Erica Jong said, “Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.” I sometimes feel that “Advice is what people ask for when they don’t know the answer and haven’t even thought about it.”
Few things can frustrate managers more than staff interrupting them to ask “What should I do about XYZ?” when the answer is either very simple, or the manager has no more information nor had any more time to think about it than the staff member.
Why does this happen? A big factor is that the environments we ask people to work in these days are rarely conducive to any level of thinking beyond basic, first-level stuff. How can we expect people to come up with creative solutions to problems, or conduct detailed analyses when they are in an open-office environment and can count on being interrupted constantly throughout the day?
Train of thought? In most offices you are lucky to get to the platform, let alone on the train!
My ideas for finding ways to think deeply at work – even on the cube farm.
1. Eliminate distractions – fwd your desk phone, turn of your computer, silence your smartphone, clear your desk. If you’re in an open concept office and you know you’ll be interrupted, book a conference room or see if you can find a quiet place. Get creative. Maybe if you can show the results, your manager will let you experiment with spending some time each day in a home office.
2. Write out your thoughts. Writing helps crystallize your thinking. This is why so many people write journals or keep extensive notes. It’s not so others can read them later and understand the writer. It’s so the writer can understand him or herself.
3. Book appointments with yourself to plan / think every day. Book slots of an hour or two throughout the week and use them to think about current projects and long term planning. Put them in your calendar and treat them like the most important appointments you have each day – they are.
4. Be clear on your objective when you sit down to think. This makes decisions easier and acts as a filter to eliminate irrelevant concerns.
5. When you have a good idea, but can’t spend time deliberating on it, write it in a specific spot in your planner, make a voice memo on your phone or send yourself an email with the idea so you can come back to it later.
Good, clear thinking is critical to your success. Your success is important, so give yourself the opportunity to achieve it by finding ways to let yourself THINK!