I do not know anyone who complains about having too much time to think. Rather, it’s often the exact opposite. And, the most important topics (e.g., vision, strategy, people, career, etc.) get the least about of really good thinking time.

The Challenge

The only good answer to the problem is that we have to make the time to think about the important stuff.

Write down you regular reasons for not making time to think. Here are the most common ones I hear:

  • I’m in meetings all day.
  • My email is insane.
  • I barely make it home for my family’s dinner.
  • I’m on 24/7, ot time for anything beyond the last problem to solve

I’m going to challenge you this week to find:

  • One meeting you don’t have to go to or could reschedule for half the time or attend for part of the meeting.
  • One morning that you can stop at a diner for breakfast before going to the office.
  • One evening that you can put the kids to bed and go to a quiet place (rather than crash).
  • One open spot (at least a half-hour) in the day during which can you resist the ever-present temptation to go to your emails.

If the thinking we want to do is important enough, we can find the time. We can even “chunk it” into small bites. We simply have to create some personal urgency and find (i.e., make) the time.

Five Conditions

Depending on the type of thinking you need to do, you may require one or more of these key conditions for great thinking:

  1. A clear strategic context. This might be your first thinking session or you may have it fully formed. The context is the overarching purpose (the why) and the external and internal imperatives, barriers, and opportunities.
  2. A chunk of time by yourself. Even if you will think collaboratively later with others, don’t skip the time to organize and stimulate your own best thinking.
  3. Little to no distractions. Turn your cell phone and computer monitor off. Close the door and put a “do not disturb” sign if you need to do so.
  4. Allowance of a meandering mind. Often great ideas come right after silence or lack of conscious thinking (e.g., shower insights).
  5. Tools to support and generate ideas. The two best tools I know are a) writing on paper and b) drawing on paper.

Any one of these conditions can be tough to set up, but persevere because they are a “luxorious gift” you can give yourself. Here’s the last key point: you have to “make” the time on your calendar. The time is highly likely to show up on it’s own.