Thinking time is essential. Some seriously successful people in the business world say they wouldn’t be where they are without it. Yet in talking to other business owners, ‘taking time to think’ is something we rarely do. Something else is always far more vital to our business.

Photo of a man looking into the distance while he thinks

In just the last week, I can count three conversations where a fellow business owner’s response has been ‘I’m just too busy’. When I thought about it, they aren’t unusual. This has been a common approach amongst many people I have spoken to, and corresponded with, over the years. I can put my hand up and say I’m guilty of this too.

This prompted me to do some more thinking about thinking. Is thinking time really that important? I could only conclude thinking time is essential. Yes, we’re busier than ever, but I’d really like to persuade you that, from now on, perhaps the response should really be ‘how do I make that thinking time happen?’.


Top CEO’s value time to think

Consider Warren Buffett, head of the fourth largest public company in the world. You would expect him to be ‘too busy’. However, he famously values thinking time. His reason? To enable him to make the best decisions.

I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think…I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions, than most people in business. – Warren Buffet, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, allegedly schedules two hours of uninterrupted thinking time every day. Read or listen to what Weiner says about the importance of carving out time. Does it resonate with you?

Oftentimes, people get caught up in the day to day flow, and if challenges are coming at them fast and furious, there’s going to be a natural tendency to solve one problem after another, and it’s important to take some time. ‘Time’ is the key part…Part of the key to time management is carving out time to think as opposed to constantly reacting. And during that thinking time you’re not only thinking strategically, thinking proactively, thinking longer term, but you’re literally thinking about what is urgent versus what is important, and trying to strike that right balance. – Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn

There are others, too. Bill Gates purportedly takes two weeks out every year to think. AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong, encourages his staff to make 10% of their time ‘thinking time’. That’s 4 hours out of their working week.

This [thinking time] has been a total game changer for me and for AOL. The companies that take this seriously will have a major strategic advantage in the years to come. – Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL


Is thinking time important enough for you?

Weiner’s conclusions particularly mirror so many of the conversations I have with fellow business owners. The day to day running of your business throws one thing after another at you. You deal with things as they come in, reacting and firefighting. It’s genuinely difficult to see that you can find any more time amongst this day to day routine at all. So how do you develop your business? How do you make sense of the ideas and ambitions you have in your head? How do you work out how to solve the challenges and issues you face, many of which may have already been there long term? Is your answer that you ‘need thinking time’? If yes (or something near enough such as you ‘need time to plan’), then thinking time is critical to the success of you and your business.


The next steps

Are you persuaded to build in some, or more, thinking time? The important thing now is that you just do it. If you don’t make time for it, you won’t do it. As Weiner points out, if you’re busy, or you have a humungous ‘to do’ list, there’s an even greater reason to factor in thinking time. Do it now! Block out some time in your diary and stick to it.


In the process of thinking about thinking time, I”ve scribbled some thoughts down about how to find productive thinking time. My aim is to write this up and share with you. If you have any tips on finding productive thinking time and how it’s worked for your business, send them to me. I’ll add them to the piece, crediting and linking to you. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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