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One CEO I work with regularly gets up at 5am. He goes to the gym, back home for his cocoa pops (just kidding – porridge, I reckon), kisses the kids goodbye and is in work for 7.30am to grab an hour before others start to arrive. From there, he works in 15-minute segments. His PA arranges 15-minute meetings with staff, 15-minute phone calls, 15 minute email sessions, 15 minutes with her to make various arrangements. He keeps going until about 6pm, has a break to be with the family until about 9, then he’s on the email until 9.30pm. Repeat Monday to Thursday with an earlier finish on Friday.

You won’t be surprised to hear he’s ex-military.

Is this our model of efficiency? Is this optimal working?

Then we look at Richard Branson. What springs to mind now is … a hammock, a tropical island, jet skis, a global brand and hundreds of businesses, many of them successful. Rarely if ever looks knackered, stressed or put upon. Don’t think he does that much technology.

Richard Branson takes time and space to think big and long.

His houseboat, his spas, his island are essentially venues for exploration of people and their ideas. There is activity and pace, for sure. But there are also rich conversations lasting days or weeks about possibilities. It’s his way of doing business planning.

Being hectic all the time mires us in current reality. It stops us creating the future. If you and your team’s diary is always fully packed, where is the space for the new? But it’s the innovations that keep you relevant. Often, management teams can turn up slightly stressed by taking time away from the pressing to do list. My first task is to get them to relax. The important stuff will be waiting for them. They need to be strategic for the next day or two. And being strategic requires thinking long and big, not short and small.

Some of the most rewarding days of my career is when a group takes life and invents its future. I once helped a charity create a £40m line of income just because they took the time to float and develop an idea.

Most of us would do well to consider the acronym S.T.O.P. It stands for “Stand back”, “Think”, “Organise your thoughts”, “Proceed”. When you are in the heat of battle, it is more essential than ever to make the time and space to think.

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