In business there are two main activities: thinking and doing. There is a tendency to place too much value on doing and not enough value on thinking. People like doctors and lawyers, who first and foremost we perceive as thinkers, bill for their services by the hour or procedure. Most value exchange occurs based on the doing and not the thinking. So how do you value your thinking time?
What does thinking look like?
We know what doing looks like. You take your car in for service and the mechanic works on you car. You can peek back in the shop and see them doing things to your car. Thinking looks different.
Recently, I sat down and started the doing part of pulling together the bits and pieces for a marketing campaign we were about to launch. About an hour into the work, I paused because it felt like I was going in the wrong direction. I grabbed the piece of paper pictured with this post and over the next couple hours changed the entire May marketing campaign for ColorMetrix.
That’s right. It took two hours to do the thinking and pondering needed to fill that paper. It looked like me sitting in a coffee shop, sipping coffee, staring at the ceiling and about every 10 or 15 minutes jotting a note on the paper. (It was a Friday afternoon and the week had been long. That could account for the slowness of my thinking.) My point is that I’m never going to be directly compensated for those two hours.
The payoff of thinking time
The time you spend thinking could be spent doing tasks like answering emails, processing orders, calling customer and things of that nature. So how do you justify two hours spent mostly staring at the ceiling? The trick is to be honest with yourself and realize that thinking time is not screwing off time. Sure, your thinking time could be spent doing other tasks. But what are those other activities worth? When you figure out the answer to that question, that’s the opportunity cost of your thinking time. Whatever you’re thinking about should have a return on investment in excess of the value of those other tasks.
In my earlier example, that means my new campaign has to have more incremental value to ColorMetrix than those two hours of my thinking time is worth. Otherwise, I should have just gone with the original campaign idea and completed the tasks associated with it.
What’s your return on thinking?
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