The challenges that come from juggling the responsibilities of both our daily work and personal lives have been at the forefront of time management and leadership conversations for many years. Some argue it’s a balance...others argue that in this digital age it’s more of an integration. Regardless of which camp you are in, I think it’s safe to say that most agree it is HARD! Crammed calendars, pages of “to dos” and countless interruptions consistently prevent us from accomplishing what we intended when we began our day. Many of us find ourselves feeling like we are on a hamster wheel...running in circles, out of breath and getting no-where but frustrated and burned out.
How common is it for you to hear someone say “I didn’t even have time to think today!”? How often do you feel that way or articulate that same sentence to friends or colleagues? Typically, scheduling time to THINK is not high on our priority list, perhaps doesn’t even make the list, or if it makes the list is the first to go when a time trade-off needs to be made.
There are many guides and resources that offer suggestions on how we can improve productivity, and reduce stress or overwhelm. With consistency, these tools can be very helpful as they provide a framework to better juggle the multitude of activities and responsibilities that are part of modern life. However, they will not be fully effective until we take the first critical step for getting off that hamster wheel. That is, clearing time on our jam packed calendars to create a space where we can stop and effectively THINK. Without dedicated THINK time to strategize, prioritize and reflect, time management tools will not provide their maximum benefit and often will be discarded as an ineffective solution. So with all the interference we experience every day, how is it possible to incorporate dedicated THINK time into our schedules? Below are a few considerations to help you start the process.
Get motivated by understanding potential benefits of dedicated THINK time. Some include:
Separates us from what Steven Covey calls the “tyranny of the urgent"
Provides a space to look at goals, dreams and challenges and be better prepared to handle little fires
Reduces the cobwebs that clutter our thinking and allows us to get a clearer focus on the most important things and stop doing what no longer makes sense
Improves problem solving ability, agility, decision making, innovation and creativity
Deepens our spiritual connections
Discover what environment for you is most conducive for productive THINKING. Such as:
Does a walk or run, free of distraction, reset your senses and allow thoughts to flow freely
Will a coffee shop, with just the right level of background noise, be the place to gather your thoughts and reflect
Can hibernating at the library or in a closed door office provide the quiet you need to gain clarity and insight
Take intentional steps to make it a habit. Examples include:
Start small by scheduling an hour a week consistently
Reschedule immediately within the same week if a major conflict arises
Continue to increase your THINK time until you find the amount that works best for you
Have a plan or idea of what you hope to achieve during your THINK time
Commit to making it a priority by having an accountability partner
Allow yourself time to grow into the process and realize its benefits
We can all stretch and push ourselves for a period of time—and there’s a very high probability this will happen often throughout our careers. However, running at full speed for extended periods of time is not sustainable. It will eventually impact us mentally, physically and/or emotionally—we are only human. The benefits of even taking an hour a week to unplug, THINK, gain some clarity, and hopefully recharge a little is a necessary step toward our pursuit of balance/integration, achieving our goals and getting off that wheel!
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.” –Henry Ford
Debbie Platts is a leadership and small business coach with an extensive background as a results-driven executive of a Fortune 30 company. As a leadership coach, she partners with emerging and established leaders in designing their focused roadmap for success by increasing their self-awareness and maximizing their strengths. As a business coach, she works with businesses to clarify their vision and set impactful strategies that result in goal achievement and successful business results. She is a committed and passionate coach that holds her clients accountable for taking productive steps toward their vision of success. Debbie is a registered pharmacist who received her pharmacy degree at the University of Texas, MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management and Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching from the University of Texas at Dallas. She earned an Associate Coach Certification from the International Coaching Federation.