Create your headspace – Time to think differently
I’m sure many of you, like me, have recently enjoyed a summer holiday. Did you come back feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, ready to take on the challenges of the world? Yet within a week, possibly a few days or even hours, that rediscovered optimism was buried under the demands of emails, voicemails, project deadlines, family, household chores etc? If so, read on ...
Where’s your head at?
Reflecting on my holiday, its main purpose was family time, having fun and enjoying good food and the odd glass or two (well maybe more than the odd one), however, what I gained most was the time to think, to really think, away from all the usual distractions. Running once a day (who am I kidding, it was every other day!) in the early morning heat; reading thought to provoke books; watching the Perseid meteor shower for several nights, and just being in the moment gave me real quality thinking time. I took the time to learn, to think differently and challenge my own beliefs, to feel inspired and to quieten my mind. In doing so I found a real clarity of vision and clarity of purpose both personally and professionally. I had reset my brain, recharged and was re-energised.
However once back home, under the stresses and strains of work, getting the kids ready for school, returning to the usual routines etc. I found the ‘fog’ quickly descending and my focus moving further away. Sound familiar?
Where do you operate?
Most of us, when faced with daily life, focus on the immediate and short term. We often stay within the operational transactional space, we’re so busy getting things done that we rarely pause to reflect and think ahead. When coaching clients I find this a common theme and more often than not I hear the phrase “I’d love to but I don’t have the time”. I also find this to be true in many organisations I work with. Influencing clients and their teams to take a day or two out of their busy schedules and invest in quality strategic thinking time can be challenging. Yet I am always met with an overwhelmingly positive response, “why didn’t we do that before”, “that was so valuable”, “look at what we’ve achieved”, “let’s book in the next one”.
Few of us make the time, and it is a choice, to move into the transformational space. Yet this is where the real magic happens, where real change occurs. If you are familiar with the Pareto Principle (or 80:20 rule) you will know that 80 percent of results will come from just 20 percent of the action, so less definitely equals more. Yet to know what 20 percent you should be focused on you need quality thinking time – time to think differently.
Take a moment to think about where you spend the majority of your time. Where is your impact? Is this where you want, or need, to be? Or do you want to carve out more thinking time to enable you to focus on the things that really make a difference?
Create your headspace
In order to create a shift in your impact, your results, your happiness etc. first you need to create the space and time to think. Unless you have the opportunity for multiple holidays you need to create your headspace. Here’s my take on making it work for you:
Value thinking – thinking time is not tangible, 15 or 30 minutes doesn’t deliver immediately visible results. Perhaps you feel guilty or self-indulgent for taking time out of your day to just ‘think’? Yet consider this, according to Global Wellness Institute, in the last few years, revenue for “wellness tourism,” which includes meditation and other spiritual retreats, increased by 14 percent, from $494.1 billion in 2013 to $563.2 billion in 2015, a growth rate more than twice as fast as overall tourism expenditures. Mindfulness is now embraced in many organisations and more businesses are developing and expanding to cater for this growing market.
The ability to stop, pause and really think allows us to move from the transactional space into the transformational space and that’s where real change, growth and results happen. As an individual recognise its value. If you are a manager give permission for others to your team to create headspace, be a role model and value thinking time.
Aim for quality, not quantity – reflective thinking takes energy and focus, so for it to be quality thinking time plan ahead. Find a space and time away from interruptions, ensure there are no external distractions (mobile, other people etc.) and recognise where your own internal noise levels are (inner dialogue). You’re unlikely to allow yourself to truly think if you’ve got project deadlines, staff issues, family commitments etc. on you mind. For organisations, that’s why off-site meetings away from the usual environment work so well.
Know what works for you – everyone is different and you will have space and time in the day that works best for you. For some people, this may be at the weekend, or when the kids are in bed, or first thing in the morning. Some of my best ideas, insights, light bulb moments come to me either last thing at night or when I’m outside running or gardening. Experiment, find what works for you.
Take a holistic approach – I appreciate some people like to separate work and home but for me, they are all connected at some level. Thinking time should take a holistic view of your world, use it to reflect on what’s happening in all aspects of your life and focus on identifying:
- what’s important;
- what’s your purpose;
- where you add most value;
- what you want to achieve (your vision, goals etc); and
- what you have achieved and learnt.
Consistency – in order to remain in the transformational space, you need to consistently create time to think. It’s said that a habit takes at least 21 days to form. A habit requires change and therein lies a sticky problem, change is painful and requires letting go of old (comfortable) habits. So, first recognise it’s not going to be easy and second recognise that you are responsible for creating and nurturing your headspace.
“Big changes can come in small packages … It's small things done consistently, that are the big things.” Tim Ferris
Get support - there are plenty of books, audio guides, apps (e.g. Headspace) out there to help. Consider using a work buddy, a coach, a friend – positive people who will encourage and support you in achieving headspace. When working with clients I sometimes use ‘walk and talk’, an opportunity for colleagues to co-coach and have facilitated thinking time on real issues.
If you’ve created your headspace and are thinking differently you WILL be acting differently. Clarity of focus, of vision, of goals etc. creates energy and motivation to take action. So next time you are running at 100 miles an hour, hit pause…. remember sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.