Hosting Your Own ‘Executive Session’

If finding time for visionary or strategic work seems like a far-away luxury, give Executive Sessions a try!
Christi Hegstad March 20th, 2024

Between back-to-back meetings, reacting to in-the-moment needs, handling the endless stream of emails, and navigating all the unexpected events in any given day, when do you find time for visioning, strategizing, or moving high-level projects forward?

For many, such time feels like a far-off luxury.

For others, such visionary work occurs once a year at a corporate offsite or leadership retreat.

If you spend the entire day ‘putting out fires,’ you may not even get to your own actual work until after hours – leaving the idea of visionary, strategic, or high-level project initiatives in the ‘that sure would be nice’ realm of someday.

Yet as a leader and difference-maker, crafting a compelling vision and moving the needle on long-term, high-level pursuits is likely expected of you.

And as an achiever, these are probably areas on which you’d love to spend more time.

So far, we haven’t discovered a way to increase the number of hours in a day. So what can we do?

Enter what I call Executive Sessions.

Essentially, an Executive Session is a period of time routinely blocked on your calendar purely for visioning, planning, strategizing, and the like. A time during which you close your door (or go elsewhere), turn off notifications, and immerse yourself in some deep work.

You can choose how often and for how long. A weekly one-hour Executive Session can work wonders, but if you’re starting from zero, even an hour a month can prove fulfilling.

I’ve coached a number of clients to weave Executive Sessions into their routines. They’ve used this valuable time for all manner of high-level projects, from work toward an award or distinction, to creating systems to more efficiently support their teams, to dreaming about a change they’d love to make and then actually setting it in motion with subsequent sessions.

The possibilities here are endless, and the benefits are, too!

A few suggestions as you consider adopting Executive Sessions into your calendar:

* Choose a time that seems realistic. Monday morning may already be too hectic, but what about an hour on Friday afternoon?

* Like with Results-Oriented Time Blocking, decide in advance how you will spend it – and honor it as you would a doctor’s appointment.

* Although you’ll likely be tempted, do not use this time to catch up on emails or other administrative tasks. This high-level hour is for high-level work.

* Consider ways to be held accountable to this time when other things want to creep in and overtake it. I’ve had coaching clients commit to sending me a quick message following their Executive Session; knowing that someone else is waiting to hear about it can serve as a helpful motivator.

You may look at your calendar and immediately deem this idea impossible. But consider it a challenge: What changes could you implement to allow an Executive Session within the next 60 days? What recurring monthly meeting is coming to an end and could now be replaced with this session? How would you feel at the end of a 3-hour stretch focusing solely on a high-importance, game-changing project?

In the words attributed to Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” And once it is done, I bet you’ll experience such profound benefits that you will want – and will find ways – to make it part of your routine!

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