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Maybe You Should Think About It

Recently, I was reading Richard Hallowell’s book Driven to Distraction at Work. In his Introduction, Hallowell refers to comments from Tim Armstrong of AOL regarding his mandate for scheduled “think time.” Frankly, the comments provoked some thinking of my own. First, I scoured my schedule and noticed that I did not have any white space specifically set aside for cerebral exercise. Next, I decided to make a list of benefits. What might I be missing by failing to nail down a few minutes exclusively devoted to thinking? My list of benefits came to mind quickly.

Think time will help me realign my identity with what matters most.

It’s not necessary to build a case for the fact that “busyness” is a disease that infects most leaders today. If I allow it, busyness can eat away at my identity. It’s more of a chronic problem than an immediate loss. The rush of activity tends to feed a sense of accomplishment and the slow fade begins. Slowly, the demands from the outside can begin to replace the deeper reckoning of calling and worth within. Consistently taking time to think about what is central to my life helps re-establish congruence with the real me and align my activity with my true identity.

Think time will boost my creativity.

When was the last time you sat down and jotted down a list of your dreams? What is your current level of curiosity? Setting aside think time gives my mind room to expand. It’s like taking a deep breath of possibilities and exploring new frontiers of thought. I need to create space for seeing challenges from a fresh angle and embracing a bold new vision of the future. Think time provides unique opportunities to engage my senses and stretch my mental capacity.

Think time will help and not hinder my busy schedule.

Really? Have you ever heard the saying, “You have to spend money to make money?” When it comes to thinking, “I have to spend time to save time.” It’s an investment and not an expense. I am most efficient when I think first and then prioritize. The biggest obstacle that stands in the way of “thinking time” may be your current approach to scheduling. How do you squeeze a block of time for thinking into a schedule that is already slammed?

Most time management tips start with the obvious. Determine priorities and learn to say “yes” and “no” according to those priorities. Good advice. But, for most busy leaders emotional triggers dictate “yes” and “no” more frequently than they should. Priorities can become easily distorted in the midst of frenetic schedule and relational tension. Thoughtfulness in advance of the deluge of activity and drama bolsters my clarity about what is most valuable. It becomes the basis for how I make decisions. The filter for “yes” and “no” requires thoughtfulness prior to – not in the midst of the noise.

Think time will vaccinate my mind against feeling victimized by my schedule.

It’s very tempting to feel like a victim. Setting aside time to think is empowering. It is a vital step away from the slippery slope that leads to feelings of helplessness. Have you ever had one of those days when you stare at your calendar and feel a tinge of frustration, if not utter defeat? It’s a sign that it’s time to do something. When I put “think time” on my schedule, I am adding something that I control. It’s a choice that I make to break free from feeling like a victim. Start the process today. Before you take the bold step and schedule “think time” you should start with your own list. Personalize it. Write down three or four benefits. Your list will be somewhat unique and tailor made for your current context. It will bring some focus to your time. Most importantly, it will increase your resolve to make it happen. Then, put it on your calendar.


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