“A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labour and there is an invisible labour.” – Victor Hugo
How can you and I possibly use this leadership quote?
Busy for months ahead
I don’t know about you, but I always have enough on my list to keep me busy for several months ahead. This has been the case from the moment I had a job after I left university. The idea of a to-do list which is “complete” is not something that most modern managers or leaders or the self-employed can really imagine. This presents another major issue for us all.
When we have enough “busy” work to do, and especially when we may be judged by others who are sitting and watching us, there is a temptation always to keep producing visible “output”. Also, with such a big to-do list, it is very easy to slip into a reactive state and always fill our days with busy-ness.
No permission to think
There is a culture in many places and in many companies which precludes sitting quietly and thinking. The result of this pressure, which comes from either outside or inside, is that we just don’t take the time to plan our thinking or to do it. We don’t believe we have permission. This means that we can easily miss the important issues and opportunities because we are too busy with the less important but more urgent things which are thrown at us. Can you put a value on a missed opportunity? No, neither can I but I know it’s not negligible. Let’s talk more about what this quote on leadership means to us.
Add thinking time into your diary
If you don’t already routinely add a slot in your diary for “thinking time”, I strongly recommend that you try it. I take an hour a week on a Monday morning to stand back. I recommend you do the same. It doesn’t have to be on a Monday morning. It’s a good time though. Everybody else is rushing around. You are fresh and you can take a perspective view.
Make an appointment with yourself, take a pen and notebook (remember them?) and sit quietly with your mobile phone on silent or switched off and with your computer in another place entirely.
What should you think about?
I suggest that you pick an important topic which is relevant to you, your life, your business, your career. I find it helpful to make notes during the week and stack up some ideas and things I want to consider. Once you start to do this and give yourself permission to take the time, you may find that one hour per week is not enough. You may well find that the return on your investment in time will be repaid many times over and that you decide to invest that little bit extra.
Stack ‘em up
Stack up your ideas during the previous week and you will find that your brain subconsciously works on these and will come up with ideas and suggestions which are completely new and often exciting. I use a small piece of software called Evernote (Google it) which helps me to gather together in one place all sorts of notes from my phone, my tablet and my computer and synchronises them all in one place. This helps my busy brain to remember things and best of all, to remember where they came from.
Quotes on Leadership: How should you think?
Most of our education does not involve being taught to think. There are many processes which I use. By far my favourite thinking teacher Edward de Bono. One of my favourite tools which I learned from him is “Alternatives, Possibilities, Choices” or APC. There is a lot of detail which it possible to learn about this but put simply, you consider the topic which you want to think about. You then draw up a list of all the alternatives, possibilities and choices which are available to you.
Thinking is a discipline in its own right
Most of the thinking in our day-to-day life is to try and find solutions to problems. APC can be liberating when it is applied to something which is not a “problem”. If you sit back and consider this, you will start to realise that it is extremely potent to think about a subject which is a main theme or core of your activity but which is not necessarily considered to be a problem.
It is well worth reading some of de Bono’s excellent books on thinking. If you have never considered thinking as a proper discipline which should be learnt, you are in for an interesting time!
Most of us don’t have a helicopter but we need a helicopter view of our businesses and our lives. Taking that step back, taking an hour a week away from the busy-ness will reap rewards in the short and the long term.
The step back is worth the investment
This is a little longer than my usual Quote of the Week but we have covered a lot of ground! It’s fairly obvious that we have only scraped the surface of some of the tools and techniques and therefore I expect to return to the topic of thinking in the future.
This once again proves to me the incredible depth which is often hidden inside a quotation from a famous thought leader. Victor Hugo made a good point!
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