Jeff Weiner is a busy dude.
As the CEO of LinkedIn, he has a constant pull of to-dos, and as leaders often do, he has days of meeting after meeting after meeting. Realizing he had little time to think, he opted for what first felt like an “indulgence”: he started scheduling nothing.
Writing on his LinkedIn page (naturally), Weiner explains that his scheduling nothing are his “buffers,” that is, 30- to 90-minute blocks of time without meetings. And rather than a kind of indulgence, Weiner realized the free spaces were “absolutely necessary” for him to do his job–as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett would agree.
We talk a lot about how busyness gets in the way of good business here at Fast Company: that if we’re going to solve any of the problems that are in front of us, it will require actually attending to them (rather than our phones). Echoing what we once learned from Einstein, Weiner explains that one of the responsibilities of leadership is to create the time-space to strategize:
“As the company grows larger … you will require more time than ever before to just think: Think about what the company will look like in three to five years; think about the best way to improve an already popular product or address an unmet customer need; think about how you can widen a competitive advantage or close a competitive gap, etc.”
He then goes on to deconstruct the elements of such horizon-seeking. To
do it well, Weiner says, you require:
- Uninterrupted focus
- Thoroughly developing and questioning assumptions
- Synthesizing all of the data, information, and knowledge that’s incessantly coming your way
- Connecting dots
- Bouncing ideas off of trusted colleagues
- Iterating through multiple scenarios
And to do all that conceiving and re-conceiving, Weiner says, you need time, which requires stepping away from tactical execution to make room for strategic planning. This will only happen if you create the situation, he says.
“If you don’t take the time to think proactively you will increasingly find yourself reacting to your environment rather than influencing it,” Weiner continues. “The resulting situation will inevitably require far more time (and meetings) than thinking strategically would have to begin with.”
In other words, if we don’t schedule time to think, we start to build up innovation debt. And while the costs of constant busyness are not immediately apparent, from what Weiner says, they most certainly accrue.