The think-write-think cycle

At work the best leaders set aside time for ‘thinking’. Apparently. I’ve never connected with this idea.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried it. I’ve brainstormed. Used mind maps. Worked through the end of chapter challenge questions in the books I’m reading (occasionally – it’s too much like school). I’ve tried seeing things from other people’s points of view, reversing my opinion, imagining how I might see things if I were suddenly transported here from the past (yes really).

I never got the promised results.

Just think, dammit! 🤯

Maybe that’s because I’m action-oriented 💪. The person asking ‘so who’s doing that’? at the end of a meeting. The annoying one you take on holiday who can’t sit still by the pool. I get tetchy if I don’t exercise. Grrr.

But I still need to process my thoughts. And the best way, for me, is to write.

I don’t know why it works, but I have a good idea. I think seeing the inner workings of my brain spilled out onto a page, helps me make sense of them.

I take a messy brain dump, the perfectionist in me cleans it all up, then what I publish is fairly coherent.

Once it’s written, it’s crystallised. And instead of a vague notion about something, I have a neat little script I can review and relay to people. I can discuss things in a way I never did before.

And as I engage with people about the content, I pick up their thoughts and layer other ideas on top of mine.

Boris Johnson

Today is a good example. I drafted something earlier this week about Boris Johnson. I believe he’s showing a failure of leadership by demanding people return to working in their offices. This afternoon I caught up with my Shift314 CAL2 peer group. Someone in the group works in central UK government and talked about how he was directly impacted by Johnson’s comments.

I had a well formed view and left the discussion with an extra point I want to add to my draft.

And then I realised the cycle I’d been through: think (the original notion) – write (to expand and clarify) – think (evolving the idea by engaging others or reflecting on it).

I suspect going through this process will help me clarify other thoughts, even if I don’t write them down. Like I’ve found a way to exercise my thinking muscles.

But I’ll let you know.

And if all this thinking, writing and pondering sounds like too much effort, let me suggest some meditation. If you just don’t want to deal with what’s bouncing around in your mind, there’s nothing better than closing your eyes and watching your thoughts just flow on by. 🧘🏼

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