Taking time to think in 2020

05 May

It is almost comical that in our busy lives we struggle to find time for deep thought. The pace of business is moving so fast people come to expect movement and activity as signs of success.  Thinking is in most cases a sedentary activity done with a pensive look.  Even the word pensive which means thoughtful is used to convey a nervous or anxious mood.  Thinking and reflection for any of us can look like nervousness. Think about this as a leader: you are in your office and not moving around or talking or active, so instantly people get concerned. Why not hyper movement, running around or pacing? No activity can mean no business.  Nervous look? Fear for the future may be assumed.

It is so easy these days to get caught in this hamster wheel approach to business because we are besieged by smart phones and by people asking for a piece of our time and expecting us to respond to every input immediately. It’s the ‘now’ culture, and despite viruses and market madness nothing has really slowed down. The problem? As things move faster in our smart, always on world we need less activity and more thinking, reflection and careful analysis.  Of course, we still need fast decision making and quick turnaround based on real time needs and data. But much of this can occur after thought out considerations related to impact. 

How and when do you find the time for that thought and consideration, especially in the world of constant activity and staff nervously watching your specific activity?

Let’s start with taking time to think.  Below are some strategies you can use to take time to think:

1. Practice these lines for taking time to think:

  • “I need more time to decide”
  • “I need more time to think about”
  • “I need more time to consider”
  • “I would like to think through some of these points”
  • “Great ideas and thoughts, I will get back to you shortly once I have had time to consider” 

2. The decision period power. Never let someone dictate the decision period. When someone brings you something and they loom over you waiting for an answer, don’t fall prey to their need for activity.  Simply ensure you understand the issue through some basic questioning and use one of the lines above. 

3. Breath, back off and count. Like the adage of counting to ten before responding to an “upset” email or confrontational comment, do the same when put into a situation where you need more time to think through a situation.  Wait a few moments or count to ten and use one of the lines from above. 

4. Follow through matters. Flip side, once you use one of these lines or one of your own, you MUST follow through.  You never want to get the reputation of procrastination or indecisiveness. Meaning base the amount of time you take to think based on the priority of the activity and be sure to think and follow up. 

Now where to find time to think. The points above gives you an idea on how to get the time to think, but now you have to find the time to do the actual thinking.

1. Some locations/times to consider

  • Shower
  • Meditation
  • Morning, afternoon or evening walk
  • 30 mins. First thing in the morning when you get to the office
  • 30 mins. Last thing you do before you leave for the day
  • Car commute
  • Solo lunch
  • Lunch with one person to brainstorm
  • Specifically, scheduled time during the day (on your daily calendar)

2. It is difficult to get thinking time during the workday without really planning and preparing for it but it is possible.  Any of the times above require a bit of preparation including:

  • The specific topic you will use during the thinking time (critical)
  • Some bullet points to help understand the problem (reference points)
  • A couple of ideas for and against what you are thinking about
  • If possible take one of the for and one of against and go to or three layers beyond the initial decision 

3. The frame of reference for the thinking period is important, it helps your mind focus on the issue and get the most out of the time. So if you do anything make sure you are set on the topic of thought before you start thinking. 

4. Getting someone outside the impact zone of what you are considering to help you is a great way to speed the thinking process and get more creative.  Basically a “think-storm” session (like a brainstorming session but with a specific focus) where you and the other person think outline on the focus topic.

The differences you will find in your actions/decisions/plans made with thought verses made on the fly will be seen very quickly.  You will feel more empowered.  Your actions/decisions/plans based on thinking will be easier to justify and be easier to sell and support.  You will gain a great sense of purpose because you can “own” the action/decision/plan instead of feeling coherence/pressured. Finally you will reduce mistakes, missteps and rework which will give you and your team even more time. 

You don’t need a stay at home order to think or to be imposed but we sure need a think and take time order to be self-imposed as the world turns ever faster in 2020.