Thinking Is Underrated

“Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?~Winnie the Pooh

A question—do you have a recurring appointment in your calendar for “thinking?” An even bigger question, would you be embarrassed if the boss came into your work place during your thinking time? And would your boss (or you) think you were wasting time?

Maybe the question Pooh should ask us, “Did we ever start to think?”

I once heard Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough talk at a black tie dinner celebrating our city’s extraordinary library. He said the time he allocates for thinking is more important than the time he allocates for writing. He calendars thinking time with the same priority as writing time. But somehow, our western minds feel we are wasting valuable work time if we simply take time to think.

Perhaps if more time were spent thinking by western workers and leaders—the BP Oil Spill could have been avoided, the republic of America wouldn’t be in debt to a communist country, we wouldn’t be dependent upon fanatical Muslims for our energy supply, more books like Trumanand The Road would be written, more movies like Inception, and creatives wouldn’t be fleeing America by the thousands. Perhaps…thinking is underrated.

Just a thought.

“What luck for rulers, that men do not think.” ~Adolph Hitler

What do you think about my thoughts?

47 Responses to “Thinking Is Underrated”

  1. Thinking is something of the past and is a tragedy. I have heard countless friend who are teachers who are getting so many plagiarized papers these days. It as if today’s youth are loosing the ability to come up with any original though. They have got so complacent with the answers being right at their fingertips.

  2. I do love the internet but I think our increasing time spent online makes it more and more difficult to think coherently for long spaces of time. When you get used to flipping from one thing to another, clicking on a link halfway through an article, or carrying on several conversations at once, you lose the talent of being able to follow a single thought through to it’s conclusion. I find myself with so many more half-finished thoughts that never develop into fully-formed ideas because I get distracted. In fact, I feel like writing has come to replace my thinking, because it’s only the act of recording the thought that keeps me focused on it.

    • @Orual, Very good point. And well-taken. Our attention spans have definitely decreased. Thinking is underrated—but multi-tasking is definitely overrated. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  3. i don’t mean this flippantly, but thinking is hard. as a guy that owns a small business and does most of the heavy lifting himself, it’s especially hard to create scheduled time for letting my mind wander into thoughts & ideas, sift through them, look them over & pick some (or none) to develop & wrestle with. thanks for the challenging post. maybe if i spent more time thinking i could spend less time with heavy lifting…

    • @newton, Newton, Great point. It is a challenge for us small business owners and entrepreneurs to carve out thinking time. But I really feel it does lead to “less heavy lifting.” Thanks. Not flippant at all!

  4. I love this, Randy. You are dead-on!

  5. You hit on the point of how a boss would feel about seeing us “thinking”. Honestly, I think both my boss and I need to schedule thinking time and many issues would not occur as you posted. I find the more I multitask the more I feel a bit lost and over whelmed. I don’t feel as if my cognitive thinking skills are even in tact any more. Details are lost, I can’t remember names or dates and struggle sometimes to place a coherent thought on paper, ( in this case on blog). Not only am I an employee who is on call 24/7, 7 days a week but I am a single parent. Juggling is what I do. Both you and Sheila Walsh have struck a chord with me. I think I need to change how I do life a bit.

  6. Johnna Bigelow July 27, 2010 at 16:53

    One of my favorite speakers/authors is Jonah Lehrer, an expert in neuroscience. I loved his first work, “Proust Was a Neuroscientist” and have purchased his latest, “How We Decide” (I think that’s the title.) Anyway, during a presentation I heard in June at Chapman University, he said one of the greatest dangers of social networking is we are so worried about being connected to each other, we’ve forfeited our time spent daydreaming. Instead of riding the train and staring out the window daydreaming, we’re tweeting or checking facebook. Some of the greatest inventions/ideas of our time started during the “invention” of daydreaming. So, I would add to your calendar a regular appointment to daydream.

    • @Johnna Bigelow, I LOVE it! When I walk downtown I refuse to look at my phone, because I want to enjoy the experience of walking and nature. But indeed, daydreaming is also underrated!! Dr. Steve Sample calls it “Free Thinking.” I will search out these Lehrer books!

      • Johnna Bigelow July 27, 2010 at 18:51

        @Randy Elord, Oh, you’ll LOVE the Proust book. He draws a connection between how creative people, throughout the ages, had an inherent understanding of how the brain works, long before scientists proved it. As a creative person, I think you’ll really enjoy it!

  7. I will get back to you, I need to schedule some thinking time…

    Okay I am back. I have thought about it and I need to do this.
    All kidding aside, great post and reminder that often times I just expect things to happen and never give them thought.
    I need to really develop a time for sabbath and also a time to think.
    Now to create a think tank type place to go free of distractions. That might be a lot harder then I think.

  8. Brillaint post. I fasted from Facebook and Twitter (so essentially my only Internet outlets) for the month of June. It was astonishing to me how much time I had. What’s worse– I didn’t know what to do with it. It took me days to realize that being alone with my own thoughts, thinking, and pondering what I feel, who I am, etc. was as freeing as it was terrifying. We, humans, are a glorious and mysterious thing. Made in the image of God and capable of more than we can fathom, should we choose to recognize and harness it. I would venture to say that “thinking” is only for brave and courageous. How many of us are simply scared of the weight and glory of our true selves and the responsibility that it demands?

    • @Meredith Dunn, So true. During a month long sabbatical and technology fast, I was shocked at how frightening it was to be alone with “the weight and glory of my true self.”

      Your words are exquisite and so to the point!

      Thanks for joining the conversation.

      • @Randy Elord, I love this idea of the “internet fast” – I guess I didn’t use that term at the time, but I have done TV and Talk Radio fasts and it has been Sooooo refreshing… and I was already planning a blog event in August so I can have all my posts pre-scheduled and just take a week off to “THINK!” (I hope!).

  9. Here, here! Multi-tasking overrated, thinking underrated, joy and beauty – severely neglected. Thx for the thought provoking post.

  10. Thank you so much for this THOUGHTFUL post, Randy. I love the idea of “scheduling” in time to think (and not viewing it as wasted time). Many of my most productive moments are when I simply think – free of distractions and technology.

    • @Stephanie, Mine as well. It’s no wonder we have so many ideas in the shower and laying in bed at night. It is that kind of free time. Free of distractions and technology. Thanks, Stephanie.

  11. Just this week I scheduled a couple hours of thinking time on my calendar and labeled it as “Thinking in seclusion.” I went somewhere no one could bother me. I caught a little lighthearted flack when I came back to my office (several people who were looking for me had seen this on my calendar). Someone asked, “are you back from your seclusion?” :) I’ll be the butt of jokes all day long if it means I get some refreshing brain time.

    Great post Randy. Thanks for challenging us!

  12. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be wonder-full again?

  13. This post made me think of this story:

    It’s said that Henry Ford once enlisted an efficiency expert to examine the operation of his company. While his report was generally favorable, the man did express reservations about a particular employee.

    “It’s that man down the corridor,” he explained. “Every time I go by his office he’s just sitting there with his feet on his desk. He’s wasting your money.”

    “That man,” replied Ford, “once had an idea that saved us millions of dollars. At the time, I believe his feet were planted right where they are now.”

  14. Ha!! Johnna, Lehrer needs to speak at my Hmmmmmm. Just followed him on Twitter. His article about INCEPTION is great! Thanks so much. I love this kind of dialogue!!

  15. Excellent post, and timely. I have a feeling I’ll be working thinking time into my schedule from here on out…!

  16. Thanks for sharing this Randy, and for starting the conversation. I have enjoyed the comments and replies as much as the original post itself.

    My focus these days is scaling my life to live in moderation – take what is enough and leave the excess for the benefit of others. One of the excesses I’m discovering is exactly the subject at hand. Using the internet, TV, magazines, etc, to merely transfer the thoughts of others into my own is a mindless task. Unless you take the time to think and meditate on what you’ve read, heard, or seen it is learning by osmosis. You wake up one day to realize you have no original thoughts of your own.

    I recently just watched “The Book of Eli.” In the setting of that post-apocolyptic film people thought they had lost all material possessions. In the end what turned out to be more valuable than pure gold was a person’s mind. I hope it doesn’t take a nuclear war for us to realize the gift of our minds and its ability to take in knowledge, process it, and turn it into something meaningful for God, ourselves, and others.


    • @Bryan, Thanks, Bryan. Yes the conversation rocks! I just watched “Book of Eli” as well. Really makes you “think!” Thanks for joining in.

    • Bryan & Randy, While I haven’t seen “Book of Eli” yet, my family & I have been living most of this summer with all of our “stuff” packed away in storage. The only exception was our summer clothes, computers, my kindle & journal. It’s amazing how much time I have found to think and do new things. It’s also amazing to find what you can live without. While I’m looking forward to when we can get our things back and can settle in somewhere new, I also know that there will be a lot that will be given away when we do.

      Now reading through all these comments has added to my reading & watching list – giving more to think about as well. Thanks for the post Randy. You always challenge us.

  17. Hi, new to your blog and you had me at the first line. Thinking. Thinking about thinking ~ cool.

    Was starting to think I was an obsolete being insofar as how much I enjoy the process (when I find time!) The most important feature of thinking is reflecting. The freeform brainstorming of the recent events or a conversation in one’s own mind; developing fresh ideas and carrying them out. We all agree that time is what hinders this. I read @MichaelHyatt’s recent post on the subject and appreciate the method of penciling yourself in the day’s schedule. Cannot discount the value of original thought. Glad I discovered your blog… will read and ponder!

    • @Carmel, Welcome!! and thanks for joining the conversation. Reflection is a vital part of thinking. It makes me think it would be fun to break down the basics of thinking. Hmmm.

  18. Adding blogpost & twitter

  19. My 12 and 15 year old nephews have “screen week” and “non-screen week” every other week. On screen weeks they can do as much TV, computer, and video games as they want, as long as it doesn’t interfere with chores, school, etc. During non-screen weeks it always takes a few days for them to remember how to “play” again – which is really just imaginative thinking, especially for the 12-year-old. Sometimes I think I should start the same policy, but I haven’t actually tried it yet.

    • @Susan P, Yes, we limited the hours each week so that it wouldn’t be a shock to their system. Our girls were allowed 75 minutes of television Monday thru Friday and they were free to choose how much on weekends to a certain extent.

      They are in their 20’s now and both feel they will implement that same program with their children. They are both professional artists, voracious readers and have the ability to hold their own in conversation with anyone they meet.

      I feel there is a direct correlation between television viewing and lack of thinking.

      Thanks, Susan.

  20. Ahhh I am one of those teachers – it is so true and so sad, and what has gotten me sorta burnt out as a teacher is just trying to get them to THINK much less learn the skills and concepts I am setting forth!

  21. The thing is, our society wants everything to be ultra fast – instant. Online banking, emails, Twitter, texting, fast food, video games. The other day I was fretting that my McDonald’s order was taking longer than 5 minutes and I had to stop and ask myself what was WRONG with me! We are too used to “speed” as a way of life, and we are fast growing a generation of children who can’t sit still LONG enough to think! Metacognition (thinking about thinking) is not the norm… but how I long for just simple time to think.
    Notice how when people get really stuck/overwhelmed with problem, they put their hands out to motion for silence and say “I just need to THINK!” It would seem that the act of deep thought precludes other mental stimulation. Hmmm.. much to think about.

  22. Randy,
    Great reminder to set aside time to just think.

    One little niggling point: I don’t view writing and thinking as different activities; rather, I frequently use writing (especially journaling and free-writing–along the lines of what Julia Cameron calls “morning pages”) as a means to help clarify my thinking. My thinking tends to be muddled and looping in great circles if I don’t write it down so I can see what I’m thinking.


  1. How Do You Harvest Great Ideas? « Geoffrey Webb - July 29, 2010

    […] Randy Elrod‘s post, Thinking is Underrated, he suggests that we actually schedule time to think. I couldn’t agree more. As leaders […]

Created by Randy Elrod

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