When Do You Make Time to Think?

Everyone is crazy-busy. Too many of us multitask, listening to a book or podcast when we walk or drive, focusing and pushing through on specific work, making the “most” of our time. When do we make time to think? Do we ever?

I asked myself this very question last week. I had—for me—a long drive of about 30 minutes. (Remember, I don’t drive for my commute. I walk.) I listen to music when I drive so I can change the radio channels to hear the traffic report. I don’t listen to anything purposefully.

I got a bunch of ideas about all kinds of things: my next books, a short story I was writing, how to organize my time for reading over the next couple of weeks. All kinds of things.

All because I had time to think.

When I make time to think, I often discover synergies and serendipity. I’m not thinking of something specific. I let my mind wander. No particular purpose, just wandering.

We get ideas in the shower because we’re not focused on thinking. We have time to let ideas collide.

I got ideas on my drive because I wasn’t focused on anything except driving. And, to be honest, driving takes attention but not a lot of thinking. (It was a sunny day without too many cars on the clear road.) I didn’t have to solve problems. All I had to do was drive.

When we focus on solving a problem we use focused thinking. When we let our minds wander, we use diffuse thinking. We need both kinds of thinking.

The busier and more structured our lives are, the less often we have time for that kind of wandering-thinking, the diffuse thinking.

The more difficult the problem, the more we need both kinds of thinking.

This is why breaks in a workshop (or your day) are so valuable. The participants have a chance to think in a non-focused way. People make connections they hadn’t considered before.

This is the reason I like to have lunch in the workshop room, but encourage the participants to avoid their email. (That’s a losing proposition, but I still encourage it.) When they have a chance to see the artifacts from their previous work, they make connections. They think differently.

I take walks and think.

If you want to build your adaptability, your problem-solving capabilities, and your creativity, you need time to think. Both kinds of time: focused and diffused.

Note that diffused thinking is not based on distractions. That downtime you have where you monitor or engage in social media? That’s not diffused thinking.

Consider how you make time for diffused thinking in your life. Can you make time to just think? Thinking is work. Thinking looks different from what we normally do—typing, talking, writing, interrogating our computers. Thinking is work.

That is the question this week: When do you make time to think?

10 thoughts on “When Do You Make Time to Think?

  1. Jim Grey

    I take walks with one of my old film cameras, photographing whatever strikes my fancy. It’s good alone time. The photography is creatively stimulating, but it isn’t so consuming that my mind doesn’t rest.

  2. Dwayne Phillips

    Doing tasks at work that other persons know they should do, but won’t do out of … well, I don’t know. For example, cleaning the microwave over at work. Everyone knows it needs cleaning, but no one wants to do it and no one will interrupt me while I am doing it. Hence, I can do it and think without any interruption.

    1. johanna Post author

      Dwayne, it is way too true that no one will interrupt you when you clean the microwave at work. I had a good laugh at that one.

      I guess I should apply the “clean for diffused thinking” to my office. Maybe tomorrow :-)

    1. johanna Post author

      Ron, don’t keep us in suspense. Do you like the book, at least so far?? (I am not going to discuss how many books I have on my kindle that I plan to read. Nope, not going there. Oh, I should write a post about that. Thanks for prompting another idea.)

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