I recently shared the highlights of my road trip from Colorado to Florida and the positive affects I experienced in the form of windshield time. In that post, I compared my rare opportunity to process life alone with what it was like to crave much-needed solo time when I was CEO of Prologis during a harrowing comeback during the 2008 recession. Since many of you responded positively to my aha moments behind the wheel, I decided to post this sequel.
I recently drove back to Colorado from Florida in short order—two days to be exact. It was a faster trip than on the front end, but still a helpful time for reflection with my dog, Sophie. Whenever I’ve had time like this to work through my upcoming goals in life, I’m always anxious to get back and reach out to friends and colleagues about my latest insights.
And when I was at Prologis, it was no different. Whether it was processing time during my drive to and from the office or working through ideas during longer excursions to our other offices outside Colorado, alone time was a precious commodity. A natural segue to getting that solo time you need is the desire to pull your people together and share a new approach or discovery. This was always a productive time at Prologis because my team was energized by our renewed connection after time apart—that’s when some of our best work began.
That experience — when one or more members has individual time and a chance to push reset on their thinking and then returns to their team invigorated — is something I like to think of as a “rejoining effect,” and I believe is key to healthy collaboration. In other words, I would argue that rejoining the team after having much-needed solo time to reflect allows someone to refresh their A-game. Their re-entry brings a revitalized approach and perspective, enabling them to ask new questions and challenge the group.
Research shows that even small amounts of personal time can generate the same results. Cornell University conducted a study where workers were reminded to take short breaks for 10 weeks. After that time, “workers receiving the alerts were 13 percent more accurate on average in their work than coworkers who were not reminded.” Additionally, Scientific American reported that “downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity…”
My rejoining effect was often after solo travel, but I think this same rejoining benefit can be as helpful with shorter breaks of personal time as explained in the research above. For instance, arriving early to work or to a team meeting allows for that rare alone time, while taking a walk or getting outside without your phone can improve decision making, increase productivity, and generate creativity. These mental breaks can replenish your brain functioning power and help you have more aha moments.
You might be asking how do leaders prioritize these mental breaks? Regularly look ahead on your calendar, and if you don’t experience travel time like I did, schedule time to reflect. Or put blocks of alone time on your calendar to protect that priority. Otherwise, you’ll be chasing opportunities that get away from you.
The next time you have a team meeting planned — especially one that requires a sustained effort by everyone involved — consider the value to breaking up your meetings with regular installments of short-breaks or longer periods if you have the time. If you’re diligent about allowing yourself to reflect, you’ll enjoy higher productivity, better performance, and a team that appreciates your refreshed approach.
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