Obama on “Time to Think”

The debate on distractions and thinking made it into the US presidential race last week. During his visit to England, Barack Obama was overheard speaking with British Conservative Party leader David Cameron.

According to Obama, “the most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you’re doing is thinking.” I’d imagine it must be more difficult for the President of the US to set aside time to think than it is for even the busiest lawyer, but it’s positive that this is getting broader recognition. Maybe a backlash really is brewing against the way we are being programmed for continuous partial attention these days.

Now for even greater productivity, Obama needs to make sure he actually takes that vacation he mentioned, something a full third of American workers fail to do.


  1. There’s an episode of The West Wing where President Bartlett pretends to make an off-guard comment in front of a rolling camera after a TV interview was over — he made disparaging remarks about his main opponent’s intelligence, which everyone assumed was a gaffe, but he actually did it on purpose because it got everyone talking about whether his opponent was in fact stupid.

    I thought of this because Obama and Cameron are two sharp, media-savvy politicians, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they “accidentally” had this conversation about the importance of thoughtfulness, downtime, delegating to your experts, and so forth, near a live microphone. It makes them look both statesmanlike and refreshingly normal — they’re busy guys, just like the rest of us. Accidental intimacy is powerful stuff.

    All that aside, they’re absolutely correct, and it’s encouraging to see that the two probable future leaders of the US and UK understand something about the everyday aspects of effective leadership.

  2. In the law firm context, one of the rarest docket entries is “thinking about a problem” – yet it is just that hard thinking that clients need. The billable hour tradition rewards bustle