Rodin's The Thinker at the Musée Rodin.

The Thinker by Rodin

IBM founder and CEO Thomas Watson had a sign in his office – and more signs plastered throughout the firm.

Aretha Franklin sang about it in the movies.

Buddha noted “What we think we become.

So why don’t we think more?

The thought came to mind as I trekked back from a week-long stay at San Francisco’s Camp Mather, a place in the high Sierras near Yosemite. Kids, camp – and thanks to the location – no mobile or Internet access.

With a “same time next year” quality, in our 5th year of attending, I’ve come to know kids and families from across San Francisco. So when one of my campmates shuffled up the road in search of cell phone access  for the 9 AM Monday sales update call following their Friday 3 PM “going on vacation; here’s what might be coming up while I’m gone” call, the obvious question was why?

Why? “Because my sales manager wanted to have me let him know if anything changed over the weekend.

There are sales items that can change over a weekend; concert tickets, retail sales, and perhaps a hot book after a favorable NY Times review. But in the land of industrial sales (think diesel train engines, Fortune 500 big box computer sales, and commercial space leasing), not much happens between Friday at 3 PM and Monday at 9 AM.

So what was the sales manager thinking to ask my campmate to call-in on an over the weekend update call?

Easy answer; he wasn’t. And he’s got company.

Many of us – perhaps most of us – cram tasks and activities into life so that we do more – and think less. Thinking requires thought – reflection.

When we don’t think we react; we knee jerk whatever seems to be the best way to handle things – if not the way we always handle things – and hope that the action passes muster.

Productivity and performance wonk David Jones – author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – would tell you that the best thing you can do to improve your effectiveness is to think before you act. But he’d note that you would need to shift your work so you have time to think.

You become more effective by taking an occasional pause before you act – and if you’re really smart, building in breaks of 10-15 minutes a couple of times a day so you can think about what’s important, what needs to get done, and what you can drop because it’s not relevant or important.

Nobel Prize winner Henri Bergson suggested “Think like a man (or woman) of action; act like a man (or woman) of thought.

Avoid the things that don’t make sense – like that 9 AM check-in call.

And try something different. Think!

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.


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