Organize your thoughts to get more out of your time. The goal is to think deeply without distraction. Check out highlights from our conversation with Traction Tools Visionary and Founder, Clay Upton, to learn about his personal process and why he believes Clarity Breaks are essential.
Traction Tools: What is your perspective on Clarity Breaks?
Clay: I think a lot of people see Clarity Breaks as an optional add-on to the Entrepreneurial Operating System® — some kind of filler that you do from time to time for an extra boost. But for me as the Visionary of Traction® Tools, I see Clarity Breaks as my primary function. It’s the number one thing that I should be doing, because it’s the thing that allows me to think ON the business rather than IN the business.
In my opinion, the Clarity Break is the most useful tool in the EOS Toolbox™— and the most underutilized. When I talk to people about Clarity Breaks, they give me a strange look. They don’t understand how I could possibly leave the office for six hours every week and get any work done.
In reality, those six hours are the time when I get the most work done. I use this time to figure out where the company has inefficiencies, or where there’s a new opportunity to move into. I would never have that opportunity if I were just in meetings or coaching people all day long.
Traction Tools: Why do you think Clarity Breaks are underutilized?
Clay: It’s amazing to me that people know about Clarity Breaks but don’t do them. Businesses in general would benefit if leaders took the time to sit down and think on a regular basis. I suppose it’s awkward to sit for an hour and just think. It’s hard to sit down and force yourself to think, with no distractions. For some people, it’s intimidating to be with your thoughts.
Traction Tools: How do Clarity Breaks add value to your work?
Clay: For me, the Clarity Break is the most important time of my week. It’s when I’m actually making changes to the system that move the needle. During these times, I come up with new products, new ways to streamline costly processes, or new marketing strategies. The insights that come out of these times help make Traction Tools a more enjoyable place to work.
Traction Tools: What type of conclusions have you drawn?
Clay; Coming out of Clarity Breaks, we’ve made hiring decisions, product decisions, strategic decisions, Accountability Chart decisions, and more. I don’t think I’ve ever come out of a Clarity Break that didn’t affect the way I thought about the business or the way the business operates.
Traction Tools: What is your practice for Clarity Breaks?
Clay: Gino Wickman doesn’t prescribe a specific way to do a Clarity Break. For me, I block out six hours every Friday afternoon. My routine is to leave the office around noon, grab something to eat, and go to a coffee shop for the rest of the day. I take a notebook with me to record my thoughts. I start by listing out in a stream of consciousness all of the topics that pop up in my head.
Traction Tools: How does this help you focus your thoughts?
Clay: Once I get an idea on paper, I don’t have to think about it anymore, because it’s been captured. I can clear my mind of it and move on to the next thing. When all those items are out of my mind and on paper, it creates a mental clarity that allows me to focus on one thing at a time.
I write down everything on my mind – professional or personal – until nothing else is coming up. That’s when I know I’m ready to move on.
Each item on that list is a candidate for something to think about during my Clarity Break. I pick the most important item to think about. The rest of the time, I fill out pages and pages of ideas for addressing that particular issue. It’s kind of like having an IDS™ session on my own.
Traction Tools: And you do this every week?
Clay: Yes. It’s on my schedule every Friday. I give myself no time limits— whether it takes three hours or eight hours. I only work on one issue at a time.
When I find a solution to the issue, I’ll take another 15 minutes to think some more. The brain tends to be lazy with solutions— once it solves a problem, it wants to move on. For me, that’s the indicator that it’s time to spend another 10 to 15 minutes on the issue. I solved it, but usually I can find a better solution. That extra 15 minutes is really something special. You can end up with some really high-quality ideas.
Traction Tools: How do you incorporate Traction Tools with your Clarity Breaks?
The Clarity Break almost always results in an infoshare. The tool I use most frequently is the Text-an-Issue™ in Traction Tools. When I get out of the Clarity Break, I’ll text the issues that come up. Text-an-Issue is incredibly useful because I can immediately capture an issue while it’s still fresh. I just grab my phone and add any issues from my Clarity Break to the next Level 10 Meeting™. I don’t have to worry about remembering the details the next time I’m back at the office.
I also depend on Traction Tools before going into a Clarity Break. I use it to print out an Issues List, a Quarterly Printout, and the company Scorecard. Traction Tools keeps all of this information in a handy location that’s easy to access. As I prepare for my Clarity Break, everything is at my fingertips.
These printed tools are often great starting points for things to think about. I can look over them and ask strategic questions: “Does this metric make sense? Why are we tracking it? Is there a more effective way we can be measuring this outcome?”
Are you doing Clarity Breaks on a regular basis? Schedule your next one today and try using Traction Tools to complement your experience.