I interviewed the founder of a Praxis business partner recently and he said something unexpected.
He’s a high-energy, type A kind of person and incredibly productive. When I asked any tips or habits he employs to get so much done he said “I make time to think.” He went on to describe large chunks of time set aside with no work, no music, no podcasts, no activity (except sometimes driving). But it wasn’t just space to let his mind wander. Maybe a little of that, but also the deliberate practice of disciplined, focused thinking.
He’s not alone
I’m a little less deliberate, but I take a walk with nothing but my thoughts every day for at least a few minutes. It’s the wellspring of personal revolution for me.
One of my favorite thinkers, Henry Hazlitt, wrote a book at age 22 on Thinking as a Science. Hazlitt’s family could not afford a formal education, so he taught himself by reading voraciously. Reading is a well-known path to knowledge. But Hazlitt’s book describes something far less common than reading as another key to his self-education. The practice of working through problems systematically using no outside resources, only the mind.
Convenient, but not easy
Right where you are, any time, any place, even when your phone’s battery is dead, you have the world’s most powerful learning machine at your disposal.
What would happen if you set aside 20 minutes each day to do nothing but think?
What might it look like?
You could pick a specific problem, real or imagined, and examine all angles and work through it step by step. You could try a new problem every day or focus on a single problem for years. You could bring a list of mental tasks with you to your thinking session or you could simply sit and see what comes. You could pretend crazy things are true and work out what would have to change in the world to accommodate them. You could reverse all of your assumptions and see if you can find your way back to them with logic alone.
There are infinite ways to engage your brain – your greatest tool – in order to expand possibilities and paradigms.
In the bustle to build fitness routines, businesses, skills, subject mastery, a network, and some R&R, do you have time set aside just to think? If not, maybe say ‘no’ more often and make room.