Creating space


Not being able to see the wood for the trees is a common feature of life. People regularly talk about being busy and overworked – but just how much of this is self inflicted. All too often we engage in activity that brings no value to achieving our highest goals and ambitions. Without reflective time, our decision making becomes blurred and it is common to lose sight of what we want. The result is stale thought with patterns of behaviour that fail to deliver our deepest desires. Successful people have the fortunate ability to think clearly, this is helped by finding the time to take well earned breaks from being “busy”. This cleansing process provides the opportunity to de clutter the mind.

The practice of finding sanctuary helps to remove mental blockages and fosters a sense of balance between work and play. Without regular periods of reflection you will find yourself eventually in a rut – the place you don’t want to be!

You must think of Sanctuary on three levels of “time out”:

  1. Daily sanctuary to help us to prepare for the day ahead – time with family, exercise, meditation, prayer, reading. Starting each day with 10 minutes of deep reflection, provides a kick start to focused activity and just being aware
  2. Weekly sanctuary that helps divert our energies into non related activities like pursuing a hobby, sport or spending more time with family and relationships. These activities release you from the week that was – puts you in a good frame for the week ahead
  3. Sanctuary includes those activities that most people can only fit in two or three times a year. They would typically involve family holiday’s, short breaks or some form or retreat. This level gives you the opportunity to ask the big questions – what is my life all about? What needs to change? Should I go and do something else?

Dedication to the 3 Levels will open your mind to new possibilities and opportunities. Chasing success can be as destructive as it is constructive – practicing the art of Finding Sanctuary will build perspective into your life and help to differentiate between what is and what is not important, what brings fulfilment and what does not – embed these disciplines into your routine and you will experience a profound improvement in clarity of thought – you will see things more clearly, you will make better decisions and life will feel less hectic.

A Strategy Day with a Difference


I believe it’s so important that management teams take regular time out to think about where they are going. Sometimes we can be so absorbed by the to the day-to-day grind we forget about the long term – slowing down to speed up is vital. When you stand back often the landscape becomes much clearer. We had our own planning day a couple of months ago. As a team we started to think about the next three to five years – what did success look like? What difference do we want to make? How do we want to be viewed? The aim was to answer the big questions about our vision and mission.

We decided to do things differently – usually we would go to a hotel in town and hire a meeting room (all very business like and me too). Instead of conforming to the norm we thought this time round we would do something different and hold our strategy session in a place that was conducive to reflection, creativity, quite, calm and tranquillity – far away from the norm. We decided to go on a strategy retreat – this took us to Worth Abbey, a Benedictine location near Gatwick Airport – (this was the setting for two BBC programmes where busy people took time out to reflect and think about their life and where they are going). The resident Abbot there Christopher Jamison is a media friendly man of the cloth and one of life’s truly inspirational characters. He has written two best selling books – Finding Sanctuary and Finding Happiness.

It was a truly productive two days for us – the Abbot himself joined us on day 2, sharing with us his view on leadership (Harvard University use the Rule of St Benedict as a case study of great leadership) and the need to build a business on sound moral foundations and within the framework of rules and acceptable values and behaviours.

For us as a management team it helped us get away from busyness of life, think about the big picture and focus. Inputs from this parallel universe helped to stimulate the creative spirit and apply to some new principles to our Company. My message is – stand back, reflect and get out of the usual environment – we must do this a few times a year. You come back with clarity and a raft of new ideas.

More to follow on this theme.