As a write, I am on my way to Chicago to meet with my forum group. A forum is a small group, usually 8 to 12 like-minded CEOs and entrepreneurs, who get together on a regular basis. Business leadership organizations, like Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO), Young President’s Organization (YPO) and Vistage, all provide forum groups as a way for members to share challenges and successes, both personally and professionally, in a trusted confidential setting to help each other get better.
I am in an EO Forum that brings 9 of us together from Montreal, DC, Greenville, Raleigh, Charlotte and Miami, and we meet in a different location once per quarter. Everyone gives and receives, but no matter what, you always leave feeling that you received much more than you gave because you can learn something from every person in the room. I’ve always loved going to my forum because of the tremendous value I receive.
I’ve found that by going to a different city for forum, I am forced to leave my familiar location and travel alone, which gives me the gift of think time, to really think deeply. I think about my team, my company, but also my life, my wife and children. I spend this time thinking about how I can further harness the special gift of time. Like many of you, managing a company and being there for my family keeps me so busy that it’s hard to even find time to workout, let alone have an hour or so of undisturbed think time.
My think time allows me to make clearer decisions and to think creatively on new concepts. I think about the work we do and make adjustments for stronger outcomes. I also look for bright spots and minor majors, minor changes that have the potential to make major results. My think time helps me to recharge my brain. I return home excited, full of new ideas and feeling more grounded.
When things in life are moving a mile a minute, you need to make time to stop, reflect and think. Forum has forced me to have think time because it takes me away from my business and family for a few days. Believe it or not, you can create the same magic for yourself.
First, schedule a time months in advance. Once you have it on your calendar, don’t reschedule! It should be untouchable, something as important as a big sales meeting or quarterly planning session. If you don’t treat it this way, you won’t stick to it.
Now that you’ve got it on your schedule, prepare by deciding what general topics you are going to think about. And, no, it doesn’t always have to be about work. Leaders who are more self-aware are better leaders and understand their own special mission in life, which makes them better visionaries for their team. Don’t just think, but also be sure to journal what you’ve learned and worked on during your time. Taking time to invest in yourself will better equip you to lead the company to higher places.
Don’t treat your think time as a one-time event. Get into a regular rhythm of setting aside think time once a month. If you can’t fit your think rhythm in once per month, try every other month, and at minimum once per quarter. Just get started. I’ve found that once you start to receive value, you will somehow make time. By the way, “I don’t have time” really means “it’s not a priority right now.” Somehow when something, “important” comes up, you are able to part the waters to make it happen, right?
So are you ready to think? Now, get out and go somewhere! Maybe you sit outside at your favorite park or visit your local Starbucks; it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s somewhere with little distractions - hint: not your home or office! You never know, you just may find a bright spot.