How to make time to think

photo-351I am writing this while getting my car serviced. Pennsylvania requires an emissions inspection yearly, and my sticker expires at the end of June. June seems to be a particularly busy time of year for me, so I am always trying to cram the inspection in somewhere. And yet as I find myself in this same waiting room every year around this time, listening to stupid game shows in the background and sitting on these nondescript black sofas, I have tried to see the bright side. It is 90 minutes (well, 110 minutes this time around) sitting somewhere that is somewhat akin to a badly decorated coffee shop. If I play my cards right, it can be a good time to think.

We all need such thinking time in our lives. With the ability to log on at any time, it’s easy to stay buried in the inbox. I often respond to what is right in front of me. But I’m also trying to figure out what my next big projects are going to be, and figuring that out requires a lot of brain space. Consciously stepping back to think about the bigger picture isn’t going to happen without planning to make it happen.

So how to do that?

I have a few strategies I’m trying to use. First, I should probably get away from my desk more. Going somewhere during the day seems inefficient, and I’m always trying to cram as much into childcare hours as possible. And yet it’s easy to just click back over to Twitter (or to read blog comments!) when I’m sitting where I always sit. Working in the library has the benefit of letting me see what books are out there and what titles seem appealing.

I run most days, and since I don’t run fast, that can be a good time for pondering.

I write in my journal most days. While my primary intent is to record what’s going on in life, for some reason writing things out in long hand makes me prone to introspection. I can spend a few more journaling minutes scribbling out ideas.

When I drive to the train station, I hit some form of traffic at least half the time. Inching forward doesn’t require all my brain power, and that time might be better spent pondering my next projects than listening to that Honey, I’m Good song that seems to be on constant repeat (that and the Shut Up And Dance ear worm. Or Taylor Swift). Easier said than done, of course. Frustration makes it hard to think.

I am aiming to incorporate thinking time as part of planning. When things are going well, I plan my weeks on Friday afternoons (they’re not always going well — but that’s the intent). I think about what should be a priority during the next week, and then plan when those priorities should happen. Simply pondering priorities that exist and should exist is often enough to put me in a more strategic frame of mind.

And then there’s always that time before breakfast. I’m getting up around 5:30 a.m. with the baby most days. I tend to scroll through headlines on my phone, but it’s getting light then. Better to set the coffee maker and go sit on the porch and ponder the brightening sky visible through the pine trees. That should be good for some deep thoughts, right?

When do you make time to think?

Photo: The Thinking Chair. Or at least the trying-to-think-chair.

In other news: If you signed up for my book club, our next I Know How She Does It book club discussion webinar is tomorrow night, Tuesday, June 16, at 9 p.m. eastern. Check your inbox for the registration link. If you can’t make it, please register anyway so you can access the recording after. Thanks so much for your support! My publisher was thrilled with the number of pre-orders!

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