As founder, you’re likely all too aware that working in your business is decidedly different from working on it. While it can be difficult to avoid getting swept up in the day-to-day, focusing on growth without taking the time to deliberate, research, and plan properly is one of the top reasons why businesses fail.
Evidence suggests that the most successful entrepreneurs invest at least 10% of their work week—and in some cases, more than 20%—reflecting, exploring, and strategizing. So here’s a brief look at the benefits of dedicated thinking time, and how to make it part of your business.
What is dedicated thinking?
From a business perspective, dedicated thinking means temporarily eliminating the many disruptions that come with managing a company so you can benefit from doing deep work.
Cal Newport, author of “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”, defines deep work as:
- A skill that lets you quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time
- The ability to concentrate without distraction on a cognitively demanding task
- An indispensable aid for anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world
To be truly productive, improve outcomes, and achieve the state of peak concentration that lets your brain function at its maximum potential, Newport suggests getting away from your everyday work—and engaging in long periods of uninterrupted thinking—as often as possible.
Benefits of dedicated thinking time
Deep, dedicated thinking time encourages the state of flow associated with innovative ideas.
Many studies show, in fact, that scheduling regular alone time helps:
- Free up the mental space needed to optimize productivity and creativity
- Build the psychological strength for improved stress management
- Carve out opportunities to ponder change, assess progress, and plan or update goals more effectively
It’s widely held, for example, that some of Bill Gates’ greatest ideas are the result of taking dedicated and isolated think weeks each year to read books, consider new perspectives, and engage in big-picture thinking.
How to set aside time to think
There are a number of ways you can reap the benefits of dedicated thinking time—whether you step away from your business for large chunks of time à la Bill Gates, or make deep thought a part of your daily routine.
Dedicated think weeks
To make the most of a dedicated think week, it’s important to decide in advance what you’ll be reflecting on or learning about and structure your time accordingly.
Here’s an example:
- Begin the week by reviewing what’s worked for your business and what hasn’t since the last time you stepped away
- Spend some time contemplating and prioritizing what specifically needs to be fixed or improved
- End the week by creating a realistic action plan for resolving or leveraging those challenges or opportunities
Scheduled deep-thinking time
If getting away for extended periods of time isn’t ideal, you might try scheduling thinking sessions into your regular agenda.
This could include:
- Consistently blocking out 60-90 minutes for dedicated thinking at the same time each day
- Scheduling in time for deep thought whenever you have at least one hour between your engagements
- Putting work obligations aside for a full day each week, or for 2 to 3 days every few months
To fully benefit from this habit, remember that when you choose to do your thinking isn’t nearly as important as the refreshing new perspective a change of scene tends to provide.
So make sure you find a thinking location that’s free of distractions like email, phone calls, meetings, and check-ins: one that forces you to step outside your regular routine and away from your everyday work.