Make time to think

I had drinks last night with some old friends. It’s always nice to catch up, but one of the great benefits of this particular group is how much they make me contemplate ideas. We all worked together almost 10 years ago now at SmallBusiness.com, back when it was a different kind of site than it is today. [A site ahead of its time, as another sb.com alum and I discussed today.] That’s a fun topic all its own, but not what I sat down to say.

We started talking about social media, and the pace of work life today. The four of us have all spent our adult lives online for work — building, designing and writing websites, thinking up new ways for the web to work, creating stuff online. But we consider ourselves a step removed from Gen Y, say, or younger people, who have also grown up online. And we quickly fell into a tirade on how “kids today” aren’t learning critical thinking skills in school. About how in the working world, it’s about getting through your to-do list. We wondered how much the instantaneous nature of social media encourages this immediacy, and how much it’s simply a symptom of a more global attitude that today is too late, tomorrow you’re dead.

One thing we all agreed on: It’s very difficult to find time to think. About anything–either a specific topic or not. We don’t build downtime into our schedules anymore. Worse, every moment is up for grabs in our waking day.

I’ve talked before here about how time is necessary for your brain to consolidate information and make connections. Just as important to me is the time spent blue-skying, asking “What if?” If all your time is spent accomplishing tasks, certainly you’ve been productive, but how will you know if that’s actually what you should have been doing?

Thinking isn’t a step you can short-cut out of the system — not if you expect elegance and brilliance in your work.

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