“One day an American scholar said to me, ‘Don’t waste your time gardening and growing lettuce. You should write more poems instead, anyone can grow lettuce.’ That is not my way of thinking. I know very well that if I do not grow lettuce, I cannot write poems.” Thich Nhat Hanh
The value of unstructured thinking time is sometimes not appreciated until it has gone. Not many people mourn the loss of crowded trains and traffic jams of the daily commute, for example. The extra free time has been celebrated as one of the benefits of working from home and reallocated within the shifting patterns of work. Yet something has been lost, and our clients tell us that the time between home and office served a purpose after all.
A space, even a crowded one, can allow reflection on the day, quiet exploration of ideas or consideration of different perspectives. One leader we work with used the journey time for phone calls, not necessarily attending to urgent tasks but rather keeping in touch with people with whom he had less regular contact. For him, that time and that habit have gone.
Why does it matter? Reflection time is an essential part of effective working and without it we run the risk of resorting to automatic thinking and behaviour. We spend a surprising amount of our lives on automatic pilot, but often we would do better to take some time and reflect before launching into a decision or action, especially now.
Just at the time when our clients are confronting serious challenges in their businesses and need to make considered changes, many are finding that back-to-back videoconferences leave them no thinking time.
You may not grow lettuce nor yearn for a commute, but how and when do you create spaces in your day that allow deeper thinking and new insights to emerge? Who can help you to make the most of that time?
Something that our clients value is the space we create and the challenge that we provide for them to have, as one said “thoughts that I otherwise would not have had”.