There is probably no activity which is more needed and which more easily gets shunted out of the way by other activities than thinking. I used to come across client after client who has made themselves so busy that they did’t have time to think. And often the reason that they were so busy was precisely that they don’t give themselves time to think. Because, if they had, they would have thought more carefully about the consequences of each new activity they took on.
If you are the owner of your own business, then thinking is absolutely essential. You cannot afford to get so immersed in the day to day running of your business that you don’t take time to think about the strategic questions such as where you are going and what aspects of your business you should be concentrating on. If you are an executive, you are paid to do many things but the most important one is thinking. The same applies if you are an engineer or a technician. And if you are an administrator then the efficiency of the systems you run will reflect the quality of thought that has gone into them.
The truth is that there is hardly an issue in the world which won’t start to yield to hard, disciplined, focused thought. That is how we conquered diseases, put men on the moon, invented modern communications and countless other aspects of our world today. Unfortunately the same quality of thought that went into the development of these things often hasn’t gone into how we make use of them.
On a smaller scale there is hardly an issue in your life and work which won’t start to improve if you begin to put hard, disciplined, focused thought into it. The trouble is that what thinking we do do is often more like daydreaming. Real thinking needs to be undertaken as a purposeful activity. So instead of drifting off into a “wouldn’t it be nice/terrible if….” fantasy, you allot a specific period of time to work out the answers to such questions as what direction your business should be going over the next few years, or how to improve the invoicing system, or what activities you can drop in order to allow you to spend more time with your children. Clear questions produce good answers.
There are many and varied techniques for thinking. But the fact that you do it at all is more important than precisely how you do it. For example, one of the reasons why writing a checklist is so useful is that it forces you to spend a little bit of time thinking about what you are going to do before you do it. It also reinforces the message that even the simplest actions repay being thought about.
One of the most fruitful things you can do in your life is to schedule some uninterrupted thinking time, preferably every day. Earl Nightingale, the co-founder of Nightingale-Conant, used to recommend spending a whole hour alone with a writing pad first thing every morning. It certainly paid dividends in his own life, and on the occasions I have done the same I have been amazed at how fruitful my thinking has become. But an hour a day is probably unrealistic for most of us. So how about half an hour? or even fifteen minutes?
Whether you decide to do this or something similar is up to you. But ask yourself the question “If my life is not the way I want it to be, how much thought have I actually put into the way I live?”