Stop Wasting Your Most Precious Resource

My daughter a couple of years ago when she was 9.

My daughter a “couple” of years ago when she was just 8.

A couple of days ago my daughter turned 20. She was a little miffed that she wasn’t a teenager anymore whereas I was distraught wondering where the time had gone. I exaggerate about being distraught of course, but it did raise the whole subject again of just how quickly time goes and just how precious it is.

As a business owner, it’s vital that you have more time out to let your mind wander because it’s only when your mind is in this mode can it get creative.

And why is this vital? Well, without creativity your business won’t stand out from the crowd, you won’t find better ways to run it, you will struggle to find the best solutions that overcome big challenges and you will struggle to keep driving forward with energy and passion.

Where Does The Time Go?

During the working week, according to Dolly Parton, the average person works 8 hours a day. That’s roughly a third of the day working, a third sleeping and a third “leisure time”.

Like the vast majority of business owners, your 8-hour day is probably filled with getting through a long list of tasks, which is itself added to and extended on a daily basis.

When you are focused on completing the tasks on you to-do list, your brain cannot be in mind-wandering, creative mode. Your brain can be in one mode or the other but not both. It can easily switch between the two modes but can’t be in both simultaneously.

When you get in your car you’re focused on getting it started and safely out of your driveway. Once settled, your mind easily drifts and you might think about the day ahead or wondered if you remembered to pick up your wallet or lock the back door and you recall that you’ve run out of milk and need to stop off on the way home.

You could drive a familiar journey and realise that most of it has gone by unnoticed. Should something even slightly out of the ordinary happen your attention switches back into the here-and-now and all thoughts of picking up the milk has (hopefully for now only) disappeared.

So, if your day is full of tasks that need your attention, your brain is in that, what’s known as “central executive” mode, and your creative juices rarely get the opportunity to start flowing.

Now lets’ say you get up at 7am and are at work for 9am. During that 2-hour period you may have short, quiet moments where your mind wanders and your creativity has a chance to get going – those 5 minutes in the shower and that drive to work can be enough to get the seed of an idea that could benefit if not transform your business.

At anytime, that idea could be lost by the interruption of a news flash on the radio, an accident on the road ahead or a phone call. You could get to work and become focused on the first important task or a problem that needs your attention and forget about that great idea.

Even if you remember it and manage to write it down, you don’t have time to think about it further and you work busily through your day. You may have an hour or so quiet time on the way home but you’re tired and you’re thinking through the day and hopefully looking forward to a nice evening ahead.

You settle into the evening, maybe help the kids with home work, get them ready for bed, prepare dinner, catch-up with your partner’s day, clear up and watch a little TV before bed. You may go out to eat, to play sport or meet friends down the pub – whatever, it is there is little chance that this great idea is getting a look in.

An upsetting nugget of research is that on average the British watch 5 hours of TV a day – what a huge waste of valuable time. (For the record, my wife and I average about an hour’s TV a day just before bed during the week and a little more at weekends if at home.)

The point is that during the week you probably have only a few minutes to an hour each day where your mind can wander, your creativity can wake up and new ideas can germinate.

This isn’t nearly enough and you therefore need to purposefully take time out to relax, let your mind wander and engage with its creative side. If you don’t make it happen then it simply won’t happen.

Make Time

Make time to switch off and let your mind wander then find time to turn those seeds of good ideas (they won’t all be good) into something that could in fact make a massive difference to your business.

Because this ‘mind wandering’ time is essential for creativity, it is just as important as the time you allocate to tasks on your to-do list and so you should set that time aside.

Allocate this time as best suits you. You might prefer to set aside an hour a day or half-a-day a week or a day-or-two a month. However you allocate it, set it in your diary or calendar and give this time top priority and don’t sacrifice it for anything less than an emergency.

And don’t instead sacrifice quality time with your family in the evening or at weekends – you need to switch off and relax too. Having said that, if the family is glued to a TV programme – which will invariably not enhance your life in any way and only steal your precious time – then relax in the corner with a glass of wine, a journal and pen and sketch around that seed of an idea and help it germinate.

An ex-boss, who had grown a billion dollar global corporation when asked in an interview what he was going to do with his retirement time, said he was going to enjoy time with his grandchildren like he never managed to with his children.

Our time is precious – there’s never enough – but we shouldn’t sacrifice that time with our loved ones and doing the things we enjoy simply because we couldn’t find it during our working day (or because we allowed TV or social media to take it from us). Appreciate how precious your time is, take control of it and waste it as little as possible – once gone, you can never get it back.

As the leader of your business, making time to step back and think about things like how to differentiate it from your competitors, how to better serve your customers and how to make sure your business is on course, is so important because it won’t happen by accident.

This is just one of the many things you need to do to make your business strong. A strong business can be successful, a weak one cannot. If you’re not sure how to make your business as strong as possible then find out here – it could make all the difference.