Need time to think? Are your days consumed by tasks, lengthy meetings, distractions and interruptions, while your goals and priorities go unattended? Take back your time. Roadblocks are everywhere. How about the familiar “gotta minute?” Open office plans and open door policies are great for spontaneous learning and sharing but they also create a world of distractions. It is easy to let the day take over, to let others control your time, to be busy and feel productive, without any time spent on The Plan.
“If I could just block 2 or 3 hours to think about my 2014 plans…” Eliminate this exercise in frustration. Consider these 4 tips and give one or all of them a try.
22 Minutes. Break it down. Scheduling large blocks of time is probably unrealistic. We mark our calendars for X hours on X day to work on our big ideas. And then, “SOMETHING COMES UP”. And when all our time is scheduled, we end up usurping the time we have set aside for thinking. Large blocks of time are rarely saved for ourselves. So break it down in to smaller bits, 22 minutes for example. Why 22? Because it is an unfamiliar unit of time and as such you will give it more attention. It is the same reason time management experts suggest that meetings at 10:08 and end at 10:56. No one “senses” when it is 10:08. So we check our watch over and over until it is exactly 10:08. The same attention will be paid to your own 22 minutes. Set an alarm and practice. Once you get in the rhythm of it you will be amazed at what you accomplish. 22 minutes at the start of your day, or during lulls in the typical day (i.e. lunchtime). Which leads me to the next tip.
Table for One. Go out to lunch, sit by yourself, leave your phone behind. Breakfast, lunch, coffee, whatever is best for you, but get out of the office and be by yourself. A diner is a great place for thinking. Sitting in a booth gives you room to spread out and no one cares that you are there by yourself. Or consider a coffee shop. The next time you go to Starbucks, look around at how many people are alone working. There’s a reason for that.
Paper and Pen. Go old school and carry a notebook and pen. The next time you have 22 minutes or you are at Starbucks, or your local diner, start writing down your ideas without any editing or filtering. Just start and just write. Why paper? You eliminate the electronic temptations of email and/or Facebook and the notebook becomes a running thread of ideas over time. It helps you remember the great idea you had that was lost during the week’s hub bub. (For office supply geeks – I love Moleskin notebooks. They are so thin, they weigh nothing and easily slip in to a purse or briefcase. Moleskin Set of 2 Notebooks)
Get a Gatekeeper. There is an interesting documentary on the Discovery Channel about the job of Chief of Staff to the President of the United States. (About “The Presidents’ Gatekeepers) Leon Panetta was Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff and described a hectic, dysfunctional Oval Office. The President was barraged by too many staff, too many interruptions, too many distractions (Monica reference unintended). As the President’s Gatekeeper Panetta took charge and forced scheduled and contrived thinking time on Clinton. Now most of us don’t have Chiefs of Staff or admins so we are our own Gatekeepers. Get a gatekeeper buddy – someone who needs this kind of time too. Agree to a regular 22 minute block of time (until you have the wherewithal and discipline to make it longer) and go to your separate conference rooms or offices to put on your thinking caps. Or get two tables for one.
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” -Stephen Covey