By Erika Turan
How many meetings have you had this week? (I don’t know, Erika. It’s only Tuesday, and I’ve lost count.)
How many hours a week do you spend in meetings? (How many hours are there in a week? That’s how many I spend in meetings.)
Do you leave those meetings with a mountainous to-do list that grows ever longer? (Yes. Yes to this.)
Ever had a boss tell you that you need to think more strategically? (Yes, and it was all I could do not to punch him/her.)
In talking with so many people who are dealing with these challenges, I know the answers I’d hear from the majority of you. It’s a bit of a mind boggle, isn’t it? In an age when we can be more productive than ever, and when the demands to think and execute strategically grow with each passing day, the amount of time we allot to just thinkingis relegated to six minutes in the shower. And if you’re trying to do all your thinking in the shower, as so many of us are, you know it’s impossible.
The very notion that you can think strategically and spend 35 hours a week in meetings and try to get content written/manage a team/develop plans/analyze data is a farce. Let’s laugh at it right now. (That’s right farce: We’re laughing at you.)
It’s not possible. Because human beings are thinkers. We’re problem solvers. Yet we’ve crammed our work and personal lives so full of demands that we’ve lost the time just to think.
Sometimes the problem in front of you demands some creative thought. Sometimes there’s a solution or a better way to do something, and you just haven’t had a moment to consider it. Sometimes, after ingesting all of that information in the form of meetings and data and content, there’s a lightbulb moment to be found.
We just need to pipe down and listen to our own minds.
Easier said than done, though. That’s why you need to fight for it, advocate for it and be purposeful about it. Here are some ways to carve out time for thinking. I think we can all agree we’ll be better off for it.
- Walk – Whether you work in a high-rise or in the suburbs, there’s always somewhere you can walk. Take laps around the building. Walk each floor of your offices. Find 15 minutes when your phone is IN YOUR POCKET and let your mind wander.
- Block off calendar time – This is not a sin. You are allowed to do this. Block off some calendar time each week just to clear your desk and stay organized. Then don’t forget to block off some time to let your creative juices flow. Gaze off into the distance and study an issue from all angles. If our forefathers could do it and come up with a whole new country, you can do it too. (Not the whole new country part. Nobody’s looking for that.)
- Mind map– I LOVE this. A former co-worker showed me how to do it, and it’s brilliant. Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Write down your central challenge or issue in the middle. Then let ideas branch off from there. You’ll find you’ve got key words, thoughtful approaches and a new way of looking at something.
- Turn off the phone/social media alerts/texts/emails/chimes – It’s OK. Just do it for a few minutes.
- Go outdoors – A change of scenery, especially one that involves some vitamin D and influx of oxygen, can bring a jolt of mindfulness. Try it.
Our brains can only take so much in before they simply are numbed. That’s no way to work, and it’s certainly no way to live. Try yielding to a little more thought this week.