Taking Time Out To Think

In a world where being busy is the norm, taking time out to think is one of the first things to go.


You are a leader, if not of others then at least yourself. Staying busy is easy. Spending hours responding to emails is easy. Going from meeting to meeting may be tiring, but it’s easier than setting aside a block of time to think.

Taking time out to think isn’t easy. It’s a habit, good habits can be difficult to form. But like any productive activity, it’s a skill that you need to forge if you want to make progress.

So what do I mean by taking time out to think? I mean a focused, undistracted block of time during which you are able to consider a problem and wrestle with it mentally. When was the last time you came up with a solution that wasn’t just the first thing that came to mind.

The aim is absolute clarity of thought, peak mental performance.

The thinking process doesn’t need to be mental only. You may create a mind map, or simply write things down as they come to mind. Perhaps you already have a course of action, and you need to consider whether it is the right one. Perhaps it will resolve the situation, but have you considered the implications it will have on others?

For myself, I have recognized that I need to take more time out to think. There are certain management problems that I have floating in the back of my mind, but getting a firm grasp on them during the day to day has been near impossible. Mentally, I know the framework I use to manage people and projects, but I need to write aspects of it down, and revise them. Very time consuming, impossible to do well during regular daily back and forth.

The goal is come up with more strategic solutions, less reactive ones. I don’t want to just keep this thinking in my mind or notebook, the end result should be a plan or knowledge base article that addresses a problem.

For me, the process is going to look something like this:

  1. Set aside a block of time. 25-55 minutes seems appropriate. Any longer without taking a break and I think mental fatigue could impact results.
  2. Check-in at the start of the block. Am I tired? Am I able to focus? Am I hungry, thirsty or emotional? If you’re aiming for peak performance, these issues must be addressed.
  3. Set a soundtrack. Piano Sonatas are a particular favorite of mine. Even searching “music for thinking or studying” yields results on YouTube.
  4. Have pen and paper ready.
  5. Set a timer.
  6. Go.

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