Clarity breaks give your brain the space, and time, to work on higher-level concerns.
Our subconscious mind is an unbelievably powerful, fantastic tool, but we don’t really understand and utilize it as well as we could or should. It is my belief that our subconscious is always processing challenges and whatever other issues we’re dealing with. If we can give ourselves a little bit of time offsite and out of the office, our subconscious will help us clarify those challenges, or at least bring them out. This is called a clarity break.
With clarity breaks, the intention is to get out of our own way and work on our lives instead of just being in them. We need to intentionally take the time to work on our business, instead of just getting hammered by 187 things a day.
One of the most common issues I have with all of my leadership teams is that very, very few people feel as if they have enough time. So I say, look, I want you to figure out how to take an hour a week. During this hour, you need to go and disconnect. This means you leave your phone in the car, put any other electronics on airplane mode, and physically get out of the traditional locations where you work. You can just go grab a cup of coffee, or take a walk. Bring a notebook and a pad of paper.
When you take a clarity break for the first time, just know that right off the bat, the first five minutes are going to feel like a tremendous waste of time. It’s also going to feel like three hours, because we’re so used to checking our devices every few minutes. But be patient. You’ll get to a point where a beautiful thing starts to happen. You’ll start to make notes about what you can do, or how to solve a problem. This time lets all the issues your brain has been processing offer new solutions. Or maybe, you’ll actually find new questions.
As leaders, taking this time isn’t just our right: It’s our obligation. The biggest challenge for leaders is that they typically feel that they’re being selfish with that time, but I really encourage people to reframe that narrative in their heads. This is what you have to do if you’re going to be a great leader. You just can’t be a great leader if you’re always bogged down in the day-to-day mud. You have to get out of the mud.
I personally try to take a clarity break every day for forty-five minutes to an hour, and I go for a walk around the lake where I live. By doing that, it allows me to start seeing the things I should start to work on. My subconscious has already been working on these issues, so the break lets me harness that power instead of just pounding big rocks into small rocks all the time.
Some people take clarity breaks at the gym. I know a guy who goes and exercises. He puts earbuds into his ears, but he doesn’t even plug them into anything because he doesn’t want anyone to talk to him. I know people who go to a restaurant where they know that they won’t see anybody they know, and they just sit in the corner with a pad of paper and think about things. If you live in a place with beautiful commuting opportunities, use that time. When I lived in Vail, I would take a chairlift ride at lunch and go all the way up and all the way down. No one could bug me until I came back down.
If you consciously take this time, no matter how you take it, it’s going to help you. When I teach this to my leadership teams, I ask them to do at least one hour, twice a month. If that’s not possible, try one half-hour, twice a month. Schedule this time, put it in your calendar, and treat it with as much importance as your biggest sales meeting.
You have to schedule this time and you have to follow through with it, or you won’t have the mental strength or capacity to be there when your team really needs you.
If you have questions about how to use clarity breaks in your own schedule, feel free to leave a comment in the section below or reach out anytime: I’m always happy to help with no obligations. Check back next week for more guidelines on how to work efficiently and effectively as a leader.