Thinking about Thinking
by Jonathan Moore, AIA
It's safe to say that over 75% of what we do is not as productive as it could be. In fact, most of what we do at an executive level is not what we are in business to do. How does one prioritize schedules, communication, meetings, and conference calls with actual WORK. When I say work, that means doing what you do best - thinking. Few of us are professional meters, phone callers or emailers. I don't know of a university that gives degrees in virtual communication (yet, that is). We are attorneys, architects, strategists, politicians and financiers. We have great minds that companies need to succeed. With all of the great thinkers reading this article, how much time do you actually spend thinking during an average day as opposed to preparing / meeting / calling about a future time to think? I'm here to tell you it is not as much as you think (no pun intended).
Today's business world has thousands of beeps, bleeps, chimes, chings and dongs. I am an expert here, as I am a victim of this curse of distraction. You can't avoid them on silent mode, as you then have flashes, buzzes and vibrations to seduce you. I know all the tricks in the book. Each of these blips represents a misperceived instant need for attention. They are the squeaky wheels. A craving notoriously pulls us from the immediate, which is typically responding to a previous bling or bloop, to tend to the welcomed interruption. This easily turns to leapfrogging from project to project only to realize afterwards that you have accomplished little towards the day's goals. I suspect I am not alone in this daily game of what can be termed micro-tasking, an activity that can typically be accomplished in less than 15 minutes. It actually represents over 90% of what we do in a day. The pity of this is that true success and meaning is found in the macro-tasks, those 15 minute + exercises. This is where differences are made and battles are won.
So how best to give the world a piece of our mind? How can we free ourselves from the micro-tasks and move onto the macro-tasks? Is there a place left that has no cell service or wifi access? Does it require a forced seizure of our smart phones and internet cards? It may be just that. We are addicted, we have a need to hear the ding. It validates us, makes us know that people need us and we are doing our job. Well, you're not and most of those ding dongs can wait.
There are no magic bullets other than realizing that so much of what we do is preparing to do something. It is thinking about thinking. It is emailing about a conference call to discuss an upcoming meeting, out of which will be a plan to do something. It's kind of embarrassing when you think about how little work actually gets accomplished during an average work day. Today's workplace has little or no time for actual thinking. Thinking requiers sitting (for most of us) at your desk and actually being quiet. If you are just sitting at your desk, the perception is that you aren't working. Recall high school physics and the equation of work (work = force x displacement).This cannot apply to business. In other words, an object does not have to move to be considered work in my book.
The best deliverable you can provide clients, associates, superiors and employees is your mind. It is not a beautifully crafted email, a firm conference call or time at a meeting. Allocating undistracted blocks to think is the secret to today's success in business. Companies and individuals have to keep focus on the macro-tasks, and make progress towards accomplishing them. Take the time to think during your days. Put it on your calendar. Code it with a phrase that only you understand ("Take Over the World", maybe). Make it your secret weapon to take over your world.
Jonathan Moore, AIA, is an Owner's Representative for real estate developments throughout the country. He advises owners to the risks associated with construction projects and walks them through the process, overseeing the programming, financing, design, and construction. His focus on efficiency, communication and rallying the team produce savings in both time and money for an organization. He has a book in process with Pete Karamitsanis, AIA, focusing on the micro- and macro-tasks associated with his industry, currently titled Details Matter, But So Does the 35,000 Foot View. He can be reached at www.invisionadvisors.com. Updates on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/InVisionAdvisors.