Imagine yourself escaping from the daily pressure of decisions to be made, demands on your time, and disruptions to your schedule. You find a quiet oasis, where the atmosphere is suited for relaxation, reflection and rejuvenation. It is carefully designed to provide just the right amount of stimuli to enhance your productivity and creativity. You’re able to think through problems, strategize, and plan your next steps. This is your thinking spot; the environment where you’re optimally suited to work through the challenges in your life and work.
While the thought of periodically removing oneself from the hub of activity is scary to some people, some of the most successful leaders have made a habit of frequenting a thinking spot.
- Harry Frampton, executive chairman of East West Partners, a property developer, manager and brokerage in Avon, Colorado has a vacation home in Hawaii where he and his wife spend about 12 weeks each year. His visits there during the 2009 recession helped him get away from overwhelming problems and think through which projects to put on hold, and which ones to move forward on.
- Martin Puris, an advertising executive and owner of Puris and Partners has a vacation home in Long Island’s Hamptons where he and his wife spend most weekends. There he has some of his “best creative thoughts”, and can think “uncluttered and focused”.
- Dan Cathy, president of a fast food restaurant chain headquartered in the Atlanta area has a “thinking schedule” that helps him to prioritize intentional thinking. He blocks out a half a day every two weeks, a whole day each month, and two or three days each year to make sure he blocks out distractions and keeps focused on the primary things in life.
- John Maxwell, internationally known leadership guru and author has a “thinking chair” in his office. He brings a list of issues to think through while he sits in the chair and spends the necessary time to gain clarity on them.
Effective leaders understand and embrace their thinking spot. They plan time to think that includes:
- Reflecting on what did and didn’t work in the past.
- Focusing on the present challenges.
- Planning for the future.
- Creating new solutions.
Their thinking time may include different forms of solitude. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, describes Darwin Smith, the unassuming but successful CEO of Kimberly Clark for 20 years, as spending his vacation time on his farm in Wisconsin, digging holes and moving rocks on his backhoe. While this may have looked totally unrelated to his leadership role, it no doubt provided the quiet thought time needed for the demands of his position.
Steve Wozniak co-founder of Apple designed the first personal computer working alone. He met with others periodically to discuss the technology and possibilities, but he largely toiled long hours by himself, thinking through the process necessary to reach his goal.
Find Your Spot
So where do you get your inspiration? Where is the spot that stimulates your thinking? Have you carefully protected that environment to ensure that it’s conducive to your needs? How often and for how long do you frequent it? What has it produced for you in the past? Do you run from it or to it? In other words are you comfortable sitting in quietness or do you need high activity and stimulation around you? Does the thought of sitting still make you nervous? Are you constantly thinking of all the other things you can do instead of being there?
My preferred style is to spend quiet time in the early morning in meditation and prayer. I focus on what I need to accomplish for the day, engage in positive self-talk, reflect on my priorities, and thank God for His goodness. Ideally, if the weather and time permits, I’ll take a walk, alone with the unlimited expanse of nature. Sometimes I get great ideas during this process, and at other times mental breakthroughs will come later in the day, but I know it’s a product of that time alone.
The key is to understand the environment where you’re most productive, and replicate that on a regular basis. In your gut, you know when you do your best thinking. You know the right atmosphere for you to generate ideas, work through problems, develop your action plans, and learn new information. You know where you get your energy, ideas, and motivation; your time of fruitfulness where seeds of ideas take root, are carefully formed and watered over time until they finally blossom. Make it a priority to find and frequent that thinking spot.
Priscilla Archangel, Ph.D. is a seasoned leadership consultant, executive coach, author, speaker, and teacher. She has a passion for developing leaders, and motivating individuals and organizations to align their values, behaviors and goals with their purpose. Visit priscillaarchangel.com.
Copyright 2014 Priscilla Archangel