Blocking Time to Think How Busy Leaders Can Do This Regularly
When was the last time you blocked two hours just for thinking? Not to take care of the urgent, but the important. Not passive daydreaming, but active, intensive thinking about the big picture for your organization. Time to answer important questions like what’s next, or how do we get there, or why are we doing what we’re doing? It may be time to think about an issue that’s been nagging you for over a year, but you’ve managed to ignore it because you’ve been so busy.
Successful leaders make time to think. Let me show you how.
Thomas Edison said of thinking, “Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.” What kind of thinking is Mr. Edison talking about? Intentional thinking.
Time Blocks for Intentional Thinking
I recently blocked time for intentional thinking despite everything else on my plate. That’s our biggest challenge in making time to think: our busy schedules. I block two hours when I want to do intentional thinking. Like you, there are important matters which require my attention. There are people waiting on me to respond by text, phone calls, and email. I feel guilty to set all of that aside. But I just decide no, enough. I will not surrender to the tyranny of the urgent and the oppression of constant communication.
During this last thinking session, I contemplated the vision for our organization and attempted to answer the question, “How do we get there?” It required me to think about the key people in my life. I considered what we may need to do in order to move forward. I thought about who I may need to reach out to for help. And within the two weeks that followed, I met with the people in my inner circle. With their input, plans were adjusted. We were ready to move forward again. Together.
Mechanics of Intentional Thinking
These are the dynamics of my intentional thinking time. As I mentioned, it’s not time for resting and letting our minds be idle. It is very deliberate, productive thinking.
I choose a meaningful place to think. Twenty years ago, I purchased a big solid wooden desk from a second hand store with my late father. It’s special to me. Though I could afford something newer and better now, I like doing my thinking at that desk. It’s where I do my best thinking.
I organize my workspace. This may not affect you. But a cluttered workspace bothers me when I am trying to do uncluttered thinking. So I take a few minutes to rearrange my workspace.
I get out my journal. I think by writing. It is easy for me to lose track of my last thought unless I am jotting down the progression of them. When I have a new idea, I start drawing, writing arrows, circles, and scribbles. And I keep these in my journal.
I select a specific topic to think on. On this particular day, I chose to think on the above question, which I learned from the preeminent Singaporean leader, Lee Kuan Yew. When asked how he transformed his small nation into a world class oasis in the east, he said, “I kept asking, ‘How do we get there?'”
I get comfortable with the grey. Pen in hand, I lean back in my comfortably worn chair, which I also got from the second hand store with my father. I let my mind wander through scenarios with only one rule: return to the main question. I quickly got an idea, so I jotted it down. Then another, and another. I wrote out my options, fears, and hurdles. In the end, the grey areas of uncertainty were clearing up.
Next Step: Carve out a special time and place for thinking. Refuse to give it up. Have something to write on. Block time to think. Connect with your dream.
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