“The Six Thinking Hats” and Eliminating Time Wasters on a Crisp, Autumn Monday

The crisp, cool air invigorates me as I walk along the sidewalk drinking a warm coffee to start the day. Taking in the beautiful display of orange, reddish and gold fall foliage, I sit down to plan my week. It’s Monday. A new beginning. The weekly cycle repeats with the regularity of the changing seasons. I work on projects that require focus and self-discipline since I manage my own time. I need to remain motivated and inspired to pursue goals that are not only for my benefit, but for the benefit and encouragement of people in other parts of the world so I pray, plan, read a chapter of the Bible, read a chapter of the book I’m studying, then get to work.

I came across a new idea yesterday that captured my attention: “Six Thinking Hats”, a parallel thinking process developed by Edward de Bono to help people become more productive, focused and mindfully involved. The image of hats made the idea stick as I remembered passing my favorite tea shop last week where I saw a group of ladies in their late autumn years delightfully sipping tea from ornate cups while wearing distinctive red hats. De Bono’s Red Hat signifies feelings, hunches and intuition. When wearing this hat, you can express emotions and feelings, likes and dislikes, or stronger loves and hates.

But what if you are sitting in a group of red hat ladies wearing a lone, White Hat, which represents the concrete realist who thrives on information? You want the facts, just the facts. A woman left a meeting the other week in frustration over the “feelings-centered” focus of the group. I think she was wearing a white hat in a group of red hats.

Think of the possible glee and relief she might feel if a team, gathered for whatever objective, separated thinking into six clear functions? And think of what ruts people could get out of by wearing a different hat. By mentally switching hats, you can redirect conversation or the flow of a meeting. Or you can use it as a personal tool to redirect your thoughts when you are in a quagmire. Sounds like a great idea! I am eager to try it.

Ok, so I told you about the red and white hats. Here are the other four:

The Yellow Hat

This hat symbolizes brightness and optimism. The wearers of this hat shift towards exploring the positives of whatever is being discussed or worked on as a team. You can only consider the positive values and benefits.

The Black Hat

This is the hat of judgment. While wearing this hat, you play the devil’s advocate and consider why something may not work. It is important to spot potential problems, so this hat is both necessary and useful if worn for brief periods. Never overuse the black hat.

The Green Hat

Your innovators will enjoy wearing this hat, but they will want to wear it all the time. This hat focuses on creativity, possibilities and new ideas. It is an opportunity to offer new concepts, new ways of doing things.

The Blue Hat

This is the hat worn by people chairing meetings. If the group is stymied because ideas are running dry, they may direct the group into Green Hat thinking. When contingency plans are needed, they can ask for Black Hat thinking, etc.

This sounds like a great way to foster productivity, creativity and to get people out of familiar thought patterns.

I tend to prefer the green, yellow and white hats.

Another boost to productivity is getting rid of time wasters. Here are a few common ones:

External Time Wasters

1. Personal interruptions

2. Phone calls and text messages

3. E-mail barrages

4. Short attention span

5. Social media (limit number of minutes per day)

6. Your daily energy cycle (do the work that requires the greatest focus and energy before 2pm)

7. Choosing to work in places like Starbucks, unless you are energized by noise.

Internal Time Wasters

1. Lack of delegation

2. Tyranny of the urgent

3. Procrastination

4. Perfectionism

5. Lack of planning – try adding the following segments of planning to your schedule

daily (10 – 15 minutes)

weekly (30 – 45 minutes)

monthly (a few hours)

quarterly (half a day)

yearly (1 to 3 days)

6. Lack of a Gospel life plan or personal mission statement – we all need purpose and vision for our lives to keep us from distractions and discouragement. God has a mission for each of us.

So let’s move forward into a more productive week impacting our world. Hat’s off to you.

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