When did you last sit down and have a really good long hard think?

This morning I had to deal with an enforced (and non negotiable) power-less environment.   Poor me.  Surprised it didn’t make the news headlines.

Apparently they had told us, in writing, weeks ago, that our electricity supply was to be upgraded, and we’d be without power all day.  I’d forgotten, of course, and out it went, just as I was about to hit “submit” on the online expenses claim I had been struggling with for half an hour.

What now?  I have a busy day ahead, lots of admin and chasing of clients to do, and co-ordinating a team of 5 facilitators for an event I’m leading tomorrow.  No power = no internet.  You might as well chop my left hand off.  OMG, as my kids would text!

Not long, though, before the great lateral thinker here cracked it: Blackberry to the rescue.  Kind of.  We have a variable mobile signal here in deepest Devon, so it’s not reliable enough for long phone calls, and it’s not really an option for a day’s worth of online admin.  So I drove up the road and managed half an hour of short emails and a few phone messages.  Then it occurred to me: what a good opportunity to do something more important: time to sit down and have a think.

Which is what I have been doing for the last hour or so.  Doing some important stuff, like revisiting the goals I set myself at the beginning of the year, actually planning how I’m going to position tomorrow’s training to a room full of potentially hostile managers.  Thinking about my daughter’s 21st birthday which is coming up.  Planning this Blog (which I now have 30 mins to commit to Word before the battery runs out: nothing like a tight deadline to focus the mind).

The thing is, how often do I really do this?  Not nearly often enough, methinks.  We all know we should plan more, and keep in mind what’s important.  It’s just that the sheer noise, speed and busyness of modern life makes us forget to do it.  I remember doing some research into this a few years ago.  Harvard Business Review came up with these statistics:

  • Typically middle and top managers work without interruption for more than 30 minutes just once every two days
  • One verbal contact in 368 is unrelated to a specific short term issue
  • Managers initiate an email on average once per day: the rest are reactive
  • They only receive 13% of emails which are of immediate and specific use.

How scary is that?

This is a world of frenzied activity: we’re like a load of hamsters on wheels who are too busy to get off and have something to eat.

It shouldn’t take my Electricity provider’s denial of supply for one day to get me to do some proper thinking.  That’s a bit like deliberately breaking your leg so you can get some time off for a much needed rest.  What I have discovered is that little problems like this often provide opportunities, and I am going to commit now to a self imposed “Power Cut” at least once a week in future.

Try one out for yourself.  Get someone to hide your laptop and your mobile for 3 hours, and see what results you come up with.

Must go, only 2 minutes left on the battery!  Time to buy myself a hamster, perhaps?

© Stockcity – Fotolia.com

© Brent Wong – Fotolia.com

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at www.hownot2.com
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9 Responses to When did you last sit down and have a really good long hard think?

  1. Mandy Green says:

    Being dis-connected has a distinctly passive and powerless ring to it (forgive the unintentional pun!) I prefer to think of this state as being actively un-connected. As an action oriented Introvert I’ve been working on managing my busy world in exactly this way for several years now and am a huge fan of pulling the plug. I guess like many other self and time management issues it comes down to the nitty gritty of self – discipline and control so sometimes it doesn’t always happen as intended. Fundamentally though we really don’t have to answer the phone every time it rings!


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  3. Karen says:

    Michael ~ I love the thought of being “dis-connected” but I am too addicted to being connected 🙂


    • Hi Karen

      “I am too addicted to being connected” is powerful self-talk! I shall have to put you in touch with an associate who knows how to deal with that sort of stuff!!!

      Maybe you need enforced dis-connectedness like I had to help you realise there really is life beyond that screen!


  4. Graham Whiting says:

    Thought one, buy a Samsung netbook, the battery on mine lasts 6 hours allowing me to continue frantic busyness away from a plug socket if I choose to and when I need to. Integrate it with a Blackberry and a mobile broadband dongle and you can work for hours.

    Thought two, don’t let the world of busyness get to you. Effectiveness is a state of mind. The Harvard business review says
    * Typically middle and top managers work without interruption for more than 30 minutes just once every two days

    So allocate periods of time to work uninterrupted on the tasks that need your total concentration. Book it in your diary and do it.

    * Managers initiate an email on average once per day: the rest are reactive

    So be more pro-active, not just by initiating more emails but also by initiating actions and giving people responsibility to make the decisions they need to complete their work. Trust them to do it.

    * They only receive 13% of emails which are of immediate and specific use.

    Only read 13% of your email then! Of course this means encouraging your colleagues to be ruthless with their distribution list pruning and specific with their email subjects. The modern world puts us all in danger of data overload, most of the data we receive is data we don’t need and will be of no use to us. What we need is information. I passed 50 last year, before Frank Skinner, and I decided to be better at informing and to ignore all the data I get sent.

    Their is a classic example in my inbox as I write this. It is a two screen email telling me all about e-car online insurance. I haven’t read any of it, I just clicked the button that says Renew Now. Interestingly I have it on my to-do list as a job for tomorrow. Must put the tax disk in the window that arrived last week.


  5. spencer says:

    the irony being that I believe “social media” is the worst offender when it comes to noise and interruption. I am increasingly becoming sceptical about these tools as anything more than a patchy opportunity to vent one’s spleen

    I do strongly agree with the principle of getting time out for valuable thought (funnily your comment about your Daughter’s 21st is the only bit that really sticks in my mind) that is genuinely important an unrepeatable (and an event I know you will make excellent in the way only you can).

    I have recently joined a real village community in a quiet part of Europe and it promises to provide me with plenty of “power cut possibilities”, I must say this excites me much more than the thought of writing my next blog…

    Thought provoking as always Mike, my question, “is blogging about noise the ultimate oximoron?”

    Hertfordshire 😉


    • Thanks for the comment Spencer. To your final point, blogging on the subject of noise is, to my mind, only an oximoron if the blog is irrelevant and unwelcome. And as I have found out, unless and until I start sending my blog out as Spam, the readers who receive it are those that elect to do so.


  6. Kathey Austin says:

    I will definitely have to try setting aside 3 hours and “think.”… this is a wonderful idea. I’ll be sharing this blog with my better half in hopes he actually tries it as well.

    Excellent info and thank you to the power company!



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