Rediscovering the Lost Art of Thoughtfulness

Jul 11, 2021 4 Min Read
a woman pondering

Photo by Mimi Thian

Being introspective can give you a fresh and new sense of clarity.

Have you ever done a little quiet work over the weekend and simply knocked it out of the park? Free of meetings, demands, and distractions, you’re able to engage in deep, focused, and satisfying type of work that seems impossible during the workweek. In only a few hours, you successfully tackle a number of tasks that would normally take days to complete—and all without that familiar feeling of frazzled urgency.

You performed to the best of your ability in this rare setting because you had room to think. Without the pull of busyness and the pressure of immediacy, you had time to contemplate, plan, ponder, and create.

Thankfully, it is in fact possible to recreate this weekend feeling on a regular weekday. You just have to develop the right mindset and habits to add space for thoughtful time to your schedule. It all starts with accepting that thinking is time well spent.

"The Posture of Thoughtfulness" - excerpted from A Minute to Think

I defy you now to try to remember the last time you actually caught someone thinking where you work. And if you did, what would you do? Go on, play the full movie scene in your head. You come around the corner and stumble upon a thinking coworker—glassy-eyed and far away, as thinkers are. Would you - call a paramedic? Would you - tweet a picture? A typical stressed manager or team member might feel a pinch of frustration, even anger, and might instigate an immediate intervention to jolt our beautiful thinker back to the urgent present with a slightly too loud round of, “What are you working on? What are you working on?” Thoughtfulness has become an oddity—and an embarrassment.

But what if… What if this person’s mind, allowed its liberty, was just about to turn the corner in solving a problem or trying a new approach? What if a moment of brilliance was cresting, an un-thunk thought just about to be birthed for the betterment of the company, the core product, or a customer need? The world will never know because that dear thinker had been successfully redirected back to their inescapable inbox, and is now proudly deleting away his e-trash, showing off for all to see their visible activity.

If only activity and productivity were the same—but they aren’t. There is visible work and invisible work. Thinking, pondering, considering, mulling, concocting, dreaming—none of these require a single muscle to be moved to be enacted. We can only see the effort in the results when completed, not in the process.

This article may interest you: 30 Self-Care Strategies To Avoid A Burnout

In a complete flip of common perception, we must entertain the possibility that pushing harder often defeats our goals, while interlacing space and thoughtful time can actually support and amplify results. Like an Olympic athlete taking recovery time between sets, we must arrest our effort in order to excel over the long term. We need to press pause—and do so during business hours, not on our own precious time like a public school teacher going broke to bring in their own clay and markers.

Photo by Bruno Martins

When we do, all sorts of things get better. We stop for a moment before sending a challenging email to make sure of our message. We pause and lean back when we feel fatigue that interrupts our focus. We step away for a few minutes between meetings to digest and ingest the ideas and insights from the last session and truly prepare for the next. Attending to these moments—and leaving time for them—changes the entire nature of work.

Read more: Gratitude and Happiness, and Why it Matters for Leaders

This article is also available in Chinese.

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Juliet Funt is the founder and CEO at JFG (Juliet Funt Group), which is a consulting and training firm built upon the popular teaching of CEO Juliet Funt, author of A Minute to Think.

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