Lately, a few special friends and acquaintances have been asking me about the slowdown in my blog and other writing projects. By slowdown I mean SLOW down. It’s not that I have been any less interested nor that writing satisfies me any less. It’s just that in the last few months, I haven’t been motivated to create anything new or particularly interesting as I’ve been caught up in one thing or another.
Along this same time period I have allowed myself to become so busy with tasks that I have quite a stack of reading collecting. These include magazines of all types, articles, blog posts, you name it. If it is something that I want to sit down and mull for a while it has gone on the stack. Until a couple of weeks ago where I finally had some “spare” time and let myself take an article off of the top of the stack.
Amazingly, as soon as I started reading again, I started writing again. It helps to have a few special friends that also continue to push a little, but without something to spark the ideas, there is nothing to write. Only then did I come to the realization:
If I’m not reading, I’m not writing. Or as a very insightful friend reminded me, if there is not input, there will be no output.
As a leader, you can get caught up in the tasks that have to be accomplished and become entirely focused on the day-to-day grind of getting work done. As issues arise, you can deal with them as you always have and get the same results that you’ve always gotten. But if all of the opportunities and issues were as simple as that, nobody would need your brain. And organizations are desperate for brains.
There are many ways to rekindle your own inspiration. Roger von Oech, the author of the classic “A Whack on the Side of the Head,” points out that “the best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas.” To do this, you have to allow yourself some time to think. Leader after leader with whom I’ve worked has said that they would be much happier and much more effective if they just had time to consider options and create new ideas. Important point: Your time is your time. If you have zero time to think and reflect, it is because you haven’t chosen some of that time that you own and devoted it to the pursuit of thinking.
It might also be that you don’t need to free up additional time, but rather repurpose what you are already doing. For example, avoid following up on email or being on a phone call at the gym. It’s pretty silly looking anyway, but if you’re on the treadmill, or taking a walk, or driving to and fro, it’s possible to unplug from everything and simply mull over a problem or opportunity.
What works for me is to be intentional. We often let thinking time be the time we have left when everything else is completed. But how much more effective could you be with “everything else” if you had some time to think? It is possible to make thinking the first priority rather than the last. I have moved reading, for example, to the very first thing I do now when I get up in the morning. No email, no perusing social media, no television. I take the next thing from the stack of what I want to read and go for it.
What sorts of things do you do to prioritize thinking? What works for you?