reflecting on success


13th July, 2023

Why thinking space is the best use of your time

When was the last time you had ‘free time’ in your diary?

Most of the time we end up with a bit of free space by accident when an appointment is cancelled.

And how good does that feel?

One of my coaching clients identified these rare moments as ‘purple patches’.

For him they were a space to stop, think and breathe. I encouraged him to block out these patches so he could take advantage of them any time he liked!

He colour-coded the time — in purple — in his calendar.

Business idea.

Avoiding burnout

We are all living in an epidemic of urgency and busyness. Unless we are flat out, working ridiculous hours, we are judged, and we often judge ourselves, as lazy or unproductive.

Urgency is the new black. ‘Busy’ is the natural response to ‘How’s work?’ The effect is cultures that pride themselves on ‘fast-moving’ or ‘adaptive’ workplaces.

But they are often white-collar sweat shops, pushing people beyond their limits, and the result is burnout.

For years researchers have proved time and time again the positive impact of time away from work related activities:

  • Daydreaming, and even boredom, promote creative thinking.
  • Discovering non-work-related activities that both rejuvenate and excite you will provide the energy you need when it’s time to get down to work. They also create an awesome contrast frame so you’ll enjoy work-related activities even more!
  • Being in flow: Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi coined this term in the 1970s for what happens when we become ‘so immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity that we lose sense of space and time’. And we get more done! Up to 500 per cent more, according to a 10-year McKinsey study.
  • Socialising: We get cognitive boosts from social interactions and we also experience higher levels of intellectual performance.
  • Disconnecting from work: Those of us who are able to disconnect from work are healthier, more engaged when we are at work and less prone to procrastination.

Being less busy isn’t the issue. The real opportunity here is to take time out. To stop and take stock of where you are at and make some decisions about how you want to work. In other words, space to think.

Taking time to think

Taking time out

To access our creativity, innovation, and intuition, (our smarter selves) we need to be in the right state of consciousness. Brainwaves play a crucial role in our ability to think creatively and solve problems.

  • Beta brainwaves, which are responsible for analytical thinking and problem-solving, are accessed in a waking state.
  • Alpha brainwaves, which are associated with relaxation and positive thinking, are accessed through activities like watching TV or working on a hobby.
  • Theta brainwaves, which foster feelings of deep inner peace and creativity, are accessed during sleep or meditation.
  • Delta brainwaves, which are associated with intuition and instinct, are present when all other frequencies are turned off.

By intentionally taking time out for pausing and thinking we give ourselves access to all of these brainwave states, improving our cognitive performance and tapping into our creativity and intuition.

Taking time to think

So, how can we make thinking space a regular part of our lives in 2023? It starts with making time to decelerate, decompress and decide, we are clearing thinking space, which will enable us to make better choices.

  1. Decelerating is about slowing down or stopping, taking time out just to pause and be. You are off duty and beholden to no-one. Protect time in your diary.
  2. Decompressing is about letting off the pressure. We all know what happens when pressure builds in any context. At best it triggers a malfunction, at worst an explosion! Write things down, removing the need to hold everything in your head.
  3. Deciding can only happen once we have stopped and taken stock. We get better results if we empty our mind, everything out and make thoughtful, conscious decisions about what to do next. Take the time to respond rather than react.

By prioritising time to think and accessing the right brainwave states, we can improve our cognitive performance, tap into our creativity and intuition, and ultimately have a greater impact on the world.

So, let’s take a step back from the culture of busyness and urgency and embrace the power of thinking space.

Donna McGeorge is a global authority on productivity, and best-selling author of the “It’s About Time” book series. Her latest book, “Join the ChatGPT Revolution,” is available now.