The success habit I wish I knew 18 years ago

How the top 2% think. Literally.

Most people live in a reactive state. They work on stuff until someone distracts them. Then they react to what the other person needs. That’s true at home and in the office. And it’s the easiest way to keep spinning your wheels for months or even years on end.

successLook at the calendar of most people and you’ll find a good assortment of the usual events like team meetings, one-on-ones, lunches, etc. You might also find some personal events scheduled, such as family dinners, soccer games, birthdays, etc.

But what won’t you find on 98% of calendars?

Time blocked out to just think. Blocks of 1, 2 or even 3 hours at a time with no agenda. No additional attendees. No anything. Just “thinking time”.

Time is our most precious resource. And where you spend your time influences how you do in every area of your life. Want a better body? Spend more time eating right. Want to be a better husband/wife? Spend more time listening. You get the idea.

But how do you know if you’re working on the right things? You guessed it, you need to constantly re-visit your goals and strategy. Sometimes it makes sense to do that with people (colleagues, board, partner, family), but you also need some alone time where you can just lay your cards out on the table and think about what’s working and what’s not.

So what should you “think about” during the time you schedule to think? Here are some ideas:

  • How are my important relationships going?
  • Which goals aren’t I making progress on? Why?
  • What’s coming up that I need to prepare for?
  • What should I do differently?
  • What new skill do I need to start learning? Why?
  • Am I happy? If not, why not?
  • How can I get more done this week?
  • Should I take some time off?
  • Am I working hard enough?

I’m sure you spend time thinking about these things, but I’d bet it’s done in chunks of 10 or 20 minutes here and there, not 1 or 2 hours of solid, sit-in-a-quiet-place thinking that happens week in, week out.

As I was preparing to launch my company PeopleSpark earlier this year, I scheduled 5 hours each week just to think.

During that time I was unavailable and literally unreachable to the outside world. I turned off my phone, closed my email, set my Mac to Do Not Disturb and put a note on my door “Do not disturb until 2pm”.

During my thinking time I focus on not “doing” anything. I don’t try to make progress on anything tangible. I don’t mark off goals on a ToDo list. I just sit in silence and think about things that are important or top of mind.

I learned about this “success habit” from a life coach I had back in 2011 and it’s a common strategy used by everyone from Beyonce to Bill Clinton, Roger Federer, Richard Branson and Tony Robbins.

How much thinking time do you need each week and which day is the best for thinking? Those answers will vary based on how you work, but for me it was Monday morning from 8am until 11am and Friday afternoons from 4pm to 6pm. I simply created two recurring events in my calendar each week at those times with the label “Thinking Time”.

It’s such a simple way to do it, but if you stick with it, it will transform your life. Give it a try and you won’t be disappointed.

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