Hurried hallway conversations, buzzing cell phones, auto-corrected text messages, chat message requests, and the (always longer than a minute), “Do you have a minute?” visits to your office… Yikes! When do you have time to think? If we don’t consistently hide, unplug and make time for thinking, it just doesn’t happen.
Think Time is the secret to productivity for many successful business leaders. The Wall Street Journal describes Bill Gates’ Think Weeks. Yes, a full week! The co-founder of Microsoft flies to a cottage on an undisclosed island and is provided two meals a day along with a steady stream of Diet Orange Crush and Diet Coke. He devours information written by employees and critics of his 40-year-old company for up to 18 hours a day which “spawns a flood of e-mail and comments”. Mark Zuckerburg and the late Steve Jobs are known to have engaged in Think Weeks, too!
May I challenge you, not to a Think Week, but to a Think Streak? What if you just tried it for 15 minutes a day, for a week? Here are some tips:
- What to think: Reviewing the past week and looking forward to the next week is a great way to start. What went well? What didn’t? What would you like to see accomplished next week? And what would it take to accomplish those goals successfully? Detailed and/or high-level concepts are welcome here. You might even have fresh innovative ideas!
- When to think: I set a timer! I don’t want to think too long… :o) Early morning is best for me. What about for you? Early on, you may be tempted to confirm the timer is operating correctly! Time slowly ticks by at first, but eventually, you will want a just a few more minutes. It seems so indulgent. I recommend 15 minutes a day. Some high level leaders spend up to 5 hours a day thinking!
- Where to think: This is so hard! It’s easier to think during a blackout! No interruptions or distractions– only a flashlight illuminating lined paper. You can think ANYWHERE as long as it is dedicated time. Sure, I update my grocery list when spinach suddenly pops into my head, but I am fiercely focused. When things come to mind that are not part of the effort, just record them elsewhere (without getting pulled away).
- How to think: There are basically 8 different ways to think. Each thought process leads to different ideas and conclusions. Are you in an evaluation (analytical) mode? Do you need to see the big picture (system)? The Peak Performance Center lists the following comparison of thinking types:
- Concrete (factual) vs. abstract (conceptual)
- Convergent thinking (organize) vs. divergent thinking (explore)
- Creative thinking (innovation) vs. analytical thinking (evaluation)
- Sequential (process) thinking vs. holistic thinking (system)
This takes practice and you may not come up with any multi-million dollar ideas your first week. But, you are starting to create room for those! Be careful not to dismiss ideas that may seem strange. Be consistent, unplug, and make time for thinking.
- The Pomodoro Technique, by Francesco Cirillo (a fun look at Think Time using a the tomato shaped kitchen timer, 2:22 minutes)
- Successful Leaders Make Time to Think, by Kate Lee
- Leaders need “Think Time”, by Diana Thomas
- Unleash Your Hidden Productivity: Give Yourself ‘Think Time’, By Chris Winfield
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman, an Executive Business Consultant with Leading Synergies, helps high-performing executives refine strategy, inspire teams, and delight clients (specializing in information technology, project management, consulting, and franchise management). She also leads Synergy Groups, weekly 55-minute case study conference calls for REALLY BUSY Christians in leadership. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 20 years.|