Have you noticed when people ask you how you are doing, you often reply, “really busy” or “lots going on”?

While it may feel like you are busy and you are getting things done, are you getting the right things done? One of the main roles of a leader is to think and reflect to ensure your team and organization is moving in the right direction. If you are too busy to think things through, perhaps you are spending too much time putting out fires versus preventing them.

According to Keith Cunningham, author of “The Road Less Stupid,” the chance of success goes up when you think, plan and then consistently execute on the right things. He says that by incorporating Thinking Time and asking yourself the right questions, you can avoid mistakes that sabotage growth, profits and business success.

Fundamentally, Thinking Time is a structured process that enables you to minimize risks, identify the opportunities and maximize results. Here are some suggestions that Cunningham advises on how to use Thinking Time effectively.

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1. Create a Thinking Time ritual. He utilizes a special Thinking Time chair, pen and journal to get into the Thinking Time mode.

2. Schedule two to three Thinking Time sessions a week. Allow 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted concentration.

3. Prepare high-value questions regarding your problem or challenge in advance. He suggests 3-5 questions that focus on a common thread or concern. Each of the questions will spark different ideas, insights and answers.

Cunningham suggests leaders ask strategic, not tactical, questions during their Thinking Time sessions. Tactical questions sound like “What could we do to increase sales?” While strategic sound like “Why aren’t our sales numbers twice as big?” or “What’s the core obstacle preventing from us doubling our revenue?”

Here are some examples of Cunningham’s questions for Think Time sessions:

  • What don’t I see?
  • What is the problem I am trying to solve?
  • How might I (blank) so that I can (blank)?
  • What am I tolerating that is sabotaging my results?
  • What is the obstacle that is preventing me from being where I want to be?
  • What can I do today to improve my situation?

When making a decision:

  • What is the upside?
  • What is the downside?
  • Can I live with the downside?

He concludes his steps with the following:

4. Ask the questions and record the answers. Use a free flow of thought while letting one idea spark another.

5. Don’t filter or judge ideas. This could break the creative process.

6. Read. The last 15 minutes, read what you have written and take action on the best three ideas.

Pam Solberg-Tapper, president of Coach for Success Inc., is a Duluth-based executive coach, professional speaker and adventure marathoner. For questions or to submit questions or ideas for future columns, please contact her at pam@coachforsuccess.com or 218-729-0772.