Let me begin with a confession. I love shooting rubber bands at people. I’m sure it started in elementary school when real weapons were off limits, but the truth is I still love that mischievous moment of pulling a strand of rubber across my pistol-shaped fingers and firing away.
And no, this post isn’t really about shooting rubber bands. It is about the connection between elasticity and what is required for leaders to make time and space for reflection.
Elasticity seems in short supply these days while we are running on this hamster wheel of interruption and isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. On the whole, we are fatigued and frustrated. Our internal rubber band is dried out and stretched to the limit.
The thing is, whether you are in a pandemic or just plain working hard to navigate the demands of leadership, leading well requires the ability to roll with the punches that I'll call elasticity. Pull your rubber band to its limits for very long and it will break down. Leading with sustained creativity and clarity requires time and space for reflection and deep thought.
If you are a leader, you are surrounded by people who live life maxed out on every level. One of the great gifts you can bring to them is that non-anxious ability to absorb new information, news of a crisis, or unexpected curveballs: aka. Elasticity. This quality of life and leadership requires two things: elastic time and elastic space.
Unhurried, open-ended, or flexible chunks of time to do deep thought. Elastic time gives you the freedom to read, write, create, or reflect on all of the above without the back-pressure that comes from knowing you only have a few moments before you must move on to other urgent stuff. It means you have the chance to explore rabbit trails, whether they yield anything productive or not. Elastic time is time when you are not under the gun to get things finished.
Elastic time is most fruitful in space that is warm and inviting. It happens better in overstuffed chairs near living room fireplaces than in cubicles. It is uncluttered space where you can spread out, have more than one book books open at the same time, or draw and sketch out your ideas. In essence, it is space that you can adapt rather than space filled with stacks of projects and to do lists that scream out at you.
Here’s no surprise. Making time for reflection will never seem urgent! There will always be something or someone calling for your attention. Carving out time for creative thought feels like a selfish luxury.
But, try to lead for long without the life-giving infusion of deep reflection and fresh thought and your rubber band will dry out — only to snap back on you the next time you aim at someone or something else.
So, let’s get personal:
1. When is the last time you had some elastic time and space for deep creative thought? 2. Where and when could you make time this week? 3. Maybe you need a simple step as a daily starting point. Take this tip from my wife's playbook as a middle school teacher. At some point every day, Drop Everything And Read for 30 minutes. Get out of your own head and let your rubber band relax.