Advertising
Advertising

11 Tips to Carve Out More Time to Think

11 Tips to Carve Out More Time to Think
20080109-Think.png

    “The person who reads to much and uses his brain too little will fall into lazy habits of thinking” – Albert Einstein

    How much time do you get a week to just think? Not while listening to music, driving your car or during group brainstorms. Not while playing video games, doing chores or taking a shower. Just you and your brain.

    I’d wager that few people ever average more than twenty unbroken minutes of thinking each week. Thinking without simultaneously multi-tasking between seven different things might as well be the eighth deadly sin for most people. It’s important to do things but it’s better to do something important.

    Advertising

    Thinking Versus Daydreaming: What’s the Difference?

    When you look at most people who spend all their day “thinking”, it’s easy to wonder how they get anything done. Useful thinking isn’t the same as wandering around, playing a personal movie inside your head. Constructive thinking is more difficult than daydreaming, which is probably why so few people bother to do it.

    In order to be useful, thinking needs to be:

    Advertising

    1. Directed. Thinking used under the broad topic of “everything” won’t accomplish much.
    2. Recorded. Unless it’s on paper or in bytes, you might as well forget it. (And you probably will forget it)
    3. Solitary. Conversations can be useful for throwing around ideas, but your thoughts easily get drowned out by the crowd.
    4. Isolated. You can’t multi-task your thoughts.

    Creating a Thinking Hour

    One hour, once per week is all I suggest. The only conditions are that you can’t have any noise or other distractions, you need to record any ideas and you stay with it for an hour straight. Fifteen minute chunks with the television blaring and no recording device aren’t worth it.

    Why create a thinking hour?

    Advertising

    Everything from quality of life to work, relationships to health are all based on the quality of the ideas you have. Before you can take any action, you first need to think that action. Until you think it, that action doesn’t exist. It only makes sense that the results you experience eventually boil down to the thoughts you have.

    Creating a thinking hour gives you the ability to get outside the trees and see the entire forest. As the old saying goes, “when you’ve got a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Similarly, when you’re spending all week hammering away, you might not even think to pick up a screwdriver.

    I’ve used regular thinking hours for a few years and it can be amazing how easy problems can be solved if you just spend the time to look at them. Better yet, you can solve problems that haven’t yet become problems; scratch before you feel the itch.

    Advertising

    How to Set Up a Thinking Hour

    Here are a few ways you can go about setting up your thinking hour:

    1. Write. Get a pad of paper and a pencil and just write out your thoughts. Writing helps both with directing your thoughts and recording them on paper. Sometimes the simplest solution works the best.
    2. Type. If you can type faster than you can write, typing out your thoughts in a word processor might work better. This gives you an added speed factor without wasting any trees.
    3. Talk. Turn on the recording device for your computer and just start talking. Talking to yourself turns up the volume on your thoughts and helps you stay focused on one direction of thought.
    4. Objectives. Before you start a thinking session, mark out what you want to think about. By setting objectives and goals for your thinking hour, you avoid the otherwise unavoidable boredom and confusion by trying to think about everything.
    5. Walk. Navigating a busy street might not be the best time to get stuck inside your head. But if you can find an isolated path, a walk can give you a mix of scenery. Just remember to bring a pad of paper and pencil to write down any ideas that strike you along the way.
    6. Mindstorm. Write down the numbers 1 to 20 on a piece of paper and don’t stop until you’ve filled the entire list with ideas. You can use this along with other methods during your thought hour.
    7. Meditate. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and relax. Meditation can also be a great way to spend your thought hour, although it suffers from being unable to bring in a recording device.
    8. Explore the Problem. If you jump too quickly to a solution, you might get attached to it before realizing there are better alternatives. If your thinking session involves tackling a problem, explore it fully before deciding how to solve it.
    9. Park It. One suggestion offered by Brian Tracy for how you might incorporate a thinking hour is to park your vehicle somewhere quiet after work, turn off the lights and think. This can be a better solution if you have a noisy home or office.
    10. If I Did Know… “I don’t know” can be a roadblock. You can get past it by writing down what you would do if you did know. A poor idea can keep the thoughts moving forward until a better one is found.
    11. Be Practical. Your thinking hour can be wasted if you create ideas you never use. A big part of thinking ideas is breaking them into easy steps. If you don’t instantly know what’s next, you aren’t finished.

    More by this author

    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

    15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines How to Motivate Yourself: 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Right Now 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick 18 Tips for Killer Presentations

    Trending in Lifehack

    1 Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes And How To Tackle Them 2 The Power of Tapping into Your Hidden Creativity 3 How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic Throughout the Day 4 5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life 5 Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It Step-By-Step)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on August 6, 2019

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes And How To Tackle Them

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes And How To Tackle Them

    Procrastination is something many people can relate to and I, myself, have been there and done that. Yes, I write all about productivity now, but when I first started out on my career path, I would often put off work I didn’t want to do. And most of the time I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

    So what changed?

    I thought to myself, “why do I procrastinate?” And I started to read a lot of books on productivity, learning a great deal and shifting my mind to the reasons why people procrastinate.

    My understanding brought me a new perspective on how to put an end to the action of procrastination.

    Procrastination slows your goals and dreams way down. It can create stress and feelings of frustration. It rears its ugly head on a regular basis for a lot of people. This is particularly apparent at work with day-to-day projects and tasks.

    But, why do people self-sabotage in this way? Essentially, there are 5 reasons behind procrastination. See if you can identify with any of these in your own work life.

    1. The Perfectionist’s Fear

    Procrastination is sometimes a subconscious fear of failure.

    If you put off a task enough, then you can’t face up to the potential (and usually imagined) negative results. If you’re a stickler for minor details, the stress of getting things ‘just right’ may be too much and cause you to delay continuing the task.

    Either way, fear is at the root cause and can sabotage your desire to move forward.

    Advertising

    How to Tackle It?

    Try visualizing the completion of your task in a positive way.

    For example, you have a presentation that your boss wants you to conduct for a potential client. Visualize yourself standing in the meeting room confident, meeting the eyes of the client and seeing them light up as you explain the concept simply and concisely.

    Imagine your boss telling you how great you did and you were the best person for the job. Think about how it would feel to you and focus on this as you move forward with the task.

    2. A Dreamer’s Lack of Action

    This is a person who is highly creative and has many brilliant ideas but can’t quite seem to bring them to fruition.

    The main reason for this is because there’s usually no structure or goal setting involved once the idea has been created. This aimless approach ends up manifesting as a lack of decision-making and significant delays on a project.

    How to Tackle It?

    Write down a timeline of what you want to achieve and by when. Ideally, do this daily to keep yourself on track and accountable for progression. Creative minds tend to jump from one idea to the next, so cultivating focus is essential.

    If you’re designing and creating a new product at work, set out a task list for the week ahead with the steps you want to focus on each day. Doing this ahead of time will stop your mind from wandering across to different ideas.

    Learn about how to plan your time and take actions from some of the successful people: 8 Ways Highly Successful People Plan Their Time

    3. An Overwhelmed Avoider

    This is one of the most common reasons for procrastination; the sheer overwhelm of a daunting task.

    Advertising

    The complexity of a task can cause the brain to lose motivation and avoid doing it altogether choosing instead to stay in its comfort zone.

    The search then starts for a more enjoyable task and the harder tasks are put off. This can cause stress and dread when the task inevitably comes up to be completed.

    How to Tackle It?

    Break the challenge down into smaller tasks and tackle each one individually.

    For example, if you have a project that has technical elements to it that you know you’ll find challenging, list each step you need to take in order to complete these difficult elements. Think of ways you can resolve potential hurdles. Perhaps you have a coworker that may have time to help or even consider that the solution may be easier than you initially think. Put each task in order of most daunting to least daunting. Ideally, try to deal with the more challenging parts of each task in the morning so that momentum is created as the tasks get easier through the day.

    A reward system will also help you stay motivated so, once completed, you can enjoy your treat of choice.

    If you want to know how to better handle your feelings and stay motivated, take a look at my other article: Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It

    4. The Busy Bee Who Lacks Prioritization

    Either you have too many tasks or don’t truly acknowledge the differing importance of each task. The result? Getting nothing done.

    Time is spent switching constantly from one task to another or spending too much time deciding what to do.

    How to Tackle It?

    It’s all about priorities and choosing important tasks over urgent ones.

    Advertising

    Make sure to question the value and purpose of each task and make a list in order of importance.

    For example, throughout your work day, you can waste a lot of time dealing with ‘urgent’ emails from colleagues but, you need to ask yourself if these are more important than working on a task that will affect, say, several office projects at once.

    Help yourself to prioritize and set a goal of working through your list over the next few hours reassessing the situation once the time is up.

    In my other article, I talk about an effective way to prioritze and achieve more in less time: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    5. The One with Shiny Object Syndrome (Distraction-Prone)

    This is another common cause for procrastination; just simple distraction.

    Our brains aren’t wired to focus for long periods of time and it looks for something else. So throw in a bunch of colleagues equally looking for distractions or checking your phone mindlessly, and you’ve got a recipe for ultimate procrastination.

    However, this type of procrastination may not always be an unconscious decision to sabotage and put off work. It’s simply a result of your work setup or types of coworkers you have. Only you know the answer to that.

    How to Tackle It?

    Be mindful of your workspace and potential distractions. Schedule a specific time to converse with your coworkers, put headphones on to minimize listening to what’s going on around you, and switch your phone off.

    Aim to do this for 20-30 minutes at a time and then take a break. This will be a much more efficient way of working and getting what you need done. This is also why scheduling down time is so important for productivity.

    Advertising

    Whether this type of procrastination is self-sabotage or being a victim of a distracting environment, either way you can take control.

    If you need a little more guidance on how to stay focus, this guide can help you: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Bottom Line

    I’m going to be bold and assume you identified with at least one of these procrastination pitfalls.

    You could be trapped in the endless cycle of procrastination like I was, that is, until I decided to find out my why behind putting off tasks and projects. It was only then that I could implement strategies and move forward in a positive and productive way.

    I killed the procrastination monster and so can you. I now complete my tasks more efficiently and completely killed that feeling of stress and falling behind with work that procrastination brings.

    I know it’s not easy to stop procrastinating right away, so I also have this complete guide to help you stop it once and for all: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

    Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

    Read Next