A couple of weeks ago I grabbed a stack of unread trade rags and headed over to the local Starbucks to sit down and catch up on some reading with a cup of coffee. By the size of the stack I apparently had not done this in a while.

While browsing through the articles and reading the interesting items, I found myself wondering how many of these ‘headshot’ photos of the people associated with the articles are up to date? I also made a mental note to refresh mine because it is definitely a few years old now!

It could have been the quiet time away from the computer/tablet/smartphone … or it could have been whatever addictive ingredient is placed in the coffee … but my mind started to open up and some new thoughts and ideas and questions began to form. It was in that moment that I realized that I needed to do this more often.

In today’s world so much of what we see and read happens in little tiny snippets.  Blogs, email newsletters (you probably just read the headlines, don’t you?), twitter, you-name-it … and we jump from topic to topic as a new email or phone call or meeting happens.  The one thing that is missing, at least for me, is some dedicated time to just sit and think. 

One Man’s ‘How-To’

One of the questions that comes up is ‘how do you find time to just sit and think?’  Obviously I hadn’t been able to conquer that challenge for quite some time otherwise I would have had a shorter stack of magazines and no revelation as it happened.  My guess is that many of you are in the same boat.  In the interest of helping, here is the formula that I’m attempting to follow …

  1. Gather Your Materials. The first recommendation is to set aside all of your ‘reading stuff’ for review when you can get to it.  For me this includes magazines, news articles, reports, white papers and yes – even some sales brochures (some of that stuff is pretty good!). Find a spot to put it so you know where you can always find it.  One idea is to clear out one of the file drawers in your desk and start stacking it there.  If it overflows, then take the top half off and throw away the bottom half … you probably weren’t going to read it anyway.
  2. Schedule Some Time. Yes, I do mean put it on your calendar.  My personal goal is four hours a week and I’ve split it into two chunks of two hours each.  Putting it on your calendar does lots of good things.  It blocks the time from being scheduled or requested by someone else and you probably get reminders from your calendaring system that you have an upcoming ‘meeting’ :)
  3. Go Somewhere Quiet. This is key, you have to leave your office and go somewhere you can sit and read/think. Don’t for a minute think you can do this at home … you really have to go somewhere that you are away from your phone, your desk, your computer … otherwise you’ll be drawn back to reality by these devices.

Is it worth it?

I know what you are thinking right about now.  Something along the lines of “there is no way that I can get away with carving out 10% of a work week.  This guy must be a nutjob.”  Well, I’m going to give it a go … I’ll let you know what happens.

By the way, in the interest of full disclosure …

Before (more formal, with tie!)

After (a bit more up-to-date, no tie!)