Make time to think

“A day spent…thinking. It is a luxury and it is a necessity. If you do not take time to think, you are just reacting, and eventually events do your thinking for you.” — James Lileks

Jack W 3One of the questions I often ask when doing organizational consulting is, “When is the last time you’ve run, walked, or worked out without your headphones or taken a long drive without playing your radio?” The answer is not surprising. Seems that we do most everything while listening to music or podcasts. (Amazingly, as my son has proven, there’s a whole generation that has mastered studying with music playing at a high level.)

Just like I ask in my consulting, here’s my challenge to you: At least every third workout, walk, or drive, try to spend that time without headphones or radio, entirely left to your own thoughts. You’ll be amazed at the results. You see, there are at least two results of this “quiet time.” The first is the opportunity to ruminate on a particular problem or idea. The second is serendipity.

One of my favorite authors, James Lileks, had this great insight on thinking: “A day spent…thinking. It is a luxury and it is a necessity. If you do not take time to think, you are just reacting, and eventually events do your thinking for you.” How incredibly insightful. Whether it’s the 45 minutes while you work out, the two hour drive to Atlanta, or a day set aside for planning, you’d do well to make time for thinking.

Three times this week you will run 3-4 miles (or walk or bike or work out). Of course, on one run you’ll be listening to the latest episode of Ops Nation and on run two you’ve selected your conquer the world music play list. Try at least once a week to run or work out in silence – free from distractions other than your own thoughts. And do it one of these two ways. On one of these occasions, start with a new idea that you’ve had or problem you need solved — using that as a kind of seed — and think/dwell on that as you run. On another occasion, start your workout with a blank slate. Believe me, it won’t be long until something pops into your head. Discard the bad thoughts and move on. Massage a good idea and see where it takes you. You’ll be amazed not only at the quality of ideas you get, but the quantity. The real problem at that point becomes trying to remember all the good ideas you had. I’ve actually had to stop and jot down quick notes to myself on my phone.

Thinking. Do it on purpose. Put it in your schedule. You’ll thank me that you did.

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