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Why Busy Agendas Need Thinking Time

“I’m already busy, why add even more to my list?” Do you find yourself thinking this same thing?


I totally understand this intuitive reaction. Yet, what if thinking time was a key to actually free time in your schedule?


In this blog, you will learn:

  • What is “thinking time” exactly

  • How this can help, how much, how often

  • Obstacles you will likely encounter

  • Tips to fit this in your agenda



What do you mean by “Thinking Time”?


I do not need to remind you that we are literally bombarded with information nowadays. Our minds are very busy scanning, dispatching, filing, discarding information. And amidst the chaos, you are asked to make the best possible decisions quickly, without having all the relevant information…


Thinking time is a simple concept that is becoming more popular in wellness and psychology these days. It is a moment where you do nothing but think. No emails. No social media. No interruption. It is a time that you block in your agenda for the sole purpose of thinking.


Some prefer to let their mind wander. Others will sit with a question or a problem. Some will have their “thinking time” outside while walking or sitting in a park. Others will do it at their desk. Others will need to retreat outside of their work environment like a coffee shop or the local library.


I would recommend you start off with whatever feels most natural. Then correct, change, or adapt if necessary.


How this can help, how much, how often


You are probably thinking, I’m thinking all day long already! Sure, but are you thinking about the right things? Do you sit with the right question?


Pausing and reflecting, as you will do during your thinking time, is known to boost creativity. Who wouldn’t want to be creative while solving a problem?


Reflecting, even shortly, will help you be more strategic in your decision making. It gives you a chance to get a 360° view of the situation before you make your next move.


So, how do you implement it?


First, block time in your agenda. Some will have short sessions, others will prefer 2-hour sessions. Start with what is more convenient. At first, 30-minute blocks may be a good way to begin on this journey. Then, adjust if necessary. Do not wait for time to show up: we all know as soon as we’re done with the last task, a new emergency pops up.


Second, determine your ideal frequency, and make it a periodic block in your agenda. Some will have thinking time weekly. Others daily. Again, an iterative process is better than trying to nail it the first time.


Finally, identify the best moment in the day or week for you. Are you a morning person? You might want to begin your day with thinking time. You may prefer to do it over lunch time if you get outdoors. Or you may feel like the end of your day is best to make sense of all that has happened.


In my case, I thought I would block my thinking time on a weekly basis, every Friday afternoon, to plan my week ahead or reflect on an ongoing issue. Guess what… In fact, on Friday afternoons, I only want to get over with the latest emergencies on my to-do list and head off for the weekend. It was far from the best moment for me. Since I am a morning person, I decided to have my thinking time early on Friday mornings instead. I am not perfect, I skip or delay sometimes (especially if I take my emails right before), but I can confirm the benefits. If only remembering something I promised to my team or my boss and that I still haven’t done…


Obstacles you will likely encounter


Do not aim at getting it right the first time. In other words, do not make yourself an obstacle, there will be plenty already. Allow yourself to adapt. Before you delete these time blocks altogether and give up, try another moment, a shorter period, another location, a more stimulating question.


Then, be ready to protect this time block. You will receive meeting invitations for the same time, and you’ll be tempted to cancel or move this time block. It might work here and there, but if you did the exercise of choosing the moment you are at your best for reflecting, you may not be helping yourself.


If you plan to go outside, you will have rainy, stormy days. The park may be busier. The easiest way around these surprises is to have a weather-proof backup plan, like deciding right from the start that when it rains, you go to the local coffee shop. Or you allow yourself to sip your coffee in the cafeteria of your office. Or in your kitchen if you are working from home!


From my experience, fatigue or a feeling of urgency are also obstacle. It is not easy, if not impossible, to quietly sit, trying to solve a problem or devise a strategic plan when you have twice as many emails as usual asking for your attention, when you did not finish the task you were doing, or when your boss has a pressing matter that requires your input. I haven’t found a perfect way around this yet, but I can tell you this: it gets easier with time. If you understand the benefits of thinking time, it becomes clearer why you are doing this, and why you should treat this time as a priority.


Tips to fit this in your agenda


I know, your agenda is already super busy. Hence the importance of having periodic time blocks in a first come, first served basis. You can’t just hope that your ideal time period will be free week after week, day after day. Go ahead, prioritize yourself.


If really, this is too much of challenge, be creative. Use any down time you may have to give your brain some space. It might be your lunch time for example, instead of working in front of your screen. It might be during your commute, instead of listening to the radio or being on your cell phone. Perhaps you must walk the dog every day…


Allow yourself to develop the habit. Whatever the time and place you choose, whether you are 100% dedicated every session or not, just stick with it until it becomes more familiar, until it becomes a habit. Habits are the most powerful way to change our life.


Get a coach! When you sit with your coach reflecting on a specific topic, you are making space to reflect. Your coach will help you deepen, widen your thinking, and you will come with a better, faster answer than if you tried to figure it out in a hurry, between two emergencies.


Three ways to learn more about thinking time and time block:


Contact me for a little chat at audrey.couture@authenti-coaching.com


Read The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, a motivating book about productivity and the art of time block.


Listen to the One Thing Podcast, episode 143 The Habit that Cost $100MM to Learn and Why It Was Worth It (Part 1) - Keith Cunningham - The ONE Thing (the1thing.com) for an inspiring story about thinking time (and many other things).



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