Home > The Monday Musings Column > on times when thinking is a bad idea

on times when thinking is a bad idea

Sounds daft to propose that there are times when thinking is not too clever, but I firmly believe it to be true. I would not advocate it as a blanket strategy, but there are times when being able to block certain thoughts will pay dividends.

At school sometime in my teens the sports master told me to think of the next shot, not the last. This was during cricket practice and I did, to some degree, take his point on board. It was not easy to put into practice, but if I could concentrate on that next delivery about to come my way and forget everything else that was going on then it did seem to bring results.

Later in life, as I moved through the management ranks, the ability to compartmentalise, as it was referred to on one course that I attended, was a vital tool. To be able to prioritise tasks and focus on the most important despite all of the distractions going on around made a big difference, but it did need the ability to put certain things out of my mind. One of the tips that I picked up around that time was to ignore things that I could do nothing about until I could tackle them. Not only did it work, but it also took the sting out of the stress that jobs at that level carry.

Some people refer to this technique in derogatory terms as the Ostrich Principle; you hide your head in the sand and hope that which bothers you will go away. Maybe, but in my experience of real life some things do flare up and go away if you ignore them. If there are any repercussions you can tidy them up at your convenience or delegate it to your team where, quite often, it should have been dealt with anyway.

In the current Covid-19 world thinking about it too much is something I try to avoid. Working on the front line does sometimes feel like playing Russian roulette every day that I go to work. If I thought about it it would affect my performance and, in all probability, my mental health so the easy option is to not think about it. Yes I do focus on social distancing and hygiene matters related to the C thing, but not the thing itself.

In general it is best not to dwell on things that you cannot change. If you have made a mistake by all means reflect on it later and see if the is anything that you can doing to eliminate it happening again or to mitigate the impact. These are basic risk and crisis  management techniques anyway, but whatever you do don’t let that error get into your head and spoil your day. If you do it will not be the only problem that you have because, with your thoughts elsewhere, you will probably screw something else up.

So do think about what you do and are doing, but focus on them and keep your thoughts where you need them to be. There is a lot of not thinking in the art of thinking.

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