August 5, 2014 // 8:30 pm

Tick! Another second gone that you will never get back; we have 86,400 seconds in each day, on average we will be sleeping for 28,800 seconds so there are 57,600 seconds available for us to use, please allow me to take around 120 seconds of your daily allowance.


One of the best pieces of advice I received when moving jobs many years ago was “take time to think and write in pencil, because you can rub out those ideas that were no good”.
22 years later this is even more relevant in the current business climate we face.


I mentioned this to one customer a few months ago and he immediately came back to me saying ‘I haven’t got the time to do that, I’m too busy’.


Many years ago I regularly attended evening meetings for local Motor Traders and noticed that one of the more regular attendees had missed a few of the meetings – he had been in a serious car accident and spent over 6 weeks in hospital before recuperating at home for another 3 months, when I saw him again he was a changed man – yes the accident had affected his mobility, but more importantly it had changed the course of his company, for the first time in nearly 10 years he had had time to think. As a result he now takes every Tuesday morning away from the office to sit and think, and the company has grown, diversified and is still very profitable 20 years later.


A car accident is a bit extreme, and I hope that this isn’t the catalyst for anyone reading this item, but it could be an illness or other type of injury that forces a period of time away from the business. I know, I have just spent 2 weeks at home with a bad back and have had plenty of thinking time – technology helps, the I-Pad is easy to use when you are laid flat on your back, and you don’t need a pencil and eraser.


But there is a better way that avoids accidents or illness; set aside a regular time each week away from the day to day activities of the business, and take yourself away from the office so you won’t be tempted to get involved in anything else – switch off your phone as well.


Many struggle with how to fill their thinking time, especially if the idea is new to them – there are no hard or fast rules to this, it is more a case of what works for the individual, personally I like to start with this question:
Why am I in business, what am I doing now and what do I want to be doing in 3 years’ time? 
This can then help to drive thinking into different areas such as:
  • Sales – weekly, monthly, could they be better, how can we sell more?
  • Costs – weekly, monthly, annually, are there areas we can save money on?
  • Staff – do I have the right number of employees, the right type of person in the correct role; are they doing the best for my company or department?
  • Customers – are we attracting more customers? What can we do to attract more, give better service, and make them buy from us rather than the guy down the road or on the internet?
  • Business – Don’t be afraid to question the viability of the business, can it work as it is or would it be better to completely change the focus of the company, or relocate, or even sell out because the land you own is worth more than the company could ever return to you.


This won’t be completed in one session; it will probably be a few weeks before there is a good vision for your company and its future, before the hardest bit – making the changes.


Change Management will be dealt with in another issue and this is where your thinking time comes into its own; people do not like change! Despite assurances that change is welcomed, deep down there will be anxiety, stress, worry and much more, and this will be reflected by resistance to the new ideas, reluctance to make the changes requested, and a tendency to revert to old ways of doing things. A regular ‘time-out’ is important because it enables you to reflect on progress, remind yourself why the changes are necessary, and how to continue with the changes required to improve your business and succeed in that vision.


The stark truth is this, without regular thinking time there may not be a business to think about in 3 years’ time!