Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Thinking Time

Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about thinking time. Why? Because more and more I realize how critical it has been to the positive things that have happened to me in my career. I define "thinking time" as that period of the day or week when I can isolate my mind and just focus on whatever I want to think about without interruption. Thinking time is critical for important business or personal decisions, and if there is insufficient time dedicated to it, generally I find important things do not turn out as well. Extrovert that I am, perhaps thinking time appeals to the introvert in me, that wonderful time when I can be alone with my thoughts and really gain a perspective on everything I am involved in.

Nevertheless, with my busy business calendar, it is a real challenge to get adequate thinking time, unless I actually schedule it. When many issues accumulate and there are lots of complex documents to read and think about, I indeed put plans on my business calendar to spend the day out of the office ... usually at the local library. I also address those decisions I need to mull over, when one quick think session is just inadequate to resolve the matter.

Sometimes, great thinking time happens when I take a pause from work, or go out to lunch or dinner alone. The best thinking times for me – and I believe for many people – are short sessions at odd times: walking down the street, taking a shower, working out in a gym, listening to my iPOD, riding a train or subway or just sitting in a comfortable chair, staring into space. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have gotten used to thinking between interruptions at the office, even though I don't like to do it that way, and it is my last resort. But I don't always have a choice; and these brief "stolen moments" can be productive.

What kinds of things do I think about? Mostly, business, client, employee or family matters. It could be mulling over a creative solution to a client problem, the organization or direction of the firm, an employee's aspirations, rewarding someone who has done a great job, a financial challenge, a strategy for a meeting I will lead, marketing ideas for a client or the firm, themes for a speech I will be giving or an article I'm writing, developing new services or strengthening current ones.

Do you recall Coca Cola being called "the pause that refreshes"? Thinking time is kind of like that for me. It clears my mind, invigorates me and enables me to move forward.

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