Peace and quiet is harder to come by than ever before, and with that comes consequences. It's my belief that for all the advantages of modern connectivity, there are serious drawbacks when it comes to finding time to concentrate without distraction.
Just think about how connected you are every minute of every day. Your phone likely lives in your pocket, on your desk, in your purse or on the nightstand nearly 24 hours a day. At any spare moment it's likely in your hand.
When it comes to leading a business, this connectivity is truly a double-edged sword. You're able to jump on problems and respond quicker than ever before. Information is constantly exchanged. But on the flip side, it's much harder to break away and simply think in solitude--to make the tough decisions without unwanted interference.
I've grown to learn that scheduling time to think is something that every leader must do--particularly those trying to run a business. Here's how to do it.
Respect your calendar
I treat my dedicated "think time" just like any other appointment on my calendar--it gets formally scheduled, and I respect it's importance.
I protect this time religiously, and because of that, others asking for my time know that it's not something I reschedule.
Depending on what's going on in your business, this might be weekly, monthly or quarterly time set aside on your calendar. Start by scheduling this time at least once a quarter, and I bet you'll soon realize how much you get out of it and schedule more.
Break your routine
I'm of the strong opinion that you have to go to a different physical place for the thinking I'm talking about. Your mind will wander if you are in a normal place--whether that's your office or your living room at home.
My favorite place is the public library. It's close to home, quiet and the setting helps me focus. In addition, there are generally a lot of different places to sit, and if I need some sort of inspiration, I just roam the stacks and I'm sure to find interesting things.
In terms of not making your thinking time routine, also consider scheduling this time during the regular work day. It's too easy to get sucked into something else after normal work hours.
Finally, I always view travel as think time. Planes, hotels and airports are places that break your out of routine and open you up to new sights, sounds, and inspirations.
Go completely dark
I can't stress this enough: Turn off all electronic distractions. I know it's not easy, but they all have actual power buttons. I promise they work.
The kind of thinking I believe leaders need to get comfortable with involves only a notepad and a pen. What I'm talking about is real reflection, meditation and deep thought on your business. It simply can't happen when you are tied to things electronically.
And don't forget: Make sure to tell your friends and family that you're off-limits during this time. Use that trusty out-of-office message. I assure they'll make it without you for a few hours.
Look at the past and dream about the future
It was exactly this type of thinking that recently led me to make one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make running Infusionsoft.
Reflecting on the past and thinking about the future helped me understand it was time to move on from a longtime and beloved employee. I was able to look back at years of great contributions, but also to identify trends and patterns that didn't play into where we were headed as a company.
The biggest benefit to taking this sort of think time is that you can use the information and feedback at your disposal and assess things over a broad period of time. This kind of reflection is valuable whether assessing a team member, lead flow, or expenses--almost anything in the business.
If you've never set aside this sort of time before, don't be surprised if you come to some fairly surprising conclusions after you've stepped back and taken time to reflect on your business and how you're doing as a leader. You may discover some of the changes that you feared making are not to be avoided any longer.
The goal of this time is to improve your business. Don't be afraid to think it through.