How much time each week do you spend thinking about important things? I don’t mean baseball or fishing or camping or whatever (they’re important too). I mean thinking about the most important aspects of your business – whatever they are.
If it could talk, your calendar might argue with you about your answer. Take a look at it.
Does your calendar include time dedicated to considering your most important upcoming decisions?
Are there any slots set aside for thinking about other important items?
Is there time for discussing these items with your leader(s)? That’s important too – but that’s not the time for you to assemble your thoughts. That’s the time for you and your team to go over what came out of everyone’s advance thinking on the subject.
Do you think about these things on your drive home? Or while heading to the store or dinner with your family?
If that’s when your thinking happens, how distraction-free is it?
Do you remember any ideas or conclusions you arrived at during those times?
I’m guessing the answer is “No.”
Thinking is a duty
Thinking doesn’t demand “in my office, staring at wall” time – unless that’s what works best for you. The key is being distraction-free. Whether you’re fishing, walking the dog, paddling a kayak, or sitting in your office – the key is solace. Be alone with your thoughts. They need your full attention.
This time can be hard to come by unless you schedule it into your day or week. Intent is critical. “Got a minute?” has a way of destroying intent, or delaying it until tomorrow. One thing leads to another, and another – soon it’s six p.m.
If you’re a leader in the middle of an organization, these situations can be hard to avoid.
If you’re the owner, not doing this work for days, weeks, or months at a time is all but dereliction of duty. As owner, that’s your right – but is it right? Is that what you want?
Slow, turn ahead
One of the most important jobs an owner has is to be ahead of the curve. Considering and making decisions before they’re necessary. Waiting until the next challenge is in your face is not the ideal time to make complex decisions. Are there any other kind? Rarely, it seems.
These things sometimes take research. They take time to consider.
One of the worst parts is that they’re easy to forget. I suspect you’ve found a way to take some notes. At times, I’ve pulled over to make some notes while on a long, solo drive. At other times, I’ve called myself and left a voicemail.
We seem to learn the hard way how easy it is to forget that brilliant thought. Oh sure, we remember we were a little bit outside of Big Timber. But the thought itself? Gone. Poof.
The conversations we have with ourselves about important topics are often valuable. The results of our deep, focused thinking are too important to trust to our memory.
Too busy for thinking?
One of the things we get hung up on is the “busy” trap. We’re so busy attending to urgent but not important things that we forget about critical work. It’s on our todo lists, but it’s not scheduled.
Neither are “emergencies”, of course – but they get the attention they demand.
Sometimes we get sucked into emergencies even when there’s no need for us. Others are capable of handling them – yet we allow ourselves to get pulled in.
While this can make us feel like we’re important, needed, and critical to our businesses – we already are. Yet because we’re the owner, we get away with it. There’s seldom anyone with the gumption to say “Boss, we got this” – but if you look, you’ll see it on their faces.
It sends the wrong messages. Most of the time, you don’t need to be there. If they needed you, they’d ask. Being involved despite that tells them you don’t trust them.
That’s not the worst part.
If your senior staff did this, how would you react? You’d tell them to let the team do their job. Follow that advice.
Our most important job is to do the work no one else can do. Quality time thinking about the company’s biggest challenges is part of that work.Mark Riffey is an investor and advisor to small business owners. Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site, contact him on LinkedIn or Twitter, or email him at email@example.com.
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