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Why Ad Agency Leaders Need to Take Think Time

Take Time to Think

Think of your brain as a muscle. Regular exercise keeps it in tone, but you need to balance exercise with rest periods to achieve peak function. You may be able to bench press 195 pounds but you wouldn’t do it all day, every day, right? 

Here are a few benefits of taking regular think time:

  • Knowing a break is coming up helps you focus intensively on projects right up to your designated time out.
  • Big problems will begin to shrink because you know you will have think time to generate solutions.
  • BHGs (big hairy goals) will seem less intimidating, especially as you begin to integrate ideas from your team.


Refresh and relax and let great ideas come to you. Study after study indicates that relaxation and meditation can open your brain’s receptors to new impressions, connections and relationships that feed great ideas. Take a day off, use your vacation time, or just meditate for a few minutes. Mindfulness is a gift.

Give your head a break from daily needs and actions. You can’t put in time on the long view when your vision and focus is crowded with the right now. Eat lunch out of office, or just take a walk around the block.

Delegate to managers and step back from daily operations. They gain experience and confidence, you gain time to consider big picture issues.

Read. Bill Gates, Microsoft maven and philanthropist, has a lifelong habit of reading a book a week. Deep read about a specific topic, or delve into outside interests, but read.

Tackle new skills. Training courses can benefit leaders as well as employees. Studies don’t need to be work-related. Take a continuing ed. course at the local community college. Learn how to throw a pot at the area ceramics studio. Take a painting course, or a museum tour. Learn how to cook a new style of cuisine. Engage your brain in new learning and experiences.

Leave work at work. Learn to let go of work as soon as you leave the office. Leave your subconscious mind to worry at problems—try to focus consciously on the moment you are in. Be with family, hang with friends, or enjoy a walk in the woods (“forest bathing” is trendy, but a walk anywhere outdoors is refreshing). Leave work’s issues for the workplace. 

Carve out think time in the office. You don’t have to leave the office to make time for thinking, reading, or brain meanderings. Designate a set period each week—an afternoon or even just a few hours when you are not to be disturbed. Then spend it just thinking, jotting ideas in a journal or sketchbook, or reading. Management gurus cite the Rule of 50: 50% of a leader’s time should be unscheduled. Use some of it to just think.

Share ideas with your team. Some ideas you can develop yourself, but many will benefit from team input and feedback. Make a habit of meeting to share ideas with partners, managers or the entire agency team. Encourage them to take think time, too.

Invite clients to take a break with you. Relationships are important in the agency business, and inviting a valued client to share some downtime is a great way to bond and get to know the client better. Don’t make it about business—it’s break time!

Make sure employees take time to refresh. Vacations, days off, even group excursions can help your team stay fresh, and bring fresh ideas to the table. Enforce time off if you must. Watch for signs teams or individuals are pressing too hard for too long. Burnout benefits no one.

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