Think to plan. Plan to think.

Time to think and plan is elusive.

During the normal patterns of a work week I tend to get pulled into the daily operational tasks of keeping the business running and solving for immediate needs. That stuff is ultra-important because it involves the daily interaction of servicing customers.  But what about the long term planning and more strategic thinking? I try to plan that into a work week, but it’s difficult to keep many weeks due to the daily needs of the business. I’m not alone. Others try to solve for this by having off-site planning meetings and management retreats. The common theme is that it’s difficult to make and keep time for thinking and planning when we are in our normal weekly routine.

Vacation for thinking?

As I write this, I am towards the end of a vacation and it’s been a great week to relax, see new places, and to get away from the daily grind of work. As I was pounding out miles on a treadmill it occurred to me how much easier it is to think while on vacation.  Maybe I’m an odd ball, but I get energized about my career during times of rest and relaxation. When I see others in the travel and entertainment industry putting forth their best effort it inspires me. The architecture, design, and preparation that I see with travel and entertainment services makes me want to spend time excelling in my professional field as well. But I can’t take vacations as often as I need to think more strategically.

How can I create time to think and plan during a normal work week?

Relaxation yields clarity of thought.  Vacation re-energizes me. That’s the point of vacation right?

My thoughts on some classic options to make time for thinking:

  • Block time on the calendar for thinking. That works until I violate my own reserved time or someone schedules a “must attend “ meeting.  This is option is what I make of it or what I allow it be. I have the same principle for writing/blogging. I use a set time during the week to think and write.
  • Use time at home for planning and thinking. That’s not really an option for me with a busy kid’s schedule at night. Working long hours like that isn’t really sustainable either, unless I want to give up something like good health or my family.
  • Get up an hour earlier. Use the time to think and plan. I do try this but have not been disciplined with it. Plus I mixed it with time to exercise. Maybe I should get up two hours earlier for both exercise and thinking?
  • Go off-site and sit in a coffee shop. Do it on the way to work or take an extended lunch break. I just hope my boss doesn’t call to find me because there is a major emergency at work. Seriously though, I think there are ways to accomplish this without interrupting my normal schedule.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed with all the elements of planning. Break the strategic thinking into smaller areas or smaller bits of thought. This approach isn’t as intimidating and allows me to accomplish it in smaller pieces of time.

Avoid the transactional disruptions.

A key for me is to avoid the short transactional oriented messages for a time so that I can think. This means not checking emails as they come in. It means avoiding social media traps. Ultimately these become distractions that get in the way of thinking.