There is one activity that will have a tremendously beneficial impact on your results: thinking. You mind is always working, but it isn’t always doing the productive work of thinking. Much of the time it is running loops, asking the same questions over and over again, and driving you into the same states.
To interrupt the loop and do the productive work of really thinking, you have to slow down, make the time, make the space, and use the tools to think.
Time to Think
Thinking takes more time than you think.
Unless you schedule time to think, to really do nothing else but think, you won’t do it. You make time to exercise your body so that it stays strong, healthy, and so that it serves you well. You have to do the same thing for your mind.
Schedule time when you can be alone to do nothing but think. This isn’t time to plan your next week, even though you might have ideas about what you need to put on your agenda. It isn’t time to work on a project, even though you may generate ideas about those projects. Just block the time to be alone with absolutely no agenda but thinking.
If you want to make this time more powerful and more productive, do it first thing in the morning.
Space to Think
You need a space to think. That space needs to be free from distractions. Your mind is a novelty-seeking device. It evolved to pay attention to things that are new and interesting. And it evolved to create things that are new and interesting. Your space to think should foster the later, the creation of new, interesting, or useful ideas.
Someplace that is comfortable. Someplace quiet. No Internet. No television. No other people present. Just you and your thoughts. And maybe classical music or music you might hear in a spa.
Tools to Think
I love technology, and I can’t imagine not using all of my electronic tools. But honestly, I do my best thinking with one of two tools: the single blank page of a Google Doc or a legal pad and pen. Both of these tools allow the free flow of ideas. Each allows you to write down the ideas as they come to you.
Some people love mind maps. Other people like index cards. Some people don’t write anything down. Whatever works for you is the right choice.
Write down whatever comes to your mind. Then write down the next thing that comes to your mind. If you can’t think of anything to write, write down “I can’t think of anything to write.” Write something until some idea comes to you, and an idea will surely come to you (you may be out of practice taking time to think).
Write until you run out of things to write, and then go back and read everything that you have written. As you reading, write down the ideas that come to you as you are prompted by what you have written. There’s more in those ideas, and thinking about them bring out more ideas.
Ask yourself: “Why is this important now?” Ask, “What should I be doing with this idea?” Ask, “What value does this idea have an what would make it a stronger idea?” Ask, “Who would benefit from this idea?” Answer the questions that come to you, then answer the questions that those answers bring.
Evaluate your ideas. Ponder them. Thinking is asking yourself questions about ideas.
You produce more and better ideas when you make the time to think. Block time, make space, use the tools, and improve your results by spending time thinking.