In an information-overloaded world with hectic lives – what’s the most important thing to do? What item on your to-do list is the most essential to your future? With all the tasks you have to do and with all the hats you wear, what makes the most difference? Oddly, the most important thing most people are missing today is time to think. I say “oddly” because it rarely occurs to people to make sure that’s on their schedule.
I call it Clarity Time and it’s more important than you think. In business and in life, we often lack clarity in what we want and where we are going. We jump into doing too fast, or the world of priorities and deadlines grabs all of our time. We get so caught up in stuff; we wake up and find ourselves drifting off the path we set out on.
Today, more than any other time in our history, we are distracted by the noise of the world. With Smartphone in hand, you can be distracted 24 hours a day with constant updates, news, text messages, voicemails, videos, emails and notifications. More than any other time in history, there is so much to do and so many ways to do it. More than anything else, you need to take the time to make sure you are doing the right things. To make sure you’re headed in the right direction, at the right pace and with your key relationships intact. Taking time to THINK is always the best use of your time. It’s also the place where innovation is born. You need time to think, to process and step back to see where big moves forward can come from.
How often do you take a step back? How often do you pause to check in with yourself and what you are doing? How often do you make time to get clear and adjust your course? Time to think – clarity time is the key. Clarity brings unparalleled energy and enthusiasm to the task at hand. When you are really clear on your goal and why you are achieving it you are unstoppable. The reason why so many people are tired, frustrated and unfulfilled is a lack of clarity. It’s why people feel stuck, stressed and out of control. They are not really clear about what they want and don’t feel like they are on the path to get there. Taking time to THINK – to check in with yourself is the most important thing you can do on a consistent basis.
So how do you do it? How do make time to think?
There are two ways: Leaps and Little Steps.
Leaps are big jumps where you carve out some bigger chunks of time to think and get clear. You take some time to have a long conversation with yourself. What do you really want? How can you begin to move in that direction? Which relationships are most important to you – how can you foster those?
The number one way to do that is to disconnect from your daily life. I recently took a two week trip with my wife to Italy. We completely disconnected from the world for two full weeks. It gave me time to think, it gave me perspective. I made sure I set aside time to just think about things and talk them over with my wife. Give yourself some time to think – schedule some time away. It could be a long vacation or just a short weekend away. It could be just a single day.
Many people use Sunday as a disconnect day – giving themselves a break from all the noise of the world and their Smartphones and taking the time to think. Another favorite of mine is to schedule a spa day. I just schedule a day to go to a local resort spa for the day. I pay the day rate to be there usually just $25 to $35 or free with a spa treatment and I spend the day there – thinking, away from all the noise of the world, emails, news etc…
The second way to leap and make time to think is to schedule or replace. You can simply schedule a meeting with yourself for whatever time you like – I like to do at least an hour a week. Put it on your calendar and give it the highest priority – it’s one of the best hours of my week.
You can also replace some activity you already do with time to think. What would you currently like to do less of? Replace that with thinking time. Could be less TV, less Facebook, less time-consuming news or playing games – decide on something you want to do less of, and whenever you feel or think about doing that, replace it with time to think about you and what’s most important to you.
You can also start to add in little pockets of think time by taking some Little Steps. My favorite one which has worked well for me is called “Add 50”. It’s a simple little step that will begin to immediately create some extra time to think throughout your day. It will also make you on time more often and you start to look good as someone who is organized and smart!
What you do is simply add 50% more time to any task, project or event that you plan out. For example, if I have an appointment at 10am and I think it will take 10 minutes to drive there I add 50% more time (5 minutes) and plan 15 minutes to drive there. Now if the traffic is bad, I will still get there on time but if it’s normal I find myself there 5 minutes early with time to THINK!
All day long I’m finding myself not rushed, not late and much more in control of my life. You do the same with projects. If you think something will take an hour then budget 50% more or 1.5 hours. If a project will take 2 hours, schedule 3 hours. It’s an amazing little step that produces big results. You end up scheduling less, hitting more deadlines and creating space for your mind to get some time to think.
Other little steps you can take include turning off the car radio and use the drive time to think – how are you doing? Are the most important things getting done? Am I spending enough time on the right projects? With the right people? Another is to go to bed a little early and give yourself some time to think and process the day. Use can use the two minutes a day you spend brushing your teeth to ask yourself some thinking questions. For lunch go on a walk by yourself once a week to check in – gain clarity and weigh in on the tradeoffs you’re making with your time.
The world is full with a record amount of noise and distractions. The world will constantly pull you off course and down other people’s paths instead of your own. You have a path that is uniquely yours – which you are called to. The most important thing you can do to stay on that path is to make time think. You can do that with a big leap of time or simple some little steps. What you will find in talking with yourself and taking the time to think is that your best self-shows up. That will feel right and empowering. Your highest level of contribution comes from that self and it’s that self that you were born to be. Take the time to think – oddly, it’s the most important thing you can do!
Now take control and make it a great day!
All the best – wytayba,
Blaine Oelkers is a lifetime entrepreneur, a graduate of Purdue University and Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship program. He’s achieved over 100 Million dollars in sales and coached 1000’s of people. He’s currently President of the Arizona Marketing Association and Selfluence. He helps business owners with their Personal Implementation Plans (PIPs) elevating themselves to a higher level called You 2.0. He can be reached at Blaine@ForcedClarity.com