One of the most important activities a small business owner or executive can do is make time to think.  Whether you subscribe to the ideas of Peter Drucker, Peter Senge, Jim Collins, or many of the other business management thinkers, they share a common value regarding thinking.  I suppose a better word would be contemplating.  

Many of the small business people with whom I speak tell me they do not have time to contemplate what they really want to happen.  There is payroll to make, customer service, finances, information management, and a host of other nuts and bolts tasks.  While this is true, there is this question. 

What if refusing to take the time to contemplate the state of your business and your role in it was actually an act of self-sabotage?  Ugh!  All that time, energy, money, and dreams wasted and your business may stagnate or fail.  Oddly enough, most of us discount the time we have available for thinking.  For me, my thinking time shifted when my son was born.  This took some adjustments but it also acknowledged reality.  While some of my time was clearly overshadowed by the fog of sleep deprivation, there were the other times when I could let my mind wander and generate new strategies, new language, or simply review the current state of my business.  What are some of these good times? Here are some suggestions…

  • While taking a shower, bath, or shaving.  These 5+ minutes could be great times to rehearse an elevator speech or a presentation.  Use the time to set up your to-do list of what you really want to accomplish during the day.
  • While commuting.  You could torment yourself by thinking about the abysmal traffic conditions, the slow train, or the awful weather.  A better use of your time (and reduce your stess level; always a plus) is to let your imagination run wild and consider what would make your business more interesting or even, thrilling to you. 
  • The first 15-20 minutes.  Most of us do not jump into our work right away when we first get to work.  The advantage to using only 15-20 minutes is that you write quickly and avoid telling yourself that your ideas are harebrained.  (You can edit them later.)  Begin with the question, “What do I want?”  Take the time each day to write, draw, or type your goals, your dreams, and your brilliant ideas (i.e. the ones from the shower) in a designated file or notebook.  In the last 5 minutes, review the previous entries and delete or cross out the ones you find boring, ridiculous, or ill-fitting. 
  • Monday morning or Friday morming.  Or Tuesday, Wednesday…any time once a week you set aside 15-20 minutes.  This is a variation on the previous suggestion.  Granted there are times when we do have to jump into our work and do not stop until the end of the day (or night).  That does not mean that you give up contemplating how to make you and your business more effective, interesting, and/or financially sound.  Using the same method already suggested, write down anything and everything for the first 10-15 minutes and in the last 5 minutes, review all of your ideas and edit them. 
  • Whenever.  Creativity can sneak up on us during conversations, using the toilet, or during leisure time.  Use it to your advantage.  Sometimes just letting things percolate in the backs of our minds allows us to get them just right.  Keep your Blackberry, personal organizer, or a small notebook on hand to just jot the idea quickly and review it when you have more time.  One person has told me how she has been known to grab a paper napkin to write down her ideas. 

Taking the time to think about your business is important.  It is just as important as attending to your finances, returning phone calls, or information management.  It is an opportunity to be honest with yourself and make sure you are on track with your business vision.  It can clarify how you want to use your accountant, your coach, or your employees to make your business more