude Debussy, who once shared that “Music is the space between the notes”, a leader’s capacity to craft space for rest, respite and reflection is critical to maintaining personal performance.
Below, we offer a range of options you can use to create a ‘space-making plan’ for 2024 – and beyond!
It all begins with you!
How often do you use the word ‘busy’ to describe your reality when someone asks how you are? Too often, we, as leaders, are caught up in the day-to-day of doing and fail to recognise that our ‘Way of Being’ may be compromising the possibilities available to us.
Here are a few ideas for Space Making …
Daily Space Making
Below, we offer a few deliberate space-making components that you might consider integrating daily into your 2024 plan.
Stretching – Let’s start with something practical and specific. Stretching every day, particularly if you have a sitting-down style job, can deliver huge benefits, including increased flexibility, a better range of motion so that you can move more easily in everyday life, enhanced posture, stress relief and the avoidance of other ailments such as back pain and headaches. Just five minutes a day or a couple of minutes three times a day will make a positive and profound difference to your well-being.
Sleep – All of our research and direct experience identifies the importance of the eight hours you make available for quality sleep as critical to overall well-being. Consider developing a bedtime routine and creating a sleep environment or space conducive to sound sleep.
Reflection – With so much crammed into most days, reflective practice can be a way to process and ‘park’ the experiences of each day before retiring to sleep. Reflective practice can be a deliberate sequence of questions you ask yourself at the end of each day or through conversation with a significant person in your life to make sense of events that have passed and find a way to integrate them.
Meal Times – If you lead a busy life, it can be easy to either skip meals or multitask whilst eating lunch or dinner. This year, why not set aside some time to sit down for each meal in relative quiet or with someone else and enjoy the experience of your food? What difference would it make if you slowed down to enjoy the meal you have prepared and created the space for a 15 to 20 minute break at the time of eating?
Mindfulness – Mindfulness and creating space for mindful moments is an ideal inclusion in daily space-making. You might consider integrating this first thing each morning, in the evening or regularly throughout the day. Mindfulness has been shown to decrease depression, increase emotional regulation, improve memory, improve cognitive capability, reduce anxiety and stress and form the basis for stronger relationships. Who wouldn’t want more of this?
Weekly Space Making
Often, the weekly space-making we afford ourselves is key to being able to achieve our daily space-making objectives.
Meal Planning – Although there’s discipline involved, weekly meal planning can make things so much easier in terms of meal preparation on a daily basis. Consider taking some time throughout the week to plan and design the meals for the coming seven days and to shop and prepare ingredients to make the cooking and preparing easier on a day-by-day basis.
Exercise – Integrating exercise 3-4 times per week is a brilliant space-making initiative that delivers huge benefits. Exercise improves memory and brain function, protects against chronic diseases, improves sleep, supports mental health by reducing feelings of anxiety and depression and maintains strength and balance. What could you commit to each week in order to realise these benefits?
Reading – These days, it is all too easy to revert to scrolling through social media instead of picking up something more substantial, more interesting and likely more educative. Depending on whether you prefer electronic books or old-fashioned paper copies, consider the opportunity to read each week as a chance to move through content that is interesting and relevant in shaping the leader you’re becoming. Or perhaps you prefer fiction as an opportunity to disassociate from what you focus on during the day-to-day? It doesn’t matter. What matters is developing the habit of reading.
Socialising – Have you heard the saying “all work and no play…”? The end of that ‘proverb’ implies that we get dull and boring if we always work without other pursuits in our life. Socialising, particularly with those people we value, respect and care about, is a wonderful antidote to a busy leadership portfolio. Consider making deliberate plans each week to catch up with those people who mean the most to you and invest in meaningful conversation.
Monthly Space Making
The spaces you make monthly can be ways to ramp up your well-being and performance, so consider the following:
Get into Nature – Beyond your weekly or daily exercise routine, consider getting out of the urban context and into nature for a couple of days of respite in the green (blue if you’re coastal or red if you’re rural)! Immersion in nature has been shown to reduce stress, enhance mood, and support the nervous, endocrine and immune systems. A day or two each month might be the perfect antidote to a busy city job!
Digital Detox – These days, we can be connected to our phones all day, every day. Instead of functioning as a phone, devices today seem more like supercomputers integrated into every aspect of our lives. Consider a couple of days each month where you dial down your use of devices and dial up your focus on mindfulness and presence. Maybe you can line this up with your time out in nature?
Massage – It is easy to overlook the amount of built-up energy the body holds in response to our lifestyles. Consider finding a massage therapist that can work with you to release the muscle tension regularly, optimising your body’s capacity to move well. Regular massage is a commitment to proactively reducing stress, relaxing, improving circulation and increasing joint mobility and flexibility. And they feel good!
Annual Space Making
Annual space-making is something you ideally plan at the beginning, with a 12-month view and the desire to create ‘times and experiences’ to look forward to.
Plan Your Breaks – We recommend a break every quarter at a minimum to be able to recalibrate, restore, rest, and prepare yourself for the next 12 or so weeks. Breaks do not need to be holidays but a few days in a row without ‘work’ or your normal routine. This is particularly important if you are known to work long hours, like 50-60 hours per week during work weeks.
Book Your Holidays – It is always important to have a light on the horizon. For many people, holidays or a deliberate intervention in day-to-day life can be this. It can be wonderful to look forward to an island vacation, time with family or an experience you have invested in. We recommend a couple of experiences like this each year, and if the budget is prohibitive, consider something like camping with the family, an equally wonderful version of a holiday.
Consider A Week On Your Own – You may have heard of Bill Gates’ strategy of taking two weeks out of every year on his own in a remote cabin, referred to as a ‘think week’. This involves one or two weeks devoted to being alone, having no digital access and focusing on reading, insights and recovery. Above all, it is intended to provoke new perspectives–it looks like it worked for Bill Gates. How might it work for you?
Now that we have introduced a range of ideas, we encourage you to use the template we attach to map out your Space Making Plan.
Integrating one thing each day, one thing each week, one monthly ritual and one ‘big space’ each year is likely to deliver results in the next 12 months, so we encourage you to begin small and build up your space-making over time. You may realise within a few months that the quality of your thinking, well-being and mood delivers profoundly positive results in the context of your work.