It’s the advice I didn’t expect.
Make sure you have thinking time, says Jeff, the genial CEO of a global manufacturing giant, to his audience of high potential leaders.
Keep track of things you want to think about more. Jot them down. After a short pause, Jeff adds: Schedule your thinking time.
Spoken by a man who, I trust, never has enough time. Addressed to an audience who never has enough time, either.
Thinking time is common in ideation jobs. R & D. Even here, thinking often equals group-thinking-time. When individuals in the group haven’t had private thinking time, 9 out of 10 times group thinking generates more of the familiar.
Thinking lite. Pretend-ideation. Same old story.
How, then, do we carve out individual, dive-down-deep thinking time?
- Purposeful thinking, not accidental thinking
You may have excellent brain-food habits. Listen to a podcast on your way to work. Read a book before you go to bed. Think about things while you jog. Great habits. I consider them accidental thinking behaviors. Purposeful thinking, however, happens when we stop all other activity and contemplate one simple question, one essential dilemma. This singular focus, which may incorporate resources like a podcast or a book, accelerates the deep dive. The fresh insight. The next-level-thought.
- Ritualized thinking time
Study the habits of highly successful people, and a few things become clear: Nearly all of them are morning people. Many of them have morning habits that set them up for success. Meditation and morning exercise are at the top of this list.In addition, most have 15 or 30 minutes in their schedule, first thing in the AM, when they have no appointments. Get-focused-on-the-day time. Think-ahead time. Ritualized private thinking time. Every day. This time is not negotiated away for the occasional international phone call. It is sacred time.
- Monthly thinking retreat
One way to generate substantial thinking time: Keep track of issues, concerns, ideas you wish to consider in-depth. Give yourself half a day each month to just think. Schedule this half day. Leave the office for this period of time. Go to a thought-inducing environment. Ignore your phone and emails, if at all possible. See what happens.
- Track time
You are likely tracking time, as is. How much of it you spend in meetings, how much in phone calls, how much performing essential tasks. Great. Why not also track how much time you spend in purposeful thought? Tracking is especially helpful when we aspire to a certain standard. How much time in a given week, month do you wish to spend in thought instead of tactical execution? Decide, and track. Ways of carving out thinking time will be revealed.
Jeff, of course, was right. Thinking time is one way in which we energize ourselves. When we are energized we energize others. When we are collectively energized, business is better. Always.