Strategic Thinking Time

Around New Year’s, I spent some time identifying what would be my most important professional projects for 2010. These are the things that, if I were working in a corporate environment, I would highlight in a year-end review. By nailing them down in January, my thought process went, I could spend big chunks of the working part of my 168 hours executing against them.

But habits are hard to learn, and while making my weekly to-do list this past week, I noticed something. I hadn’t listed any to-dos related to 2 of my 3 most important projects! I have a lot of immediate assignments, and so those went on the list first. So did some pressing personal activities, like my baby’s upcoming baptism. My marathon training went on there too, and by that point, the list seemed pretty long.

As with marathon prep, though, long-term professional projects can’t just be done at the last minute. So I added two 2-hour blocks to the list, one for planning my next book proposal, and one for novel writing time. Four out of 168 hours is not very much, but at least I know these are high-impact hours that will get me a little closer to where I want to be.

While writing 168 Hours, a few very efficient (and effective) people told me that they make a habit of this: scheduling “strategic thinking time” in 2-hour-plus blocks. They stop checking email, stop randomly surfing the web, and force themselves to sit and think about problems they’ve identified as important. The mind is funny. At first it rebels and wanders. But eventually it gets bored and, to solve that boredom, starts coming up with ideas and solving the problems you’ve asked it to.

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