As I write this, I have the urge to check Facebook and LinkedIn. I feel the need to see if there’s anything new in the news. I want to minimize the page upon which I’m typing and look for new e-mail.
I also know that such satisfying those desires, in a way, is a drug that’s killing purposeful thinking and thoughtful action for millions of leaders around the world.
And it’s only getting worse, with intentional efforts to make these distractions ever more addictive increasing daily. Web sites need faithful eyeballs to boost their revenue.
Yet I argue that leaders must practice distraction-free existence, even if just for a short time every day. One way to do this is through reading—deep reading, the kind in which you lose track of time—not skimming the way we often do the newspaper or online content.
Another practical way to do this is through writing. Below are four reasons I think leaders should write more.
- Writing focuses thinking. If you’re anything like me, forcing yourself to write about a topic requires you to transform general thoughts or opinions into identifiable ideas. Additionally, the process of writing for me goes hand-in-hand with figuring out what I actually think about a topic. The very process of articulating thoughts through language is thought-provoking. And having clarity about a topic streamlines decision-making and creates a solid foundation for your point of view.
- Writing promotes reflection. Experience is a wonderful teacher, but only if we take the time to understand what we’ve learned. Otherwise, we can have the same experience over and over again and learn nothing. Imagine if we all took a few minutes to document what we learned after our failures and successes. Such reflection, through focused writing, would become a font of knowledge to guide us.
- Writing enhances mood. When you write about intensely positive experiences, you begin to relive the experience in your mind. It boosts your mood and potentially even your health. Try a gratitude journal—simply write about the various things for which you’re grateful today. If Viktor Frankl could find meaning and even joy while under the horror of Nazi imprisonment, I think we all can.
- Writing enhances stories. One powerful way in which humans have built shared meaning and understanding for thousands and thousands of years is through storytelling. We use stories to communicate various truths of life to our children; we use stories about heroes and villains in our organizations to show what “good” and “bad” behavior looks like. Leaders can use writing as a way to better articulate stories about what’s going on, where the group is headed, what needs to be done. Those stories, in writing, can endure and be shared.
So if you’re feeling like you need to reset and gain some clarity, try writing. In fact, why don’t you quit reading this and do it right now.
Find this thought provoking? Leave a comment, like and share!
About Ben Baran
Ben Baran, Ph.D., is probably one of the few people in the world who is equally comfortable in a university classroom, a corporate boardroom and in full body armor carrying a U.S. government-issued M4 assault rifle. Visit: www.benbaran.com.