In his post today, Franice Wade of The 2Time Management System blog, talks about setting aside “thinking time” every day. His post was inspired by an article about the presidential candidates’ time management, and espically that of Barak Oboma:
Obama’s solution was to set aside time to let his brain work during his mid-August vacation. “The most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you’re doing is thinking,” he said, repeating advice he’d gotten from a Clinton administration veteran.
Setting aside scheduled “thinking time” is a tip you can see in almost any management or time-management book. Most of the biographies I read about great managers and leaders contain this tip as one of the wisdoms that helped those men reach their success. It has almost become a cliché of sorts. But the trouble is most people don’t implement it in their daily lives. Off course setting aside “thinking time” every day might prove a bit difficult but doing once a week or every other week should be easy even for the busiest of managers.
When I give workshops about personal vision building I talk about setting aside “thinking time” as one of the fundamental skills good leaders acquire for themselves and as a way to updated personal vision constantly. I always point out that I am not talking about thinking during the shower, but as an integral part of your day, preferably, in your office. At this point, people usually nod and agree. But if you ask them a few months later, how many times since the workshop did they take a break during their work day to just stop and think, they usually answer – zero.
There are some truths that people will always agree to, but are reluctant to implement. This is something I know for myself. This piece of advice is easier to preach about than practice. So what is the solution? I think the best one is to outsource the responsibility for setting “thinking time” to somebody else.
I think the Obama example is great one. I am not sure, but I guess Obama does not set his own schedule. He has assistants building it for him. This actually simplifies the task of setting aside “thinking time”. It just has to be written into the instructions the assistant gets. Can you outsource the creation of “thinking time” to somebody else? If so, do it right now. My former boss had a secretary who controlled most of his times and meetings – it would not have been a problem for him to instruct her to create “thinking time” once a day or week.
But for managers, the lesson is even more important. You should ask yourselves – if setting “thinking time” for knowledge workers is so important, what am I doing in order to give my subordinates their “thinking time”? You have the power to help you workers by actually making it mandatory to have “thinking time” in their schedule and report to you about the results. Try it. I think you will find the results you workers produce surprising.