Take the Time to Think

In the mad thrash that is life today it's often hard to fully appreciate everything that's going on around us—to really, truly grasp everything there is to grasp and to make sense of it all...because life absolutely goes by so very fast. And we're simply not equipped to be able to keep up with it all.

More importantly, in the midst of this thrash we're so focused on production, on meeting our metrics, on proving our success and meeting our standards, that we often miss the bigger picture along the way. We fail to take the time to think, which means we're not taking the time to learn...and this is absolutely the wrong way to move through life.

In his HBR article, "What to Do When You Have No Time to Think", author and consultant Peter Bregman notes, "These busy days, we rarely analyze our experiences thoughtfully, contemplate the views of others carefully, or evaluate how the outcomes of our decisions should affect our future choices. Those things take time. They require us to slow down. And who has the time for that? So, we reflect less and limit our growth. Often, it’s only when our lives are forcibly disrupted that we slow down long enough to learn. An illness, a job loss, the death of a loved one—they all compel us to stop and think and evaluate things. But those are unwelcome disruptions and, hopefully, they don’t occur often. Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn continuously without forced disruptions? If we could disrupt ourselves for a few moments every day in order to think and learn?"

Peter suggests carving out time to do outdoor exercise, to write and to converse, all with the goal of learning from the experiences of the day. His fundamental premise is that we need to make the time to learn, to reflect and to grow.

What he's really getting at is the truth that we truly need to Debrief.

We need to debrief what has been happening in our lives so that we can learn from it...and come away better prepared for the future. It sounds easy, and it actually is—once we learn to make debriefing a regular feature of our days.

I would even go so far as to argue that the less time we feel we have, the more we desperately need to carve out the time to figure out how things are actually going, simply to make sure that we don't unwittingly carry on down a dangerous path.

Make no mistake: in the flying world, once we're done flying a 6+ hour mission over hostile territory we're usually exhausted. Counting all of the planning that went in to the mission, the time spent preparing for and then conducting the mission briefing, and then the pre-flight preparation, the team is spent; we'd really just like to go to the chow hall, grab a bite, and then relax in our tents. But it's at this time that we make sure to take the time to think about everything that happened, specifically so that we can learn from it and grow.

We immediately go and debrief.

We do so because we know that with the passing of time comes the fading of memory, the ever-increasing inability to recall the full truth of what happened, which directly affects the quality of the process. We do so because we want EVERYONE WHO TOOK PART IN THE MISSION to be part of the debrief, because somewhere in the midst of the full team lies a lesson we all need to learn. We do so because it's OUR PROCESS, and we don't often deviate from it, specifically so that it remains ingrained in us.

When people ask me how often to debrief, I say, "more often than not." Peter suggests, "Think about where you do your best thinking and make it a habit to go there daily." In all cases it should become a habit.

In our business lives we need to take the time to think, to learn and reflect, to make sure we're growing and getting better over time. We really need to debrief and harness the full power of this tool to our tremendous advantage. It's actually that simple. Our challenge is only to go and do it.