Why has Warren Buffett spent 80% of his career thinking? Why is that a main focus in his life?
Because we’re busy.
We live in the busiest time in human history. The typical entrepreneur dashes from meeting to meeting, stage to stage, in an attempt to fit everything into what seems like an ever decreasing window of time.
Technology, which promised us an easier life, has only added to the franticness. Instead of responding to mail every couple of days, people are now expected to respond to email within a few minutes. Between these emails, texts, phone calls, facetime, and social media notifications, humans are constantly being bombarded with distractions.
And this was exactly how my life looked last year. Meeting to meeting, project to project. Hyperproductive with no time for thinking.
The wheels were starting to fall off the track. I started to be in a constant state of stress and inner turmoil. I had major decisions to make but no time to actually think about them.
That’s when I decided to do something crazy:
That’s right, I decided to start doing nothing.
What I mean by nothing, is that I started to create blocks of time in my schedule to think, to journal, to play. Below I’ll show you the exact process I took to create these blocks, but first:
Two majors things happened when I created this space:
1. I became much happier in my life. I was calmer and less stressed. Respecting and loving myself with this time made my life more peaceful.
2. I started to solve my biggest issues and make my biggest decisions. When I gave myself space to think (or intentionally not think) without any distractions, I got a lot clearer on the decisions/issues that were consuming my life.
This is also not an uncommon result of making space in your day.
Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, carves out two hours of blank space on his calendar each day to think. He finds it to be his single most valuable productivity tool. He uses this time to think about essential business questions as well as recharging emotionally in between meetings.
Bill Gates is also famous for taking time to think. Twice a year he spends one week in isolation to read, think, and study technology.
From Tim Ferris to Warren Buffet to the examples above, the most successful people in the world all make space to think, reflect, and learn.
Making space isn’t just a value-add to your life, it is a key ingredient to happiness and success.
How to create intentional space in your life:
The following are all routines that I implemented in my life when I was stressed out and burnt out. I felt like I was indulging at first. I felt guilty about taking this time during the week. But when I started seeing the results, the guilt was replaced with a strong conviction that these routines were key to my happiness and success.
1. A completely unplugged morning routine.
I go into my exact morning routine in this article here, but the most important part about the routine, in relation to this article, is that I do not check email, texts, or social media for the first 3 hours of my morning. I go through my morning routine with absolutely zero distractions. This keeps my mind clear and my morning peaceful.
2. Weekly walk time
Every week I spend 30 minutes to an hour outside walking. I leave my phone at home and completely unplug. This allows me to be completely present. I walk around my local neighborhood, stop at parks if I feel inclined, and really just let my body and mind go where it wants to. If I have a big problem to solve, I think about it. If I am stressed, I attempt to focus on the surroundings around me, to be completely engulfed with the present. This is my time to unplug and stimulate the brain with some walking.
3. Weekly Artist Dates
a. The concept of the weekly artist date comes from the book, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. The book defines the artist’s date as:
“An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you pre-plan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a. Your creative child. That means no lovers, friends, spouses, children, no taggers-on of any stripe.”
I took these “artist dates” when I had a lot on my plate. I was busy but had a feeling that I needed the space. I usually take my artist dates on Friday afternoons. I have done things from going to the beach with my journal, writing poetry in the park, shooting a basketball at the park, or heading to a record shop and just listening to music. This is your time to do anything you feel inclined to, and do some things that make you uncomfortable as well (I am not a poet).
4. Month End Journaling
I got into detail about my month end journaling process in this article here. This is time that I spend reflecting on the previous month. With all of the above events, I put my phone away and move to a place with no distractions, usually a coffee shop.
5. No phone Sundays
Sundays are a day of family and friends for me. I not only do not check email or do any business, but I will put my phone in a drawer for the entire day. Except for the necessities of the day (communicating with our grocery delivery service, communicating with people I have plans with later that day), my Sundays are completely phone free. This allows me to be present with my family and friends. This also allows me to recharge emotionally and prepare for the week ahead. As a society, we are so addicted to our phones, it feels good to put it away for an afternoon.
By creating this system of intentional space in your life, you will actually attain more success, and you will be happier too. The people who think they are too busy for this space are the people that need it the most. If the CEO of Linkedin can create space in his day, we can all create space in ours.
Try implementing just one of these routines this week. Then when you get that down add another. Start creating the space to breathe, think, and play. You might actually start to enjoy it!
Want more resources and help on creating space and improving your personal performance?
Feel free to reach out to me anytime – email@example.com