When and how do I do my best thinking?

After writing my last blog, I decided I would try to take time each week to be intentional about taking time to think.  I pictured myself sitting in my chair by the window in my office.

It is extremely comfortable to sit there. I like having something to sip perched on the small table beside the chair. My sip of choice depends on my mood, the time of day, and the weather. Lately it has been water with sliced cucumbers. Often it is lemon ginger tea. That's in the afternoons. In the morning, it may be strong coffee with milk or English breakfast tea with milk and honey.

I wish a thinking routine were a habit for me. I wish I could say I do it every day, in my chair by the window. But just as my beverage choice isn't the same everyday, perhaps I should pay attention to what that means in my life. I like that I'm not in my office everyday or even in New Jersey. It's my choice that there's very little predictability about when I might sit and think and sip for twenty minutes.  However, what I can make a habit is paying more attention to taking time to think. And, by writing about it I'm more aware of how and when I give myself permission to simply think. I like that.

Diana got me thinking about tools for prompting thought. My chair and just the right beverage definitely help me get in the mood to think. Writing (or typing) does too. The other day Michael had a wonderful pad. Sometimes I love a beautiful pad. But not always moleskin. Or a legal pad. While I enjoy having "the right pen" and just the right way to write down my thoughts, this changes too. Again - based on where I am and my mood. And what I want to think about. So, sometimes my tools are paper and pen. Other times my computer. Sometimes I need to make a list. And I want to type it - as bullets. Other times I need to make a table with columns and rows so that I can sort and organize my ideas. Then there are times I use Google to find stuff: a Ted talk to listen to or someone else's blog to read.  Earlier this week it was my camera. I wanted to think more about a memory that was sparked by something I saw as I walked down the street. By taking some photos I paused to be more observant. Taking the time to observe moved me from simply remembering to associating and then inventing.

Today my place is the living couch rather than my chair. It's Sunday morning... with strong French Roast coffee. And Google. When I began searching to spark my thinking, I looked up tools for thinking and found Daniel Dennett’s seven tools for thinking. Someone referenced him in a blog. Dennett's tools are not physical tools but constructs. One that I appreciated is the importance of valuing making a mistake as a prompt for deep reflection. Rather than feeling embarrassed when making a mistake, we can think of it as an opportunity to say, "Wow - I took a chance. It didn't work. So what can I take away?" Here's a quote from the blogger: Try to acquire the weird practice of savoring your mistakes, delighting in uncovering the strange quirks that led you astray. Then, once you have sucked out all the goodness to be gained from having made them, you can cheerfully set them behind you and go on to the next big opportunity."

Another interesting find about thinking came from my search of when do we do our best thinking? A study from Mareike Wietha and Rose Zacks found that creative ideas often come at our least optimal times. Strong morning-types were better at solving the more mysterious insight problems in the evening, when they apparently weren’t at their best. Exactly the same pattern, but in reverse, was seen for people who felt that they were at the brightest in the evening: they performed better on the insight task when they were unfocused in the morning. The theory goes that as our minds tire at our suboptimal times then our focus broadens. We are able to see more opportunities and make connections with an open mind. When we are working in our ideal time of day, our mind’s focus is honed to a far greater degree, potentially limiting our creative options.

How, when, with what do you think? Please share your thinking!