We are indeed living in the information age. Not only that, but we are continuously bombarded with multitasking we didn’t even ask for in our homes. Like when you are watching a TV show and all of sudden at the bottom of the screen a character from another show pops up to promote their show, or you are watching CNN or some other News channel and the bottom of the screen is continuously streaming other news. Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the bombardment? I do!
When I teach my Work-Life Balance course to women, I often hear women say they have many nights in which they cannot sleep because they have all these things to do rolling around in their head, so rather than just lay there and think about these things they get up, even if it is 2 or 3 a.m. As long as these things to do are unallocated to your calendar, they will indeed keep you up at night. So, I want to share with you what I have chosen to do this year, and that is to schedule some Thinking Days. How many Thinking Days, depends on the magnitude of the decisions that need to be made.
Since I run two companies, I find myself stuck and being indecisive about decisions that I need to make. I often have to switch hats between the for profit business and the nonprofit business and sometimes depending on what is going on with the nonprofit business it can steal lots of time from the for profit business. To counter this fact, I have instituted Thinking Days into my life. What does it look like? First off, I have to schedule the Thinking Day on my calendar, and then I have to protect it at all cost. This can be difficult to do when the request come in and someone says that your Thinking Day is the only day they are available, so it takes pure determination to protect that day. Once you allow one thing on the calendar for that day, you have blown your Thinking Day; believe me I have experienced this mistake. Second, plan on going somewhere where you can be alone. I have gone to a park, which is not so close to my house, even in 50 degrees weather. I sat outside on a bench with food in my backpack and of course something to write with like a journal. The goal is to remove yourself from the familiar so that you are forced to do nothing but think. The best Thinking Day I’ve had is when I have allocated the whole day beginning at 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and I was away from my office. I started the day in the park in the morning and then later that afternoon I went to a quiet coffee house. It is possible to find one during the day, one that doesn’t have the music blasting and has less people traffic.
So you might be asking, “What do you do on a Thinking Day?” The answer is simple you take the decision or plan that has been rolling around in your head and you think only about it. Then you begin to put on paper; I use a journal, your thoughts. Use whatever format of thinking that works for you, I am very visual so often times I draw pictures, or I make a decision tree with Pros and Cons. The beautiful thing that happens each time is that I become unstuck and the thoughts on the particular area of focus begin to flow. I don’t apply any pressure, I just listen to what I am thinking or have been thinking about for months and put it down on paper. If I am working on a strategy plan, I put down all my thoughts and then I take each idea and try to flush it out to see if it makes sense. I can tell you that each time I have done this, I come back to my office pretty clear on the direction I need to take. And by the way, I feel confident about the direction I am headed.
Have you ever taken a day just to think? If you haven’t schedule one right now, and let me know how it goes.