September 15, 2018

The Link Between Creative Thinking And Your Time

One of the reasons you might suffer from a lack of creativity boils down to time.

You have become so busy, there is no time to be creative. At least that’s what you say to yourself.

And because you have become so busy, you ignore the warning signs of remaining in the murky depths of the status quo.

“Creative Thinking is important in any organization, but it’s often overlooked in one of the most important places: at the top,” said Ryan Holmes, CEO of social media management platform HootSuite.

“It’s easy to get consumed with the demands of the day and the relentless cycles of business planning. This can leave little time for truly creative thinking and also sap energy from your work. Often, you don’t even realize this is happening unless you happen to be pulled away from the daily grind and given a fresh chance to flex your creative and entrepreneurial muscles.”

Not only should you be consciously earmarking time in which to personally employ creative thinking, your organization’s culture should be one that promotes it.

If CEOs and senior leaders cannot act as creative thinking role models—succumbing to operational minutiae and constantly coming across as stressed out and too busy to dream—how is the rest of the organization going to behave? As with most aspects of an organization, the habits at the top are often mimicked by those below.

If our minds are constantly distracted and exploited by time and task pressures, none of us will be willing to employ creative thinking. We are far too consumed by competitors and organizational inanities. We become preoccupied with other things, not with what creativity may bring. It matters not if you are the CEO, team leader, or an individual contributor. In fact, our minds will be so engrossed and full we will not even pay attention to the possibility of fresh new ideas.

Bill Gates, former chairman and CEO of Microsoft, recognized the need to spend time away from the pressures of operational tasks and running a business during the height of his leadership at the Seattle-based high-tech firm. He introduced something known as “Think Week.” Twice a year, he would sequester himself for a week of reading, thinking, listening, and letting the art of the possible permeate his brain. It was his planned time to think creatively.

Mike Desjardins, CEO of ViRTUS, employs a similar tactic. Instead of “Think Week,” Mike sets out twice a year for what he calls “Reading Week,” during which he devours books and articles to replenish and further his knowledge base. You will not be able to reach Mike on his phone because he immerses himself and blocks out any distractions from his Creative Thinking time.

Discussing the importance of pausing to dream, Bill McDermott, CEO of enterprise software company SAP, said in a Skillsoft interview, “Most people today are so driven by the short term and the pressures of the day-to-day that they never take the time to put their feet up on the desk and look out the window and dream. They are constantly in meetings, many of them internal, burdened by PowerPoint. My recommendation is free up some time on your calendar.”

On a personal note, ever since 2002, I have refused to hold or take a meeting on Friday afternoons. Rarely do I answer the phone, texts, or email either. It is my time. In my calendar, I block it off so others cannot access me. I title it, rather appropriately, “DP Think Time.”

It is my weekly dream time where I’m connecting dots and conjuring up new possibilities. I may read, write, whiteboard, sketch, or stare out the window. After 20 years of employing such a practice, I can assure you I will never relinquish it.

You would have to fire me first.

Further, I head outside on my bicycle or strap into my indoor spinner at least four times a week, normally during lunch if I am working from home. If I am traveling, I visit the hotel gym daily after work. Not only is this good for my heart and health, the 100+ miles that I cycle each week provides another opportunity to dream, reflect, and ponder. Indeed, it is more Creative Thinking time.

Every day, each of us is equipped with 1,440 minutes. We all possess 168 hours a week and 8,736 hours a year to use to our advantage. If we do not earmark a significant portion of time to be creative we have little chance of erasing the indifferent, indecisive, or inflexible thinking mindsets. To be more like Bill McDermott or Bill Gates, Creative Thinking begs you to be more of an explorer—not an exploiter—of time.

Setting aside time to be creative will pay dividends in the long term, both for your career as well as your organization’s success.

While You’re Here…

I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, now available for purchase.

It is time to rethink our thinking.


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