Do you ever allow yourself time to just sit and think so you can be more productive, or do you run around like a madman/woman all day from the minute you get into work, fuelled by coffee and sugar highs, often not even bothering to stop and eat a healthy meal?
Today is the Day
Maybe today is the day that you make a point of putting aside some time to do nothing but think and reflect. A crucial attribute of successful professionals is that they understand the importance of setting aside regular ‘distraction-free’ time in which to contemplate and make sense of their thoughts.
Learn from Obama
In fact, when Barack Obama first ran for president, one of Michelle Obama’s concerns was that her husband wouldn’t have enough time to think, given his busy schedule. Yes, time is a scarce resource. Each of us only has 24 hours a day to work with. Therefore, for an activity like ‘thinking time’ to be sustainable in an executive’s life they need to put it in their schedule to make it happen. They need to think about how they can change their working habits and digitally disconnect for chunks of time during the day or week. As Obama put it, “The most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you’re doing is thinking.”
What to do during thinking time
I always carry a small notebook in my bag to jot down thoughts. Sometimes my ‘thinking time’ is structured and directed and based around high-level planning (in the form of Mind Maps), but more often than not, I let my thoughts dictate what I achieve during my quiet time. Even if you allocate 30 minutes per day, or a couple of hours a week, you will be amazed at how empowering it feels and how it can reduce stress and the sense of being overwhelmed. Our brains need time to process thoughts, and without that it keeps thoughts in a holding pattern leading to eventual and inevitable exhaustion. Writing is a powerful tool to make sense of thoughts and what you write doesn’t ever have to be read by anyone else. It just needs to make sense to you.
How and where to schedule time to think
Change your work routine so that thinking time is in your schedule. Call it what you may on your ‘shared calendar’ but make sure it is time when you cannot be interrupted, distracted to disturbed. Find a place that is conducive for this type of activity. I do my best thinking during my extra long showers, but for you it could be a café on your way to work, during your drive, or even on a train or an airplane; a place where you can switch off from things on your regular ‘to-do-list’ and avoid people who demand your time. Although planes offer Wi-Fi these days, it’s still an environment where it’s easier to switch off from emails and meetings and technology in general.
Get clarity around your thoughts
Why not put on a set of headphones, open a notebook and just let your mind go where ever it wants to until you get some clarity and structure around your thoughts?
Experience the perk of becoming more productive
The chaos of professional life can make us feel that we’ll need to work extra hours to make up for our thinking time. Guess again. More likely than not, just by pausing and reflecting on a regular basis, you will find yourself being a lot more productive during the week.