Permission to Plan: Enter Blackout Days

Apr 8, 2022

In a recent online The Together Leader class, Aisha, a Vice President at IDEA Public Schools, opened our class by reminding all participants that they were in a Blackout Day, and that there should be no incoming communications from their internal team. Of course, immediately after Aisha’s introduction, I jumped in and took the class on a quick detour to learn more. WHAT IS A BLACKOUT DAY??, I eagerly asked. Because, I bet, I bet, I needed this in my life!

Aisha Smiling Because of a Blackout Day!

Aisha went on to explain that a Blackout Day was a quarterly practice she borrowed from a former TFA colleague (hi Fatima!) and brought over to her new team. She says,

You know those 2 hours of time you stumble into unexpectedly on your calendar? The joy that comes with realizing someone didn’t schedule over every-loving-moment of your day and you actually get to think? Blackout day aims to create the space for everyone on the team, intentionally. A blissful set of uninterrupted hours to do the thing. Whether that’s some serious strategic planning, or mapping your kid’s summer camp schedule onto your work calendar so you can stop anxious-breathing about it – whatever. The expectation is that you send what you want to accomplish to the team at the beginning of the day. And at the end of the day, we message again about whether we hit our outcomes or not. When we resist the temptation to email and Teams, the day can be magical for productivity.

So, how on earth does this work on a practical level? Aisha was kind enough to share the communication she sent her team before the most recent Blackout day on March 31.

Are you sold yet? I am 1000 percent in on this as an organizational practice. Not fully convinced and want to test the idea? Aisha kindly shared the initial email when rolling out the first Blackout Day.

What we love about this initial introduction to a Blackout day is:

  • Acknowledgement that the practice could feel counter cultural and how to overcome that challenge
  • Clear examples of what to focus on during the Blackout Day
  • Built-in accountability measures with the team

So, how about you? Do YOU need a Blackout Day? And can you institutionalize for the entire team?