Making Time To Think

It is not a new observation that corporate culture seems to be rushed, that many decisions are made hurriedly and with less than adequate information, that no one seems to have enough time in the day to do all that needs to be done. There are time management books, strategies, and schemes aplenty. We all know we need to slow down, to somehow bring some sanity back into our schedules. I don’t pretend to have the silver bullet. But I do consider this issue often – at least in my own life – and in some small way that seems to help.

Samuel Johnson once wrote that

it is not sufficiently considered that men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.

In the spirit of reminding, then, I offer the following thoughts.

If your background is in software, as mine is, no doubt you have experienced the benefit of extra thought applied to a particularly difficult algorithm. Once the basics of a solution were discovered, there is a first-pass implementation which yields a certain sense of satisfaction. Yet almost always, upon further consideration, several things usually occur:

  • you notice one or more edge cases which you failed to take into account;
  • you see a more elegant way, and often more efficient way, of implementing the same solution; and/or
  • an even more elegant or efficient different solution presents itself.

If your background is in business, no doubt you have experienced this same phenomenon whilst

  • working through the benefits and risks of a particular business model;
  • devising a go-to-market strategy; and/or
  • assembling a product portfolio roadmap.

In both cases, the first solution is often discarded for a better one – after more time is spent in thought. This implies that when we rush to work, rush from meeting to meeting with little to no downtime, rush home, work late from home, and repeat five or six days every week, there are likely hundreds of decisions we make each month which are not the best decisions – maybe even not the right decisions – we should be making.

It’s not impossible to carve out time to think. Like anything else, it’s a matter of priority. Consider the costs of not thinking, and maybe the benefits will be thrown into sharper relief. Are better decisions worth a little extra time? That’s like asking a software developer if defects are cheaper when found earlier in the development cycle. Of course they are.

King Solomon of Israel once wrote,

The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.

For me, that is a reminder that this principle applies well beyond the scope of business. Am I spending time to seriously think about “my ways,” the direction and content of my life – my conduct, relationships, parenting, learning, legacy, etc.? Too often the answer is No.

But sometimes, the reminder is effective. And then making time to think makes all the difference.

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