Gathering Purple Time


I remember the day I had my first mobile phone. It was fitted into my car and meant that all that “dead time” I spent driving I could now dedicate to catching up with my calls and keeping on top of my game.

I also remember my first laptop. Anywhere I went I could review my emails, work on documents and tinker around with spreadsheets and then I got my hands on an aircard so I could be on-line as well. Train journey’s had never been so productive.

But there was something else too. My focus had changed. Sure, I spent time building forecasts and long term plans but most of my attention was directed towards the operational here-and-now. Not such a bad thing perhaps but with all my “dead time” went the ideas; the smaller innovations and the light-bulb moments that used to come to me in the car and on train journey’s – I spent precious little time working on my business and almost all of it working in my business.

In Flair we call this thinking time Purple Time and I happen to believe it is vital to anybody who is on a journey: wants to move forward from where they are now to a different place. I had pretty much lost most of my Purple Time.

Luckily for me about this time I took up running again and discovered a whole new source of Purple Time that was even more productive than before. As soon as I was in my stride, usually a mile or two, I would forget I was running and my mind would be somewhere else. All I had to do was hurriedly right down my ideas as soon as I returned home and I was fine. The shower had a tendency to wash ideas away along with the dirt and the sweat.

I know that a number of people reading this will dispense with the idea of having spare time to think and would prefer to be doing all the time. I am perfectly fine with that belief. But if you recognise that most progress comes from somebody somewhere thinking “ah ha! Now that’s a much better way of doing things” then you must manufacture some new Purple Time of your own. This is especially true for managers and business developers where this kind of deep thinking is crucial.

Mobiles, laptops, WiFi, Blackberrys and PDA’s mean we can be connected to our operational duties pretty much anywhere on the planet (except on the train from Birmingham to London of course where the signal strength is lousy) leaving precious little time for anything else.

Make some space for yourself. Use your Purple Time to work on your business and let innovation and creativity flood back into your business lives. Here’s a few ideas to try out: –

  • Next time you are on a train journey sit in the quiet zone and leave your laptop and your work in your bag.
  • I know that strictly speaking lunch is for wimps but at least one lunchtime a week leave the office and walk for an hour on your own.
  • If you are an exercise-minded person you have probably already discovered Purple Time but if you haven’t then why not avoid watching MTV on the treadmill and see how it goes.
  • I would not recommend thinking too hard whilst driving – all your senses should be focused on the road but just turn off your radio and see what happens.

Give these ideas a try and do persist – it will take you a little while to find your “Purple Feet” but once you have them there is no going back. Oh and do leave the iPod at home. Music helps you think but prevents deep levels of thought being reached.

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Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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Posted in Behavioural Change
One comment on “Gathering Purple Time
  1. Totally agree Mike. I get some of my best ideas relaxing in a hot bath. And for broader strategic thinking I try to schedule in an annual Think Week where I go away, disconnect from the world, take lots of reading material with me, and think about how to apply some of the up and coming business and technology ideas to my business.

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Mike Ames

Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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