Prioritizing Balcony Time
In my free time I like to dance. You can pretty much find me wiggling on most floors, and more often than not, my kitchen floor. Believe it or not, some of the rules for being a good dancer also apply to being an effective manager.
Project Time vs Balcony Time
As a manager, it’s really easy to find yourself in the middle of the dance floor — or rather, in the bumping and movement of a project. It’s easy to get bogged down quickly. The details and processes of each client project are important and critical to success.
Although being close to project and staff work is important, sometimes a good manager needs to see more than just the details of who is doing what, how, and when. Viewing the work as a whole gives us a chance to reflect on more than just the project at hand. Once in a while, it’s important to take a break from the dance floor, get some water, and watch what’s going on from the balcony.
“Balcony time” is what it sounds like—a bird’s eye view, the big picture of the work you are part of as a manager. This means that you are decentering yourself from the action and are acting as an observer. This vantage point allows you to notice or observe something you may not have seen before.
Importance of Balcony Time
Balcony time is just as important as project time because it helps you see the big picture of your position and your contribution to work. From the balcony, you can gain perspective and take time to envision and strategize.
I’ve been incorporating “balcony time” into my role as creative director. Just like I mark on my calendar when I’m taking lunch, I also set reminders to step away a couple of times a month to take a look at the big picture of my work responsibilities and the people I manage.
During this time, I use the project management software Asana to jot down any notes and thoughts that arise during this time. I like to spend the thirty minutes or so answering questions like the following:
- How is the work I’m part of meeting QIP’s mission?
- Where can the staff I manage grow? Where can I grow?
- What processes are working? What processes may need to be revisited?
- What are my goals for the next six months? The next year? And how am I going to accomplish them?
- What are the latest trends in digital media that may impact my work?
Although I found it a little awkward at first, I really enjoy spending time zooming out to the big picture of my job duties and role. Small and large ideas have come out of my balcony time. Specifically, I use that time to consider those whom I manage — opportunities for growth in new skillsets and what they have expressed interest in learning and pursuing in professional development. For myself, I use this time to reflect on skills that I am growing and places where I can improve. I have also worked with my team to develop more process documents such as checklists and style guides to ensure quality control and visual consistency. Overall, balcony time has been beneficial in creating dedicated time to think differently about the work I’m doing and the people I’m working with. This time allows for opportunities to reimagine and reconsider how to remain relevant and continue growing within my career.
There are plenty of ways to build in balcony time; it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Establishing a healthy balance between balcony time and client work helps make me an effective manager and gives me a holistic view of my role.