The Best Time of Day for Business Thinking

If you’re among those who feel there’s no longer enough time to think at work, you have plenty of company.

With increased workloads and long workdays, businesspeople are forced to focus on the physical work while at the office and save the thinking for other times and places.

The majority of senior executives and managers say that when it comes to personal thinking related to business, the most effective location is at home, based on a nationwide survey by NFI Research.

The times that most businesspeople find their thinking to be most effective is between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., followed by times before 7 a.m.

Fewer than half of executives and managers find the office to be the location where their thinking is most effective.

"I have found that my mind is open to fresh ideas when I’m away from the office, but still on business," said one survey respondent. "I bring the ideas back and am able to jump on them when I return."

Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. is the time least effective for thinking for the majority. This is also the time that’s the least productive for executives and managers, based on a separate survey.

Commuting time is the second most effective time for thinking, based on the survey.

"My daily commute is just about an hour each way," said one manager. "I find the end of the day by myself in the car is the best time to reflect and focus on either issues or direction of my business unit."

Said another: "I need a period of accumulating information and then a quiet time to be reflective. The quiet time is usually while in the car. I carry a tape recorder to make notes of thoughts."

A quarter of managers say their most effective business thinking is on weekends as well as after 8 p.m.

"I do a lot of business thinking when I go jogging after work in the 5 to 8 p.m. time range," said one respondent.

Survey respondents cited numerous activities that they use as thinking time.

"The best place is at the gym when I am on the treadmill," said one. "I do my best thinking while mowing the grass," said another.

"I seem to achieve my highest levels of creativity either while working out, or in the morning shower," said another respondent. "In fact, I keep a small voice recorder nearby to log my pearls of inspiration. Sad, but true."

"I find the shower in the morning to be an excellent opportunity to prepare for the day’s events or think about more strategic issues," another manager said.

Several respondents cited jogging, running and various other forms of physical activity as their best thinking time. "Exercise seems to unleash some creative juices for me," said one manager.

Several respondents also cited various methods for capturing their thoughts, from making notes to keeping notepads by their bedside for middle-of-the-night ideas.

And then there is golf, a favorite pastime for many in business. "Nothing like walking a couple of holes on the golf course to get my mind around a good business problem," said one executive.

Since the least effective thinking and productive time is between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., a little midday golf might not be such a bad idea!

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