How to find time to think in the midst of busyness

how to make time to think

I’ve noticed recently that I haven’t had time to think.

With young kids constantly demanding my attention, endless household chores, and all the priorities in my business, I’m busy doing, doing, doing.

I long back to the early days of working for myself, when I spent my days dreaming and imagining all the goals that I would pursue, the strategies I would follow, and the plans I would put in place and then implement.

As a single person without a partner and without a permanent home, let alone without kids, and with a fledgling business where I didn’t yet have a lot of client delivery, I truly was the mistress of my own time. Whether I was planning fun trips and personal travel or new services and launches, I had both the time and the presence of mind to reflect, strategise, and execute.

Not so anymore!

And the reality is that I can’t recreate that time of initial freedom and flexibility that I so enjoyed almost a decade ago.

But I do still desperately need that thinking time!


Stepping away from the daily tasks of work and life allows me to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t working; whether my priorities have changed; and how I can best achieve my goals. Keeping my head down and ‘just getting on with it’ may feel productive in the moment, but how can I know if I’m doing the right things?

More than that, I am, inherently a thinker. I love nothing more than coming up with a vision and new strategies, and that’s a big part of what I enjoy about my work.

So what to do?

I think we think (!) we need a lot of time to think. And I think that’s wrong.

Yes, a month-long retreat in Bali would be wonderful.

But that can only ever be a one-off, and we need to find a solution that gives us thinking time in a more regular cadence.

So we need to find, carve out, create that time in our real-world busy-ness and chaos.

Here’s what I’m thinking to make this work:

1. Buy a pretty notebook and a lovely pen.

I have piles and piles of these in my study, filled with dreams and aspirations. Some ideas are long forgotten. Others have since been implemented and brought results.

For a more practical alternative, you can use the Notes app on your phone, which you will always have to hand. The risk here, though, is that you’ll get distracted by all those other apps and to-dos on your phone… Plus, it’s not as pretty.

2. Decide on a thinking topic.

What is it that you need time to think about? It’s all well and good to say that you need to think, but what about? Where shall we start?

Is there a big career decision that you want to reflect over? Or a tricky work project? What about family schedules and holiday plans? Maybe it’s a health goal or a hobby? Get super clear on the focus of your thinking time, and you’ll be able to use that time more effectively when you find it.

3. Consider the best environment.

What’s the best setting for your thinking? That isolated cabin in the woods might sound dreamy, but what is it about it that would work for you, and how could you recreate that in a more feasible form?

Do you think best on your own or with someone? Indoors or outdoors? Perhaps away from home and that big pile of laundry that’s waiting for you? How can you find or create an environment that is conducive to productive thinking?

4. Find a thinking partner.

Whether or not you do your initial thinking alone, it is incredibly valuable to have someone who is objective and who can act as a sounding board and accountability partner.

Do you know someone else who wants to find time to think as well? A friend or mentor? It can be a coach, or it can just be someone who is curious and good at asking questions.

5. Use your calendar.

Finally, you need to find and/or create the physical time to think. Take an honest look at your calendar and consider, first, how you can block significant chunks of ‘deep work’ time for thinking. It won’t always be possible to protect this time in your diary, but as long as you do so more often than not then you are in a much better spot than you were before!

More pragmatically, what are the smaller moments that you can find where you can do some mini-thinking along the way? What about your commute? I don’t go into London often but when I do I love my scribbling time without the distraction of wifi or mobile network!

Can you set your alarm to get up a little earlier than the rest of the house, or what about putting your pretty notebook by the bed and journalling in the evening instead of scrolling on your phone?

So, those are my tips for carving out thinking time in your day-to-day. What about you? What’s the environment that is most conducive to thinking for you? How can you find that ‘extra’ time? And what will you do with it when you find it?

TL;DR: you don’t need to go on a silent meditation retreat in the hills of Nepal in order to get some thinking done. Find, or create, the time you need within the parameters of your everyday life.

Right, I’m off to buy another notebook!

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