Take Time to Think in 2014

Happy New Year!  To start 2014 off right, I’m brushing off my favorite resolution from years past:  Think.

There’s been a lot written about the power of thinking. Book titles like “The Power of Positive Thinking” and “Think and Grow Rich” come to mind. And there’s a bunch of research about how our thoughts affect our ability to accomplish our goals – emphasizing the need to change your thoughts in order to change your life. But even knowing all of this, most of us rarely devote any time or energy to purposeful thinking.

In our fast paced world of stimulus overload and constant interruptions, we spend most of our time acting and reacting. Many of us probably believe we don’t have time to think.

My resolution for 2014, and I hope you’ll make it yours too, is to think. Dedicate some energy each day to purposeful thinking. Quality thinking is a time-saving, change-making, goal-realizing skill.

John Maxwell has written a book about thinking called “Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work.” In this and other books, Maxwell recommends daily uninterrupted thinking time. He suggests finding a regular place that is conducive to thinking and keeping a notebook for writing down both the topics for future thinking time and the breakthrough thoughts that come to you during that time. When I do this, I find this time is some of the most valuable of my day. It seems to put me into a more thoughtful, purposeful and strategic mode for the whole day.

If you’re not used to this practice, it may be difficult to get started. But it is totally worth the effort. Purposefully work to build a thinking habit. Schedule one half hour of thinking time at the same time each day for two weeks and keep that appointment with yourself.

Some of my best thinking time takes place when I find myself at my children’s guitar or karate lessons with a notebook, a problem to consider, and no e-mail or phone interruptions. A good idea comes to me and I can actually think it through – because it’s not an option to jump up and take action at that moment. Hint – a good idea can get even better with some additional thought. Stay in your thinking place for at least 20 minutes. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with – and how much more productive and effective your actions will be when based on clear, purposeful thought.

Sometimes I’m surprised by how difficult it is to stay with one activity (thinking) for even a short period of time. Rapidly changing activities has become a habit for me and my brain seems to demand it. When I try to stay with one thing for a while, I get antsy – feeling like I must be missing something. And I start checking e-mail. I find I have to redirect myself to the task at hand. It helps if I turn off the computer and the smart phone as the extra effort it would take to turn things on again is enough to remind me of my original intent.

At other times, we are stopped in mid-thinking by questions that pop up and seem to need an answer before we can go on. Whatever you do, don’t go to Google! Internet browsing time is not quality thinking time. Soon you’ll be checking e-mail, making an online purchase, and all of your thinking time goes right out the window. If there’s something you need to research, just note down the question and make it a task for later in the day – before your next thinking session.

Taking time out to think each day can help you achieve great things, including making great leaps forward in pursuing your goals in 2014.

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