Monday, January 30, 2012

Think Week–The Importance of Quiet Time

When I worked with Microsoft some years ago, I was fascinated and privileged to participate in a process called Think Week.

Think Week was a process that Bill Gates embraced, whereby he would disconnect from most sources of information (or interference) and would pore over technical papers submitted by Microsoft employees.  The thought was that quiet thinking time was a valuable means of recharging and receiving insight into what should be embraced next personally and professionally.

While I was initially fascinated by this, I have since discovered the power of following such a process. 

Many of us are bombarded daily with information ranging from the valuable to the mundane and even the useless.  Many of us do our part to contribute to this information stream, also making contributions that range from the valuable to the useless.

Social media has it all for us.

Sometimes it has too much.

We all know that an automobile serves us best when we maintain it well.  Low-quality gasoline, poor food choices, lack of maintenance and excessive wear-and-tear eventually cause the automobile to be less reliable and if we push it hard enough, it may fail completely.

Our brain is very similar.  When we overload it with an over-abundance of information, whether it be valuable or not, eventually it begins to not fire on all cylinders.

When that happens, one of the greatest gifts we have, the ability to think clearly, to reason, to plan and to execute our plan, begins to sputter.  Eventually we are not living up to our potential but we don’t realize it because we are too busy trying to stay on top of the information stream or we are too busy trying to show others that we are able to contribute as effectively to social media as anyone else.

Too many have become lost, using social media awareness and contribution as an indicator of how much they matter in the world.

For this reason, I have embraced the notion of a semi-annual retreat from social media.  That’s right – no Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, foursquare or any other forms of social media for a week (sometimes longer).  I even limit email as much as I can.

While I am grateful for the many social interactions that I experience daily, my brain eventually reaches a point where it needs quiet time to understand what it should be doing and how it should be doing it.

Truthfully, there are also times I get tired of hearing myself speak and I appreciate the quiet from within as I’m sure some of my colleagues appreciate as well. :-)

Unlike many, I don’t think the world will come to an end if I cease to exchange information with my many wonderful social media connections for a week or so.

For many of my colleagues who have tried a week (or more) of quiet time, where one gets to reflect on past, present and future, they have found it to be a powerful, rejuvenating experience.

And it reminds them that they are in control of the information around them, not the other way around.

Blaise Pascal once said:

All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.

It is intriguing how many people cannot exist without social media, cannot go an hour without a peek at how their Facebook friends are doing or to see if someone retweeted their latest tweet on Twitter.

They have reduced their Life meaning to how social media defines it for them.

Perhaps if more people took some time for themselves, we would have a better sense of who we are, why we are here and what we are meant to achieve.

Maybe if we took a little more time for ourselves, we would have a better sense of what our Legacy is and how we are creating it.

Susan Taylor once said:

“We need quiet time to examine our lives openly and honestly. . . spending quiet time alone gives your mind an opportunity to renew itself and create order.”

I believe she is right.

See you in a week …. give or take.

Create a great day!

In service and servanthood,


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