Stop reading this post and open up your calendar. Take a look at what it had for the last three weeks and what it holds for the next three.
Well, probably it looks booked and you very busy (which is true!).
However, what you probably did not notice was that your calendar is filled with meetings and commitments that are either:
1. Added by others through an invitation
2. Added by you by invitation to others
In essence, your calendar is most likely a journal of your commitments with others. It is a document which you refer to, to find out whom you have to meet or talk to next. It chronicles how and where your time is owned by others.
So, what’s wrong?
Well, nothing – until you realize that you are a knowledge worker, whether a newbie individual contributor, a manager or a CEO. You certainly have to work with others – in teams, groups and those outside your organization. There is no shying away from it. However, you need to work with your own self as well. You need to think alone. Because you actually do Thinking for a Living.
Your primary working tool is your brain. You own your means of production. You are a walking factory. It is your brain where data is processed, ideas formed, analyses done and stuff created. You working with others is premised on you doing the core work on your own first.
A software engineer has to figure out the algorithm in his own mind. A graphic designer has to do his creative thinking on his own. A manager needs to figure out how to best manage his team, before he actually manages them. A CEO’s most difficult job is envisioning the future and coming up with his organization’s strategy to get there.
In summary, if a knowledge worker is not working with his own self for a significant portion of his time – if he is not thinking enough – then he is not being effective.
The problem with having only the above two ways of getting stuff into your calendar is that you surrender your most precious resource – your time – to others. You will be surprised how it quickly fills up. A time review exercise can actually be sad.
There is a desperate need of ‘Thinking Space’ on your calendar – a time slot that is owned by you. It is a meeting – but with as the only participant. It’s like you dating yourself (geeky!).
This thinking space is used by you to think about stuff that matters. It’s to straighten your thoughts, process information, analyze, strategize, plan and create. It is when you have completely devoted to your brain – your primary asset – to your primary responsibilities.
Unless, you are intentional and proactive about setting up your thinking space, you will be surrendering it to the priorities of others.
Your thinking space is your most valuable real estate on your calendar. You need to first protect it ferociously, before you let the remaining real estate available for leasing to others.
That is why there are management retreats, quiet rooms, corporate resorts, presidential getaways, Outlook Appointments and the CEO of eBay taking a thinking day every quarter.
We can all work in groups. But we can only ‘really’ think alone!
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