Taking time to think

Easter is a wonderful time to take a break from everything and think about life, regardless of your religious persuasion. I’m taking the opportunity to gaze out the window, admire the garden and take a deep breath. I hope that you get some time to relax and take your foot off the accelerator as well.

Work has been hectic since I went back after Christmas and this blog has been sadly neglected as result. Today I’ve been catching up on my emails and came across this quote from the School of Life about Career Effectiveness.

Fortune favours the quiet thinkers who may, for a long time, have very little to show for their work. Effective people think a lot.

The Emotionally Intelligent Office

I think this is a lovely idea, but not necessarily true. At my workplace I often see quite the opposite. Fortune favours those who can produce results quickly. And although we are often told that staring out the window has value, in reality, it’s not something that you can really get away with at work on a daily basis. We need to be seen to be producing, rather than thinking about what needs to be produced.

And yet having time to think really does have value. It can help us solve problems and ensure that we are focussing our efforts on activities that are useful and productive, rather than just doing “busy work”.

I’m struggling with this a bit because we’ve just got a new system at work that we are using to track the time we spend on various tasks. It’s called a work flow tool (WFT) but I keep accidentally calling it WTF. Every time I do that it makes me laugh.

We are supposed to account for our time (don’t get me wrong, I think this is a good thing) but I sometimes spend quite a lot of time thinking things through and I’m never sure if it’s acceptable to record this as “thinking time” or just hide it under the category of research. Thinking is a kind of research I suppose, because it’s often about discovering what’s in your brain and getting your ideas in some kind of order.

I agree with this final quote from The School of Life article.

Real work often doesn’t look like work. The point of staring out of a window is, paradoxically, not to find out what is going on outside. It is rather, an exercise in discovering the contents of our own minds.

Happy Easter everyone. I hope you get time to read, relax and look after yourself.

7 thoughts on “Taking time to think

  1. Megan says:

    Thank you Margaret, so many thoughts triggered by your post. I wonder about the nature of the industries we are both in and that the real success for our employers is measured by the actions of others outside the workplace. So to counter the feeling of powerless our employers want us to be busy – to do things, knowing if they work we won’t really know how and if they fail we won’t know why. In some of the academic work I’ve read authors call this ritualism. Not sure if it’s reassuring or scary, but the academics think this type of behaviour is the norm, not the exception. Maybe it’s the nature of politics, the complexity of people or the “wickedness” of the problems we are trying to tackle.

    My hunch is that our workplaces need thinkers, but don’t know what to do with them, as we make life too hard. That’s why I’ve taken so much over the years from your thinking on simplicity….in a world full of action, thinkers can help identify the few simple things that might increase the chance of success. It’s us that have to do the translation of complexity into simple doable steps, which means we need time… It’s helped me feel I’m contributing.

    I also suspect that simple appears to others as easy…. and you’ve taught me it isn’t! As one of the other bloggers I follow says “it’s a rare and valuable skill”

    • Margaret says:

      Hi there Megan and thank you for your thoughtful response. I know that we both love thinking and asking questions and this isn’t always appreciated. At a recent planning meeting we were asked what we thought should be done about a particular problem and my answer was that someone should “grow some balls”. This didn’t go down well and it also annoyed me that I’d said that because it infers that the ability to make a decision is somehow a male attribute, which I obviously don’t believe. So my comments were both indelicate and sexist. Darn!
      But my point was that people are so busy playing politics and shoring up their careers that forget that we are there for a “higher purpose”. Gosh that sounds lofty, but it’s true that we are there to serve the community.
      I know it’s not a new problem, but it never ceases to frustrate me. Still, we need to continue to fight the good fight by asking hard, but important, questions and making things as simple as possible.
      Have a wonderful Easter my friend.

  2. rachaelhanel says:

    I don’t think I’d like to have to keep track of my time like that. I can imagine that’s a challenge, especially if your workplace doesn’t necessarily see the value of “thinking” time. I agree with you — that’s so important! Have a wonderful Easter weekend.

    • Margaret says:

      Perhaps if I keep recording my thinking time it will become de rigeur for everyone! Thanks so much for taking the time to respond.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Happy Easter break – hope you enjoy the down time. Such lovely weather to accompany thinking, staring out the window, smelling the roses etc.

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