[Gates] am able to effectively reflect, reset, and clearly rethink my goals and aspirations.”
Mike Karnjanaprakorn, CEO/founder of Skillshare described his Think Week, “I was able to make a clear decision on what I wanted to do next with my personal and professional life. By disconnecting from the world, time moved really slow. I really got to enjoy the moment, which we often neglect in our chaotic worlds.”
After engaging two Think Weeks back to back, mine has become a constructive break from the normal routine. I disconnect and explore items from a quiet space, and larger view, to access my creative thinking, and to reflect, reset, and clearly rethink goals and direction.
It is important to structure your Think Week.
Bill Gates is highly organized and has enrolled colleagues and friends to send him items – reports, magazine articles, and books – to review for his two yearly Think Weeks. He spends 15 hours a day plowing through the material and connecting dots in ways not possible in his everyday life.
I find my Think Week works well by setting an intention. Last year I took my week before launching this blog. I explored its direction, audience, and approach. I played with many blogs, researched models, and considered many topics. With that, I ended up writing drafts of seven blogs – but more important, I sank into a blogging zone that I can now tap during my ordinary routine.
This year, having ventured halfway into a two-year Buddhist immersion program on contemplative psychotherapy, I decided to use my Think Week to draft a Contemplative Pedagogy for the program. More importantly, when completed it will become a manifesto for the next leg of work at our firm.
For me, a balanced Think Week involves creating a clear intention and allows for enough time each day for the unexpected to arise. It’s time to let go of to-do lists, measured results, and goals that are too specific. The thinking you can access will offer something unexpected. Be intentional, and be surprised.
Design Your Week.
First, find a place that moves you. I selected a small town, two hours north of New York City on the Hudson River by way of Amtrak. It has a consciousness that’s a match for me: it’s a walking town on the river, has used bookstores, coffee shops, meditation and yoga centers and some fine dining. I am not vacationing but I take daily walks to unwind, and spend a segment of mid-day time writing in a coffee shop, so these items are important.
Second, handle incidentals in advance. The point of a Think Week is to attain a different level of thinking, so it’s important to handle as many incidentals in advance as possible. If possible, arrange for groceries to be delivered, or handle it all on the first day. Plan meals for minimum preparation and ease. Get plenty of “no-screen” time, away from gadgets. Bring notepads to capture thoughts when away from screens.
Third, develop a routine that engages you. Stretch beyond ordinary routines to discover what engages you. I structure my days into fourths: 1) morning block, 2) mid-day block, 3) evening block, 4) nighttime block. I leave my rental during the mid-day block to allow my mind to wander a bit. It’s good to eat at the same time every day, and to find time daily for breathing, even if in 10-minute breaks.
Fourth bring material that engages you. In addition to books and papers to read, I bring longer podcasts, specifically to provoke thought. The idea here is to pull yourself out of “urgent” thinking or pressing items. Explore bigger questions and different perspectives. Many of my clients and colleagues offer suggestions. I like Ezra Klein’s podcasts, so among those I chose were four provocative and thoughtful podcasts:
Having completed two annual Think Weeks, I can see engaging these twice yearly, as I’ve discovered some important unexpected benefits:
- Having these weeks scheduled in advance allows me to steer items into buckets for deeper reflection and exploration.
- Knowing that I have these weeks, invites colleagues and clients into unexpected dialogues, and deeper relationships.
- Given the nature of change and information, today, these Weeks offer sacred quiet time, and clear space, with no “productive” agenda — a time to train thinking muscles, care for the mind and cultivate my being, as relied on by many throughout the year.
- In a relaxed environment, these weeks remind me about what matters most.
Think about it for yourself.
Reading Time: 5.5 min. Digest Time: 7.5 min.
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Tony Zampella is the learning designer at Bhavana Learning Group, which serves coaches, educators, and learning professionals and executives.
As an instructor, researcher, and designer of contemplative learning programs and practices, Tony’s work explores the human side of change by bringing wisdom to learning. His focus includes ontological inquiry, Integral meta-theory, and Buddhist psychology to sustain contemplative practice.