Making Time for Thinking and Creating

Needed: Time & Space to Think, or Take Time to Think

The busy manager or business owner juggles many priorities. Most are urgently driven by others’ agendas – clients, customers, co-workers and bosses. Taking care of oneself professionally, while important in theory, never seems as urgent in practice.

How to charge the batteries of the professional motor? Give yourself a gift of time and space… get out of the office or shop and take time to think.

Positions of responsibility require a constant influx of ideas, creativity for problem solving and energy for the next week, month or quarter. Call it what you want – feeding the soul or professional development – we all need a little self-care taking.

I was reminded just recently of how valuable this is. My business partner and I ducked out for a morning seminar sponsored by the Richmond Times Dispatch. There was a nominal fee, easily affordable, with fresh muffins and coffee provided on long tables in the back. We settled comfortably into well-padded chairs and spent two hours listening to local experts speaking on a topic of importance to our firm.

During the break, we chattered enthusiastically about what we had heard. Ideas began to flow, and we both took notes. We turned to a new page in our notepads and chattered some more. Afterwards, the conversation continued over lunch on the way back to the office. We were both engaged and enthusiastic. Back at our desks in the early afternoon, we felt energized. We had some new plans!

Creativity in business is a key nutrient to the lifeblood of the organization. Creativity prompts solutions to tough problems and gives input to strategy. But the interesting aspect of creativity is that it cannot be demanded. It can’t be called up at a particular time or place. Instead, the conditions have to be set for its arrival. It has to be allowed to emerge. Creativity, an output of critical thought, is funny that way.

We reminded ourselves that time away from the office should be taken regularly to give the space for critical thinking. The seminar was something we could have let pass by, but instead that provided us the time and place to relax and put our brains in neutral.

Where are the best places to allow inspiration to find you? That will be different for each person or team. Pick an outside location that is either quiet, visually inspiring or offers a low-pressure learning opportunity on a topic of interest. My partner and I once took a box lunch to Hollywood Cemetery and had a strategy “summit” overlooking the James River. The beauty of the scenery combined with the whoosh of the river helped us escape the daily minutiae and get to the more important (and less urgent) matters facing our firm.

Always go with at least one other person who shares your need to think about mutual issues. Results come from the conversation that springs forth when creativity emerges.

Pick the time of day when you are at your best. Specifically, match your thinking event with a block of time when you will have the most energy. My partner and I are both morning people, so we tend to have our thinking sessions in the first half of the day.

Consider an inexpensive seminar. The local chambers of commerce have plenty of good ones that cost around $20. Keep expectations low. Set a goal of sourcing just one or two new ideas.

Take time to develop yourself and those around you in an easy, low-cost way. Set the stage for creativity to emerge by selecting the right time and place to think. Jump-start conversation with a learning event or a short agenda of big picture issues important to your team. Then relax! Thinking — the right kind of thinking – will definitely happen.