When life becomes busy, what are the first things you put to one side? Exercise, morning rituals, time to have a coffee with friends, extra time with kids? How do you attempt to gain additional time in your days? Funnily enough it is stopping for mind time, that allows us to do so much more!
I write about this a little in my book “Work-Life Balance My Arse“, but today I wanted to explore thinking time.
What about mind time?
There are 3 quite distinct types of mind time in my view.
- Meditation – is awareness of no thing.
- Mindfulness – being aware of some thing
- Thinking Time – is time for thoughts on any thing
Meditation can elevate or change your level of thinking. Meditation is usually practised for a specific period of time. It requires training your mind to focus, which can be a slow process.
Mindfulness is being aware in the present moment, paying attention to your thoughts and feelings while being free of judgement, worry, and fear. This releases oxytocin in our brains, lowers blood pressure, removes tension, and helps us relax. We can be mindful at any time to bring ourselves into the moment.
Thinking Time is different again. You don’t need to be so focused on having thoughts come in and float out, (like meditation) or stay so intent on the present (like mindfulness). Instead you create the space, just to think. On any thing!
When you clear your brain of the days “to-do” list, and just allow thought, your mind will naturally unravel the complex clutter. You can decipher what is trivial and reduce the wasted time spent on those things. This can clarify what is in your mind, allowing you to focus on the real priorities instead of being pulled in multiple directions.
Thinking time lets us use our imagination to visualise what is possible. It can spur any number of innovative thoughts, provide strategic reflection or creatively solve issues.
My thinking time, is often out walking. I don’t have digital distractions and nature, for me, always provides inspiration. I have the time, just to think. There is no pressure on completing a task, or meeting a deadline, and the topics can range from dinner, to holidays, to house plans, to completely new ideas. It really does not matter.
Journaling can be a way to provide thinking time. There is an excellent technique described in the Morning Pages article. The key is writing 3 pages each morning. I use a specific writing pad for this (ie. not not my regular daily diary/gratitude journal). I just scribble whatever comes to mind and it is different every day. This is anything from a brain dump to clear my head, listing things to do, finding clarity or gaining new perspective. It is amazing for idea generation and brainstorming. Just let the ideas flow and don’t stop until you at least reach 3 pages.
There is also something about handwriting that I find effective and a quick search revealed some of these reasons. You think more thoroughly and the brain is engaged in a different way. I find it certainly helps me retain what I am writing.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking more time equals more productivity. You may opt to skip your morning ritual of exercise and meditation and instead use this time to get some work completed, thinking this additional time will benefit you. I am sure, if you review these days, that rather than achieving more, your energy was fragmented, and your productivity decreased. Your ability to focus and be efficient is impacted, and all in all, you get less done. Instead, try starting the day with the clarity of mind that meditation (or some form of mindful practice) can bring. See how much more aligned and smoothly running your day becomes.
And give yourself “thinking time“.