(This post was first published here on March 20, 2017.)
Great leaders make sure that they schedule what we call “balcony time.” So many things call for our attention at work every day that we can get completely caught up in the day-to-day business of business—what’s happening on the “dance floor.” Getting up in the balcony allows leaders to gain perspective and shape vision.
Balcony time for your work life is really important. However, balcony time for leading yourself is also really important. In this post I’m going to share with you some practices related to journaling. While this may not be for everyone, journaling can be a very effective way to have personal balcony time: time to gain perspective on life, make sure you are living the vision for life that you’ve established, and confirm that you are living with the end in mind (like we did in the “Looking Back on Life” exercise in LEAD 365).
There are three parts to getting started on this great practice: choosing a time, choosing a means to record, and choosing a structure.
1. Choosing the Time
This can be a daily, weekly, monthly, or less frequent discipline. Know your rhythms. Choose a time when you can get yourself settled enough to be reflective. When is your mind the sharpest? When is your thinking the clearest? Alongside of time, think about location. Where at work, at home, or in your area are you going to have your best balcony time? Libraries, beaches, and coffee shops can be just as good as dining rooms, conference rooms, or sitting in your car in a parking lot.
2. Choosing the Means to Record
Though journaling implies writing, there are many ways this can be done. Here are a few ideas:
- Notebook or Journal
- Phone (Notes function)
- Laptop or Tablet
- Whiteboard and Camera
Which of these would work best for you?
3. Choosing a structure
Journaling is a form of coaching yourself and coaching involves asking good questions. What are the questions you most want to ask yourself during this personal balcony time? In order to get started, simply determine the questions you want to answer in your coaching session with yourself, and then write the answers. Again, there are many to choose from. The best ones may be the questions you generate yourself, but here is a sample list of questions:
- What am I learning? What did I hear or read that was worth remembering?
- What needs planning? What important things have no action steps attached to them?
- What do I need to release? What am I feeling anxious, guilty, or angry about? What needs of others are on my mind?
- What unanswered questions would I like to have answered? What do I wish I knew?
- What can I celebrate? What has been a win? When have I been smiling? What has felt like success?
- What has been challenging? Where am I feeling stuck? What have been sources of discouragement? What has negatively impacted my mood?
Journaling accomplishes so many great things. It is a written record of things worth remembering and things worth thinking about:
- What you’ve learned
- Where you need perspective
- What you need to let go of or release
- What requests you have
- What you are thankful for
Some of you reading this may have a great deal of experience with this practice of coaching yourself and taking personal balcony time through journaling. Take a moment to share some of your learnings and practices with your fellow alumni.