Because I am ambitious at work and devoted at home, I am highly motivated to make the most of my scarce time. This is why there are certain things I tend to gravitate towards, which I will call high-leverage activities in that they are a good use of time because they accomplish many important things at once. Six come to mind, three of which are more externally and work focused, and three of which are more internally and me focused. In no particular order:
Sitting on boards. It is something I encourage my staff to do, and it is something I max out on. I am spread too thin to be a great board member but I think I am good enough to be a benefit to each organization I serve, and that is one important reason I do this, is to give back to causes and organizations I believe in. But there is so much more I gain from this time, including time spent with great people who energize me, invaluable intel on what’s going on in a slice of the world, and an affiliation that I can use as an ice breaker when reaching out to others.
Speaking at conferences. Similarly, I welcome every opportunity I have to present at various events. I enjoy public speaking (although that doesn’t mean I don’t get nervous doing it!). And the prep is a great way to dive deeper into a topic. Of course, it’s a great business development tool, to be seen as a thought leader on a subject. And, as with board participation, it’s a great on-ramp to understanding what is the state of the state in a particular field. Plus I often get the chance to attend other sessions and learn from great speakers.
Using LinkedIn. I was once told by someone who hadn’t responded to my LinkedIn message that “I don’t check it that often because I’m currently in a job I like.” But using LinkedIn only when you’re on the job hunt misses out on the great resource it can be all the time. It’s my job to sell my business, and the only I can do that is if people think of me when something comes up that I can help them with. So staying in touch with people on LinkedIn, celebrating with them the achievements they proudly post on their pages, and using those profiles to have a deeper and better connection to them is time well spent. Plus I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used the search function to identify people I know about something I didn’t know about them. (Example: right after my mom’s car accident several years back, I was able to find a handful of colleagues who had expertise with spinal cord injury.)
Reading. Ah, reading, my oasis as an introvert amidst a life that doesn’t have much room for solitude. There is something calming about reading, because after so much social interaction and outside noise, being quiet with myself and a book is just what I need to recharge. Plus reading feeds my innate curiosity about a wide range of topics and perspectives. Indeed, many effective leaders have sung the praises of reading, describing it as being able to absorb in just a few hours several years of someone else’s wisdom.
Exercise. What reading is for my mind, exercise is for my body. I hope to live a long life, and taking care of my body through exercise will help make sure I am in reasonable physical shape for that life. But it is not just a chore to do to get a good outcome; it is itself pleasurable to use your body, to push it to its limits, to see yourself getting stronger or lasting longer. My morning exercise is a sliver of self-care in the calm of the early hours before the chaos of my day starts. And my weekend exercise is an opportunity to schlep Asher to the kid watch room at a local Y, where he is beloved, and in doing so give Amy a little bit of a break. (Running or biking there is also the only leisure screen time I have during the week.)
Sleep. Ah, a newly discovered high-leverage activity. I was never a sleep-cheater – kind of a wimp when it came to short or bad nights of sleep – but I am now aware of the incredible importance of getting a good night’s sleep. It is a healthy check on my innate drivenness to cram as much into every day as possible. It is also itself an important time for my body and mind to rest, repair itself, and make mental connections. I love that my body and mind are multi-tasking like that, even and especially when I sleep.