Do You Have Enough Time to Just Think?

Why Content Marketers Need Time to Think, and How to Get It

December 1, 2015

just think

Great ideas and strategies don't appear out of thin air. They come from minds – usually from minds that are deeply, intently immersed in thought, firing through dozens of so-so ideas before one creative spark provides a stellar solution to the problem at hand.

Actor and author John Cleese dedicated his keynote presentation at Content Marketing World to the importance of making time for creative thought. He pointed out that great thinkers like Einstein and Edison dedicated hours per day to the kind of slow, passive meditation that can lead to revolutionary ideas.

Unfortunately, deep thinking time is a luxury too many marketers can’t afford. There are deliverables, deadlines, surprise meetings, etc. that stretch our organizational skills to their outer limits. To do amazing things, you first need time to dream them up. Here is how some professionals make time for creative thinking, and make the most of the time they take.

Recognize the Power of “No”

Organization and prioritization can help you find time for creative thinking. But your “time out” time needs to be consistent to be effective. If each session means the rest of your day is even busier, creating a healthy new habit will be difficult.

Your efforts will be more successful if you can actually clear time on your calendar for them. Evaluate the meetings and tasks on your schedule. Is your participation in every single item crucial? As Brain Traffic’s Kristina Halvorson says, “You are everywhere, but you don’t have to be. Strategy is a decision to take a path, to say no.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner schedules up to two hours of empty space on his calendar a day. That may seem like an indulgent thing to do, but Jeff says, “If you don't take the time to think proactively you will increasingly find yourself reacting to your environment rather than influencing it. The resulting situation will inevitably require far more time (and meetings) than thinking strategically would have to begin with.” In other words, taking time for creative thinking can be more productive than powering through your to-do list.

Make an Interruption-free Time and Space

Once you have cleared time in your schedule, make sure your thinking time and space are free from interruption. If you can, try a change in scenery: Take a walk outside, sit on a park bench, or walk around your office building.

At the very least, push back from your desk. Turn your computer monitor off, mute your cell phone so it doesn’t buzz for attention—in general, anything that interrupts your regular workday, you are free to ignore during creative time.

Your brain’s first reaction to this uninterrupted time will be to spit out a to-do list of everything you could be doing instead of thinking. Cleese recommends keeping a notepad handy to write down intrusive thoughts so you can move on. “The first thing I think is, ‘I need to call Bob about that thing,’” he says. “So I write down, ‘Call Bob,’ and then I can leave that thought for now.”

Spitball First, Evaluate Later

Be mindful of your internal editor during creative thinking time. The last defense of your rational mind against the process will be to critically evaluate any ideas you generate, tossing what doesn’t seem immediately useful, relevant, or feasible. You will need to let go of that kind of editing to get the most out of your creative time.

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions’ Jason Miller takes a similar approach to team meetings. He says,
“Instead of brainstorming we do spitballing. The difference is that during brainstorming some of the ideas are thrown out completely. With spitballing everything stays on the table, no idea is ever thrown out and no idea is ever looked down upon. The more we encourage crazy ideas, the more creative our team can be.”

Of course, you will analyze your ideas rationally after creative thinking time, but try to spitball rather than brainstorm while in your creative space.

Uninterrupted creative thinking time may seem like a luxury, but it’s really an investment. The time you spend pays for itself, making you more productive in your day-to-day content marketing efforts. Give yourself time and space to think, eliminate interruptions, silence your internal editor, and see what your mind can do with a little freedom.

Feed your creative and analytical mind with insights, tips, and strategies when you subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog.

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Great ideas and strategies don't appear out of thin air. They come from minds – usually from minds that are deeply, intently immersed in thought, firing through dozens of so-so ideas before one creative spark provides a stellar solution to the problem at hand.

Actor and author John Cleese dedicated his keynote presentation at Content Marketing World to the importance of making time for creative thought. He pointed out that great thinkers like Einstein and Edison dedicated hours per day to the kind of slow, passive meditation that can lead to revolutionary ideas.

Unfortunately, deep thinking time is a luxury too many marketers can’t afford. There are deliverables, deadlines, surprise meetings, etc. that stretch our organizational skills to their outer limits. To do amazing things, you first need time to dream them up. Here is how some professionals make time for creative thinking, and make the most of the time they take.

Recognize the Power of “No”

Organization and prioritization can help you find time for creative thinking. But your “time out” time needs to be consistent to be effective. If each session means the rest of your day is even busier, creating a healthy new habit will be difficult.

Your efforts will be more successful if you can actually clear time on your calendar for them. Evaluate the meetings and tasks on your schedule. Is your participation in every single item crucial? As Brain Traffic’s Kristina Halvorson says, “You are everywhere, but you don’t have to be. Strategy is a decision to take a path, to say no.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner schedules up to two hours of empty space on his calendar a day. That may seem like an indulgent thing to do, but Jeff says, “If you don't take the time to think proactively you will increasingly find yourself reacting to your environment rather than influencing it. The resulting situation will inevitably require far more time (and meetings) than thinking strategically would have to begin with.” In other words, taking time for creative thinking can be more productive than powering through your to-do list.

Make an Interruption-free Time and Space

Once you have cleared time in your schedule, make sure your thinking time and space are free from interruption. If you can, try a change in scenery: Take a walk outside, sit on a park bench, or walk around your office building.

At the very least, push back from your desk. Turn your computer monitor off, mute your cell phone so it doesn’t buzz for attention—in general, anything that interrupts your regular workday, you are free to ignore during creative time.

Your brain’s first reaction to this uninterrupted time will be to spit out a to-do list of everything you could be doing instead of thinking. Cleese recommends keeping a notepad handy to write down intrusive thoughts so you can move on. “The first thing I think is, ‘I need to call Bob about that thing,’” he says. “So I write down, ‘Call Bob,’ and then I can leave that thought for now.”

Spitball First, Evaluate Later

Be mindful of your internal editor during creative thinking time. The last defense of your rational mind against the process will be to critically evaluate any ideas you generate, tossing what doesn’t seem immediately useful, relevant, or feasible. You will need to let go of that kind of editing to get the most out of your creative time.

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions’ Jason Miller takes a similar approach to team meetings. He says,
“Instead of brainstorming we do spitballing. The difference is that during brainstorming some of the ideas are thrown out completely. With spitballing everything stays on the table, no idea is ever thrown out and no idea is ever looked down upon. The more we encourage crazy ideas, the more creative our team can be.”

Of course, you will analyze your ideas rationally after creative thinking time, but try to spitball rather than brainstorm while in your creative space.

Uninterrupted creative thinking time may seem like a luxury, but it’s really an investment. The time you spend pays for itself, making you more productive in your day-to-day content marketing efforts. Give yourself time and space to think, eliminate interruptions, silence your internal editor, and see what your mind can do with a little freedom.

Feed your creative and analytical mind with insights, tips, and strategies when yousubscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog.

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