“We never give him any… time to think.”
Scrolling through Twitter, this comment by Jen Psaki, President Biden’s spokesperson really struck a chord with me. Because, actually, couldn’t this be true for many of us?
Space to reflect, to consider, to formulate ideas, to dream, to envisage, to create, to conceptualise, to….think. How often do we proactively and practically set aside our precious time to do just that?
And, I write this as someone who could frequently be described as a ‘human doing’, someone who gets so embroiled in task and work and life admin that I leave few gaps for my brain to just do its magic.
Because that’s what happens when we give ourselves space and time – and permission, perhaps most importantly of all – to think. Magic happens. We find ourselves able to travel in directions previously unknown, to uncover nuggets of gold we might never had expected, and find solutions to problems that we didn’t know we had up our sleeve.
As we embark on a new year, as we start scribbling – and adding to – a fresh ‘to do’ list, we have an opportunity to ensure that we don’t let task overwhelm all our time, leaving us with no space left to think.
And as well as making a proactive commitment to giving ourselves time to think, we can also take steps to empower our thinking in different ways.
One way I’ve found useful to do just that is through coaching. It will be no surprise that I am a fan of this, mainly because it provides sacred space to think, supported by someone else. For me, one of the best things about coaching is finding perspective that had previously been absent – and the lightbulb ‘a-ha’ moment can be satisfying, significant, and represent a step change.
And then there is Time to Think – literally. If you haven’t come across the thinking environment and Time to Think by Nancy Kline then it is definitely worth checking out. I use the components often in workshops and meetings and what is really profound is people having the space to consider questions, not feeling the pressure to dive in and answer.
Plus, I’ve got to mention meditation. Our minds are constantly full to bursting. What meditation can do is give respite from the everyday busyness. I frequently find that my thinking is sharper, my focus better, as a result of meditation.
And then there’s Getting Things Done® – David Allen’s GTD® Methodology. One of the elements of this approach is to offload all those things we carry around in our heads (everything from ‘pick up birthday card’ to ‘write board report’) so that our brains are no longer being used as filing cabinets. Again, this can make it easier to think and find focus.
But for me, perhaps the most effective tool I have found to empowering my thinking has been to not even try to think but to do something completely different instead. Like the time I was set to write a strategy and went for a run instead – I then found said plan flowed far better when I got back. And (*whisper it so my family don’t get any ideas about a hitherto hidden penchant for cleaning*) but my two favourite ideas came to me when I was fully immersed in tidying. The Engaging People Company wouldn’t exist were it not for an autumnal ‘spring’ clean and the When The World Paused books wouldn’t even have been a figment of my imagination had nervous energy not led me to clean my kitchen cupboards at the start of the pandemic.
The thing is, we get so caught up in believing that what we do is more important that what we think that we never give ourselves time to do the latter, putting all our efforts into the former. But whether you’re the leader of the free world or not, we all need time to think. And who knows where that thinking could lead us. Anything is possible.