In a crazy busy, time-poor world where every spare moment appears accounted for, taking time out for quiet, considered and deeper thought has never been more important or more difficult to achieve.
With a full schedule and events requiring urgent attention coming left of field, it's easy to get caught up in the relentless doing and feel there is little or no time to think.
Too much general thinking stresses the brain
Driving the brain hard all day long is not only exhausting, it denies your subconscious the time required to consolidate, filter and process what is relevant and needs to be committed to longer term storage. That extra stress adds to your cognitive load making it harder to switch off at night. This impacts the quality of your sleep leading to a tired brain that doesn't concentrate as well, isn't as sharp and lacks the clarity of thought required for optimum decision making.
Schedule your daily appointment
Much of our daily routine, thoughts and behaviours run on autopilot which is great for conserving mental energy and reducing stress levels, but is not so wonderful for planning, strategic thinking and problem solving.
Any student taking a written exam knows that the first fifteen minutes spent reading the paper before starting to write anything is what ensures the questions are fully understood and provides the clarity of how to best structure their answer. Allocating fifteen minutes of your day to think about your business provides exactly the same benefits.
As Nancy Kline from the Thinking Environment advises: "The quality of everything we do, depends on the quality of thinking first."
Pick your place
The best place to think is the one that works best for you. For some it is found at 35,000 feet. For others it is a closed door at a prescribed time in the office. One CEO shared how he goes to his boat every Wednesday morning to be alone and to work on his business. No one, and that includes no one, is allowed to disturb him during that time unless it is a matter of life or death.
Of course you don’t have to spend all your thinking time in solitude. Attending conferences or spending time reading books and articles all help to stimulate the mind in new and novel ways. Listening to what other people are doing in unaffiliated industries can also be a source of useful insights and ideas. It stimulates the question; "What can we be doing differently to get a better outcome?"
Make it a Habit
Scheduling a daily appointment with yourself to think this way increases your mental flexibility – the ability to move effortlessly and quickly between the cerebral hemispheres. Your brain makes the choice of either driving predominantly on the left using your logic, analysis and reasoning or switching to the right side of the brain for more abstract, big picture thinking. It's the perfect combination to tune into your intuition, broaden your perspective and allow you to take a step back to appreciate the bigger picture.