Let me noodle on it.
Gini Dietrich hears that phrase from me quite frequently.
It really means to think about the challenge or situation before us. We all do this day in and day out.
However, two very smart men gave me very similar advice about thinking, and it is something I still do to this day.
Jim Chionsini, who is the founder and CEO of Granite Publications, once advised me to, once a week, close the door or better yet, get out of the office, and spend an hour just concentrating on and thinking about my operation.
Similar advice came from John C. Maxwell. I was listening to a tape during which he talked about having a corner where he goes, secludes himself for a little bit, and just thinks.
Let’s Focus on Thinking Time
It is important to point out this thinking time is not some willy nilly thing where I’m really just blowing off work.
It’s sort of like a staff meeting with yourself.
Chionsini offered this advice: He said to use one week to focus on your financials. One week, focus on editorial, and then the next week focus on your sales. Occasionally throw in a good, old-fashioned brainstorm session.
The idea isn’t to think randomly, it is to think focused, and if you need an actual agenda for your meeting with yourself, go ahead and issue one.
And as part of that focus is a critical piece of advice Maxwell gave in a blog post on the subject. He said to stop thinking “can I” and starting thinking about “how can I?”
It’s a small adjustment that shifts your brain from wondering if you can do something, to figuring out how you’re going to get it done.
As Maxwell said in his book, Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work, “Until thought is linked with purpose, there is no intelligent accomplishment.”
The Habit Remains
I have two walking routes. One is through my neighborhood, and if I’m really moving, I can do it in about 30 minutes. The other is at a state park near my house. If I’m hustling, I can walk the lake in about 45 minutes.
Often, I’ll use those walks for my thinking time – at least if the weather’s nice. But here’s the thing: When I use them for thinking time, my time to complete the route roughly doubles. Why?
When I’m trying to complete my route in a certain amount of time, I’m focusing on the route, on keeping my pace up, and usually listening to music. When I’m thinking, there is no music, and I’m not focusing on the route or the pace.
That slows me down. Plus I have to stop and jot down notes occasionally. That also slows me down.
Of course, if I don’t walk, that doesn’t mean I don’t think. To this day, once a week, I’ll retire to our bonus room or other part of the house, with no phone, computer, or iPad, and think. I might take a resource with me – a copy of the financials for instance if that is my “agenda” – and I always take a notepad with me.
Walk or not, I have specific time set aside for thinking. It’s even on my calendar.
How Does it Work?
It does vary depending on what I’m thinking about, but here’s an example: Soon, we’re going to offer businesses the opportunity to sponsor certain aspects of Spin Sucks and Spin Sucks Pro.
When I sat down, I had a few tools with me. I had a paper listing the Spin Sucks traffic, how many people register for webinars, our webinar schedule, email subscriber lists, and related items. I also had data on what other blogs were charging, and other information.
I also had my trusty notepad.
Those tools were never referred to in my thinking time, but they were there in case I needed clarification. What I really needed was to give some focused, uninterrupted thought to this thing I want to implement.
Questions that really formed my “agenda” were:
- What can we do from a technical point-of-view? We have a great team, but we’re not techy.
- What is Gini’s tolerance/comfort level? Any discussion of the blog and the first consideration – rightfully – is the readers.
- Who will actually sell it? Me? Someone else? Hire someone?
- What should the rates be? While I joke I think we should charge until someone screams, in truth I want a rate that is fair and allows the sponsor a good return on his or her investment.
- What will the readers tolerate? What am I myself okay with, in terms of sponsors on sites I visit, and what tends to annoy me?
That hour or so of thinking produced a lot of ideas, and much thought about the best way to proceed. Today, we’re about ready to execute.
My Final Tips
People will think you are insane if you set up thinking time. Therefore, I do not bill clients, if my time is focused on a client problem. I don’t bill Arment Dietrich. I don’t even count it in my hours worked, because sometimes, it isn’t even about work.
But if you want to do this, I recommend the following:
- Set a specific time each week. Put it on your calendar and block it out.
- Keep your appointment with yourself.
- Have an “agenda” to keep your time focused.
- Shut down the distractions. No phones, no iPads, no TV.
- Keep a notebook and use it.
Thought dictates action and attitude. We’ve all said, “I have to think about this.” Don’t just say it, actually schedule it, and give it some thought.