Three Tactics to Help you to Really Think

Ways leaders are able to think

Thinking.

Taking time to think is a valuable asset to your leadership. This can be easier said than done. The truth is that taking time to really think is a challenge for most people. I believe real thinking is the ability to place yourself in a position where you are able to fully concentrate your thoughts on a specific idea or topic for a period of time. To be able to really think requires discipline and hard work. While I still struggle to spend enough time thinking or being able to move into real thinking, I’ve learned several thinking tactics that have helped me. They include writing out a to-do list, unplugging from technology, and setting the atmosphere. I believe these thinking tactics will help you to really think.

1. Write out a to-do list

Slowing down enough to engage in thinking is typically when you remember all of the things you need to do. This can potentially distract you away from what you intended on thinking about. I’m amazed how unrelated thoughts or tasks easily come into my mind when I first start to think about a specific topic or idea. I have learned how to overcome this challenge. Before your scheduled thinking time take 5-8 minutes to write out a to-do list or every unrelated idea or thought you are having. This tactic can allow you to unload everything you are thinking about so you can focus in on the specific idea or topic you intend to think about. If necessary you can have a blank piece of paper with a pen while you are thinking just in case something comes into your mind that you can’t stop thinking about. This will allow you to write it down and continue to think about what you were originally thinking about.

2. Unplugging from technology

Technology is a tool and like every tool it needs to be put away or turned off at times. Author Craig Groeschel said, “Have We reached a point where technology and social media can hurt us as much as they help us?” This plays out when it comes to being a leader who is present and able to spend the amount of quality time we spend thinking. We will never be able to really think if we have not taken the time to unplug from our phones and other smart devices. I know it’s difficult. I recommend turning off or putting away all technology devices several minutes before you start to engage in your thinking.

The exception is if it’s a device that will assist you in your thinking, a voice recorder or music player could be good options. The key is to make sure the tool you use to assist you will not cause you to be distracted, for example you would not want to listen to music or have the voice recorder on your phone if notifications will be going off or you will be tempted to look at your email after recording a voice clip. You will be able to really think if you completely unplug from technology.

3. Set the atmosphere

When you create the right atmosphere you will generate winning ideas and your greatest thoughts. Your best thinking will be done with the right atmosphere. This includes where you are at and what you chose to have around you when you think. The first aspect is the place you will go when you take time to think. Having a regular place you think at will tell your mind it’s time to think. Several artists I know go into nature, John Maxwell has a thinking chair, author Mark Batterson goes to the top of a coffee building overlooking the city, and I use specific blocks of my driving time to think. Set the atmosphere by having a place to think and visiting that place often.

The second aspect is to create a congruent climate and condition while you are thinking. This might mean you have music playing lightly in the background, a candle lit in a dim room, you are drinking your favorite beverage, or you have something visually attracting around you (like a picture of nature or a running river). This will help you to be comfortable and be in a relaxed state of mind. Find a place where you will think and set the climate so you are able to really think.

Questions: What are some other tactics that help you to really think? Which of these 3 tactics would or does help you to think?

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  • I love that you use specific blocks of your driving time to think – what a great idea! Plus I like the idea of emptying your mind before you sit down to do it. I never used to be distracted during my quiet times, but lately I have been so I might try to use that technique. I think another problem is that I’ve recently gone off caffeine so that could be the real problem. :) I also love to think and usually do my thinking in conversation with God. One of my most treasured times for doing that outside of regular life is when we go camping or backpacking because there are no distractions! Thanks for a great post, Dan.

    • Hi Barb,
      Great thoughts! let me know how it works for you if you decide to write out a to-do list/list. Going camping or being in nature is a great time to clear the mind and to think. Thank you for reading and adding so much value in the discussion.

  • For me it’s going to a different environment than I might usually dwell in. The change dress up my boundaries, limitations and restrictions to creative though.

    • That’s great. You have to find what works for you and then do it. Thanks for the comment.

  • Good concepts, Dan. While reading things from other people can spark thinking, it is in the driving and looking where my mind really flourishes. I like to get other people’s takes on things then go and look at a subject from an intentional perspective that they may not have.

    Then talking with others about it helps really flame the thinking! But that’s after the fact.

    I appreciate how you always, without fail, bring about the thinking process.

    • Thank you Floyd! It sounds like you know yourself and what works for you, that’s half of the challenge.

  • I especially love the idea of unplugging from technology. That is an incredibly difficult thing to do – and yet I have found it remarkable for sparking creativity.

    • It’s challenging but rewarding when we do. Thank you for adding to the discussion.