Frequently we hear people say their best thinking is in the shower. Is it any wonder why? It should come as no surprise that we do our best thinking when we are alone. By default, the shower is one of those places where we find ourselves alone every day.
Before we explore the value of alone time, it is worth differentiating the concepts of alone time as compared to loneliness. Loneliness is an emotional state that has little to do with the absence of others. Loneliness can be experienced in a room full of people.
Alone time, on the other hand, is quiet time. It is the point in our day where we remove ourselves from the noise of phone calls, meetings, media, and other distractions, and allow ourselves to relax and actively organize our thoughts.
From ‘Doers’ To ‘Thinkers’
Getting to a point in our careers where we are able to become thinkers first is what defines most executives. Business leaders all started out on the other end of the career spectrum, as “doers.”
We babysat, scooped ice cream, bagged groceries, carried golf clubs, and so on. We built on these experiences, and after obtaining higher education and having several years of experience in the workforce, we took on more and more responsibility. Ultimately, we transitioned from being “doers” to being “thinkers.”
Caught in the Middle
Transitioning from doer to thinker is one of the hardest things for professionals to achieve. Middle managers find themselves most often faced with this challenge. Their task is very often a blend of both thinking and doing, and each needs its due.
The more experience we have, the more knowledge we have, and with that comes the opportunity to take what we have learned and put it to work for us in the future. When we demonstrate an ability to apply our knowledge effectively, we end up thinking more and doing less. If we prove ourselves to be good thinkers, new opportunities inevitably come our way.
A Caveat – The Work Never Stops
This is not to say that once we reach the executive level that there isn’t still plenty of “doing” in our daily schedule. It is expected that we conduct meetings and execute tasks, but much of the day should be spent on strategic thinking. The more time we spend “doing”, the less time we devote to creative, innovative and conceptual “thinking”, planning and strategizing.
Business Leaders Need To Make Time To Be Alone
Executive solitude is so important that it must be achieved sometimes at high cost. The most valuable people in a company often use private jets to travel as a way to use time and quiet spaces effectively. A less extreme example would be the practice of a solitary, annual vacation, dedicated to giving consideration to the bigger picture, and its moving parts.
Spending time alone is a choice, and it is a choice leaders must make more often. Make an effort to create additional opportunities, above and beyond your shower routine, to be alone at some point in your day. We make appointments with others; make appointments with you! Literally, put them on your calendar; block off the time.
This deliberately established time will create the quiet forum necessary to simply think. Regardless of whether your thoughts concern how best to respond to an internal problem, or involve the formulation of a strategic plan to move business forward, with a little alone time, you may be amazed by what comes to mind.