Do you make time to just think?

Executing on Plans / April 9, 2013 / lbenetton

Sometimes you face a question that’s easy to answer. At other times, a similar question might leave you stumped.


Maybe the problem is genuinely gnarly. Maybe your brain is fried after a heavy day of work. But if the question rattles mercilessly around in your head, try this:

Write an email asking for the answer. (Don’t put an address in the “To” field, at least not yet.) Write your question in that email, explaining the problem, the choices, how specific factors affect the issue, anything you can think of that relates to the question.

You might find an odd thing happens: you’ll answer your own question just by clarifying it in a message.

The act of writing spurs thinking in ways few other activities can. Reading comes a close second, since your focus on picturing the writer’s intent makes you think. Perhaps more importantly, both writing and reading force your mind to bypass other concerns as you focus on the activity.

Entrepreneur and author Ben Casnocha suggests these tips in his LinkedIn post called How Busy People Find Time to Think Deeply. He also suggests “undirected” everyday ways of getting thoughts in order, like:

  • taking long showers
  • driving familiar routes
  • going for a walk

In Casnocha’s words:

“Undirected” thinking time involves activities that are themselves minimally mentally taxing, and conducive to creative thinking about other things.

Scheduling time to think at home, where your time is your own, may be as easy as picking up a book. At the office, Casnocha recommends people schedule time to think into their calendars, much as they do for meetings, phone calls or other appointments.

Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s CEO, has no problem doing this. In his words:

As an organization scales, the role of its leadership needs to evolve and scale along with it. I’ve seen this evolution take place along at least two continuum (sic): from problem solving to coaching and from tactical execution to thinking strategically. What both of these transitions require is time, and lots of it. Endlessly scheduling meeting on top of meeting and your time to get these things right evaporates.

Do you make time to think, whether intentionally or not? What are your favorite thinking activities? Share them in the comments below.


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