It often surprises me how few people actually make the time to think properly. I don’t mean in the car whilst in traffic or whilst making dinner. I mean engaging in actual, concentrated thinking.
Take a moment to consider a magnifying glass and the power it has when it’s held at a specific, focused angle to the sun. The sun’s rays shine through it with enough force to ignite a flame! However, if the magnifying glass is held at the wrong angle to the sun, the rays aren’t focused enough and nothing happens.
Just like the magnifying glass, when you focus your mind on something specific, you engage in concentrated thinking and your energies are no longer diluted with irrelevant thoughts or activities. Only then can you really open your mind and explore things in a different light. This is precisely why developing concentrated thinking is vital for anyone aspiring to be more effective and take charge of their life.
Concentrated thinking requires you to focus your attention very specifically and can assist you in achieving goals and in acting more efficiently. But it’s not easy.
In one of my favourite books ‘The Science of Getting Rich’ the author, Wallace D. Wattles states 'there is no labour from which most people shrink as they do from that of sustained and consecutive thought; it is the hardest work in the world.’ So we know that sustained and consecutive thought is difficult, but I firmly believe it’s one of the most important things you should be doing.
The question is - how do you get started with concentrated thinking?
I’ve been thinking about how I can build a simple system (I’m all about systems) to enable and support my own concentrated thinking. This is what I do now - Once a week, normally a Wednesday and normally in the morning I set aside 30 mins. I break down my thinking into 3 segments of 10 mins each. Within each of these segments I consider each of the 3 main machines in my business, which are:
My Company Machine
My Product Machine
My Customer Machine
When I think about my Company Machine I think about how I can finely tune everything inside my business. This is mainly the team - both my direct team inside the business and my indirect team outside the business such as mentors, coaches and supporters. It also covers some of our main systems inside the business, such as our communication system, our meeting cadence, the regularity of our bi-weekly huddles and 121’s etc. I think about how these behaviours could be continually optimised for better performance. We’ve written a blog focusing more on communication and NLP so check that out here.
When I think about my Product Machine I think about what it is we actually take to market which is our OKR software platform. For others, this would be the product or service your business offers. In the 10 minutes I set aside for this, I think about how the product is performing and ask myself some questions - how could we add more value? How could we make it easier to use? How robust is it? How could we improve the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI)? I think about the core product and any supporting products such as the coaching I offer. Again, I am looking to fine-tune and continually improve what we offer out there in the marketplace.
Lastly, I think about our Customer Machine. This is the machine that enables us to identify, interact, engage, support and help our ideal customers. I think about the resources we offer to attract the ideal customer such as e-books, blogs, our online tools such as our effectiveness checker. I think about the mindset and the journey our customers are on before they join us and how our product adds value to them once they’ve joined us. I think about how we can serve our customers better and how we can add more value to them and their businesses. As I’ve previously said, it’s about fine-tuning that machine and making constant improvements.
So this is how I currently allocate some time to fully engage in concentrated thinking. I call these Wednesday mornings my Thinking Time Blocks. During this time I close down my emails, switch off my phone and sit somewhere different to my usual working seat so I have no interruptions or distractions. I find this time immensely helpful to fully focus. If you struggle to make time for things like this, check out our blog on 5 ways to better focus your time here. I make notes as I am thinking so I can go back to them and reflect on those thoughts, taking action where necessary.
It’s a simple habit so give it a go, prioritise enough time for thinking, it’s the hardest but the best work you can do!
Interested in learning more about effective thinking? We wrote a blog on learning to reach your goals which outlines the different thinking methods to avoid procrastination.