Shane BarnhillTuesday,9 July 2013

The Snap:

Temperatures neared 120 degrees in the Phoenix Metro area last week. If I had been in town, I probably would have joined my Facebook friends in posting photos of both failed attempts to fry eggs on the sidewalk, and 122 degree patio thermometer readings (ostensibly proving that the official 119 degree high was total BS). Fortunately, however, I was over 2000 miles away on vacation during the latest harbinger of climate change’s impending hell.

The Download:

Fair warning: I don’t usually write posts about nothing (see here and here and here), but when I do, they’re really about nothing — just personal reflections meant to shake me out of a funk or help me process things that are keeping me awake at night. And this may end up being one of those posts. If you want some substance, go check out Adrienne Boettinger’s latest gem instead.

Still with me? Okay, great. Here comes the introspection that those who’ve just upped TSD’s bounce rate will miss.

Part of my vacation involved a four-hour train ride from New York to Boston. While on the train, I spent the majority of my time reading through the backlog of white papers and books that have been accumulating in my Kindle library and Pocket/Evernote/paper collections. Most of these texts were related to design, trends and strategy for both mobile and web environments. There were also a handful related to content marketing (especially optimizing content for mobile) and responsive design.

What I realized from reading during these four hours on the train (and frankly, the stolen moments late at night on the rest of my vacation, after my wife and kids had fallen asleep and my insomnia wouldn’t relent) was that we all spend far too little time thinking about “the big picture” in our fields. For example, I comb through blogs, articles and social network updates for the latest information that is relevant to my career seven days a week. I digest the information, bookmark it when appropriate, and then get back to planning and executing on immediate priorities. The sub-optimal nature of this cycle, however, becomes clear on a long train ride.

Put simply, we all need to allocate more time for slow, drawn-out thinking — the type of thinking that happens when you’ve got nothing else to do for the next few hours, unfamiliar cities approaching and receding outside a window, a steaming cup of coffee (or beer, if you want better creative thinking) in hand, and some stimulating research that just begs you to pause between paragraphs and roll over an idea in your head for a while.

I need more of this time, because it’s when real creative and strategic thinking occurs. Case in point: I’ll soon be presenting some new ideas based on derivative concepts that I developed after those four hours of travel.

The problem is, of course, that I don’t have any four hour chunks of uninterrupted time in my foreseeable future. Thus, I’ll need to work hard to proactively allocate more (recurring) time for deep, big-picture thinking, and then guard that time like that it’s worth all the gold in Fort Knox. And if you’re still reading, then I suspect that you do too.

Take Action!

Hat Tips:

Medium, WikipediaImage Credit: Flickr

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