How much time should one spend doing instead of thinking? Have you ever considered what the perfect ratio would be? The struggle is often between two conflicting tensions; “doing enough work” versus “thinking through in order to avoid making errors”.
Most of us agree that without doing, one will achieve little. Similarly, if a person acts with little thought, the outcomes will be less then desirable. As a result, most people intuitively devise an individual thinking/doing ratio which allows them to be productive in a meaningful way.
Luckily, today’s workers have plenty of options in terms of organising, tracking and staying on top of the work they need to do – essentially, with the help of technology, we’ve solved the problem of doing. Where most of us still need some help is with our planning and thinking.
Productivity is more than doing
You’d be hard pressed not to find someone who hasn’t been indoctrinated in the “busyness mindset” – the idea that we should constantly be “doing” something is pervasive. It’s such an established idea that it often comes up as an excuse for why remote work isn’t a good idea.
One good way to deconstruct this notion is to look at a successful example of someone doing the complete opposite: Warren Buffet.
Warren Buffett is a famous example of a thinker; the famous investor is renowned for the amount of time he spends reading and thinking every day. Even at 88 years old, Buffett still devotes about 80% of each day to reading newspapers, magazines, annual reports, and books.
There’s few of us who could get away with this much thinking every day – too many observers, this would look like inactivity. Since reading and thinking don’t look like work, from the outside, it looks like you’re not working.
Being more decisive: the Thinking Framework
While we are able to use software to help us with all the work we need to do, we are often left on our own when it comes to figuring out a successful approach to thinking and planning our work.
Here at WNDYR, we pride ourselves on our Thinking Framework which allows our team to dissect both simple and complex decisions, projects and situations to ensure we are considering options and solutions across multiple layers. We strive to think before we do.
Our Thinking Framework is a methodology consisting of four lenses to make informed decisions in order to unpack a problem and create a way forward. Projects need to be addressed across these layers to find success – any layer used without the others would likely result in a failed outcome or at best, a short-lived one.
Often times, and retrospectively, we find ourselves thinking about what we could’ve done differently in a situation. Instead of just reviewing learnings post-problem, the individual lens offers agency. It requires you to think about what you can do at the moment of encountering a blockage. It turns the lens on oneself, compelling us to take personal responsibility within a team. It could be that you might be a blockage to a colleague and thinking about how you can improve on this. Or, recognising what others require from you and moves you to action. It is acknowledging oneself within a team and one’s personal influence and effect.
Within an organisation, there is usually a “chain of command” and we often times require our leaders to make final decisions or guide us. With the leadership lens, we can ask ourselves what we require from our leaders to effectively move forward.
With this lens, we can truly get to the heart of what we need from our leadership instead. It is often easier to persuade your leadership to sign off on your requirements once you show that you have thought out a solution from multiple angels.
A personal sign of leadership is to ask ourselves how we can be better leaders for our colleagues, build trust with clients or, if you are in a leadership position already, how you can improve your direction and set an example for your team.
This, along with the fourth lens, is possibly the lenses that are thought about the least. We generally have technology in place to “solve” this for us and often times we place blame on either colleagues or leadership when things don’t seem to work. But what if we think about how and why we have certain systems and processes in place? If we stop to think about the “how” and “why” of any process inside our businesses, we’ll often find that it is difficult to answer.
Frequently we find processes that are over complicated or outdated. The right questions to ask in order to address this are; “does this person/teams/stakeholder need to be involved?” Or, “is there a smarter way to do this?”
The ultimate aim of reviewing processes is to streamline the ways projects are executed and remove blockages to do work more efficiently.
It is all good and well to have a streamlined process in place, but if that process is not implemented through a proficient system, it can curb your success.
Is email the best way to communicate and task within a team? Is the time tracking software you are using really giving you the data you need? Is it a good idea for your colleague to keep the latest copy of a report on their hard drive? The answer to all of these is probably “no”, but we do it anyway.
Many systems blockages stem from thinking that the way it has always been done, is the best way. Usually, it can be as simple as not being aware of better solutions.
From project management software like Workfront or Wrike, to digital asset management tools like MediaValet and Widen. Today there exist outstanding solutions to ensure that your team can get their work done from one centralised and efficient system.
By thinking about and researching what is required from a system one can ensure better implementation of one’s processes.
Through systematically applying the Thinking Framework to planning projects, in a situation or with difficulties we are facing, we are able to break it apart and truly see what the hurdle is and be proactive in finding productive ways forward. It enables one to effectively embrace thinking as part of the “busyness” of the contemporary workplace and makes for a more mindful future.