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Year-end is a time to spring clean   our ‘Thought Baggage’

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Today is the end of another year, and while budgets are being formulated, accounts are being finalised and decisions are being made regarding next year’s product or service line, it’s also a good time to take stock of our ‘thought baggage’ and do some spring cleaning. Why you ask? Because as knowledge workers think for a moment of how we earn a living. Whatever your job, be it a CEO or a Management Trainee, there are only four types of core activities that we can perform (and that we get paid for), that is to Think, Listen, Talk and Write. In fact a 2011 study of CEO time management, jointly conducted by the London School of Economics, Harvard University and the European University Institute found that CEOs spend 60% of their time in meetings, 25% on phone calls and public events and 15% of their time working by themselves. Each of these broad categorisations and the efficiency required at them encapsulates the four core activities expected of every successful CEO. However while the latter three activities are where we tend to spend most of our time, it’s our thinking skills that influence these the most. Thinking, especially critically, is regarded the key weapon in the arsenal of any thriving employee. A survey of 768 managers and executives by the American Management Association in 2012, found that three out of four managers deem critical thinking skills (from their employees) as the most important factor in helping their organisation grow. Of secondary and tertiary importance were communication skills, and creativity and innovation respectively. Yet of all the four activities, thinking, at least critically, is the one skill most susceptible to impotence, stress and the negativities of daily life. As business owners and even students, sink deeper in debt, handle larger workloads with poor time management skills and suffer from the failure to reach targets, their ability to think efficiently suffers from the emotional tension. In turn, especially if they’re knowledge workers, the other three activities suffer as a result and once again lead to higher stress levels that impact their thinking. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be stemmed at the bud and makes one realise that it’s no wonder the self-help and self-improvement industry (motivational seminars, stress-management programs and general “solve-your-problem” books) is an $11 billion industry. At the end of this year as we’re worrying about the marketability about our product line, the precision of our budgets and the validity of our decisions, it’s also a time to think about how we think. It’s time to cleanse out negative thoughts, shed unproductive excess thoughts (cluttering our thinking) and ‘rewire’ our thoughts for the New Year. We’ll find that then; we’d hardly have to worry, because we thought it all out.

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