The 5% Challenge

I am very intentional about my use of time, working from a schedule that I create weeks in advance.  But that does not mean that I work head down for 8 hours without taking a break.  I once worked with a high-level financial executive that told me for 26 years at his previous company he had worked “head down, pencil up.”  And he was dreadfully out of touch with currents trends and opportunities.

Instead of working “head down” even 8 hours straight, I suggest you build in time for “head up.”  In Disciplined Dreaming, Josh Linkner outlines his 5% Challenge.  He suggests taking 5 percent of your time to get away from your desk and go to a place of inspiration.  Turn off your phone and turn on your imagination.  I just now came in from 20 minutes of weeding in front of my office.  The warm spring weather is causing everything to explode in growth and color – including the weeds.  And having done that I was ready to once again approach my writing with renewed energy and creativity.

5% of a 40-hour work week is only 2 hours.  In the always on, 24/7 business environment we tend to be overwhelmed with checking email, meeting deadlines, updating our Facebook status, keeping up with appointments, meetings and conference calls.  With that constant pressure how likely is it that you will come up with great ideas?

Thomas Edison would go down to the water’s edge each morning, throw out his line – with no bait – and then watch the bobber for an hour until his thinking was ready for the day. Andrew Carnegie would go into an empty room for hours at a time as he was “sitting for ideas.”  Henry David Thoreau wandered through the woods around Walden Pond, recognizing that the free time created fertile ground for original thinking.

What could possibly happen if you scheduled 5% of your time to go to an art museum, walk through the local park, work in your garden, split wood, take a small child to the zoo, or just sat quietly – expecting ideas?  Carve out this intentional time to think, create, explore, dream, and imagine.   I’m confident it will become one of the most valued times of your week – not wasted or stolen time but rather the most essential and valuable contribution to yourself, your company, your business and those you love.

What helps you find your most creative self and your best ideas?

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