How to find time to think at work
Thinking about thinking.
If you’re not putting time into your thoughts, chances are you aren’t analyzing your performance, pondering ways to improve, innovating or coming up with creative solutions to problems your organization's problems. It’s easy to let the abstract task of thinking fall to the wayside in favor of doing things that offer tangible results, but carving time out of your work schedule for thinking can open your mind and do a lot for your personal and professional development. No one can force you to stop and take time to think, but you'll be glad if you make yourself do it anyway. Consider these suggestions for how to find time to think at work.
Start with your schedule
When you’re ready to prioritize thinking time, start by including a space for it on your calendar. “Drop a meeting on your calendar with an important title such as ‘Strategic planning — Do Not Disturb,’” says Garry Polmateer, a managing partner at Red Argyle, “People tend to respect existing appointments.”
Turning thinking into a task makes it feel more tangible, accessible and important. “We are a society who likes to cross things off of lists because it feels like we're getting things done. Which often means we treat tasks as more important than thinking because tasks can be crossed off,” says Mary C. Kutheis, founder of Real Contentment, a coaching and consulting company offering work-life balance solutions. “By creating an actual appointment, it can feel more like a task and you'll feel more accomplished when you take the time to do it.”
If you can’t find time in your current schedule to set aside time for thinking, add time to your schedule by starting your days earlier, Polmateer suggests. “Give yourself one extra hour two mornings per week and watch what happens. It'll most likely be the most productive time of the week.”
Combine thinking time and break time
When you’re on a break or away from your desk for lunch, use this time as an opportunity to think. Combining the two means you don’t have to cut time from your current schedule or add more time onto your day.
“One of the most effective ways to carve out time for reflective thinking on the job is to combine it with time already spent away from the desk. It is generally recommended to take ten minutes away from sitting at a computer for every hour spent. Take these breaks, and others like lunch, to reflect on how one can perform better, professionally and personally,” says new media specialist Grayson De Ritis. “It can be easy to forget to pause a few times throughout a busy day, so do yourself a favor by setting scheduled reminders on personal devices to do so.”
Think of a concrete deliverable
Use your thinking time to come up with value-producing deliverables suggests Kristi Bergeron of Kravetz PR. She continued, “I have found that my clients want to see that I am spending the time thinking and strategizing on their account and love seeing my ideas and thought processes.” If you can show carving out time to think and strategize is good for your company, chances are your company will respect thinking time and encourage you to take it.