There is an adage in business that one should never hire a slow walker. When I first heard this I was quite insulted as my natural walking pace is so slow as to be almost stationary. I am quite capable of fitting it with the quicks when I need to get somewhere, in fact my one claim to athletic fame is that my Great Great Grandfather was Joe Scott, New Zealand’s first world champion athlete who held world walking titles and walked 72 miles 890 yards in 12 hours. A tenuous genetic link I admit and one that equates to me carrying only 1/16th of his genetic make-up, but I will still claim it as evidence of an inherent fast walking ability.
I would argue that rather than never hiring a slow walker, in life we need to be able to “walk at multiple paces”. No one can operate at top speed all the hours of daylight without something giving. When partaking in dawdling the streets of East Taieri, I am often deep in thought and am able to clear my mind of the endless must-dos which crowd my days. This thought time allows me to concentrate on what is strategically important and allows me to come up with new angles on existing projects or fresh ideas for new initiatives.
Having just returned from my summer holidays, which have been filled with wandering, pottering and general non-achievement, I am feeling re-energised and determined to create more thought-time in my life. On a daily basis it is too easy to let the email flurries, phone calls and interruptions eat into strategic and innovative thinking time. While I, along with many other women, pride myself on my ability to juggle tasks, the reality of multi-tasking at extreme levels is that often we spread ourselves too thin and don’t complete the important strategic initiatives that really make a difference in business or in life.
Steve Jobs, Apple’s incredible innovator, made time on a regular basis to just think, in his words:
I'm a big believer in boredom. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity and out of curiosity comes everything. All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.
If the man who invented so many of our modern gadgets could shelve such gadgets for a few hours, then so can I.
Therefore, I start 2014 with a New Year’s resolution, of creating thinking time. For this to be more than just a grandiose promise, I have decided to initiate “Thinking Thursdays”- the day clearly chosen for its alliterative appeal rather than anything profound about Thursdays. On my Thinking Thursdays several hours will be blocked from phone calls, emails, meetings and deadlines- unless particularly pressing as one still has to pay the bills. These hours will be used to think about strategic initiatives. They may also involve a tortoise-like walk.
As with any resolution, execution beyond the first few weeks will be the challenge. So if you see me mid-year, frantically rushing or furiously tapping on my phone while I am supposed to be engaged in something else, ask me my how my resolution is going. If I look sheepish and mutter some sorry excuse then quietly slap me and remind me that the email flurries will still be there tomorrow, but the important strategic initiative may not.