I recently completed my version of a think week, taking some time for reflection in New York and West Texas during a natural work transition. My think week was apparently less stringent than the isolated-cabin-in-the-woods version of the think week, but I also oriented more toward actionable changing in addition to just thinking. Here are five questions to consider when structuring a think (change) week:

Confirm Commitment

Do you really just want a vacation? If you’re primarily looking for a break from work, consider taking a nice vacation. You can step away from usual routines, visit different places, and socialize with friends and family. You can physically and mentally refresh. A vacation is not the same as an intentional, structured, immersive thinking experience. In my case, I knew I wanted a solo week with more intellectual stimulation than a typical vacation.

Set Objectives

What do you want to accomplish from your think week? As you develop contextual goals for your think week (and you definitely should have goals of some sort), consider the active mind’s continuous cycle of saturation-incubation-illumination. Saturate with new information, incubate to form your understanding, and illuminate to actionable ideas. Many think weeks are focused on saturation (read 100 articles, etc.), which is great, but it’s worthwhile to take things further in the cycle. I personally had objectives related to saturation (art immersion), incubation (idea engagement), and illumination (mindset shifts).

“Time allows us to saturate our mind with context, so we can incubate and spark the eureka moments of illumination that connect the dots, snap together patterns, and discover the options that allow us to find our paths.” –Pete Blaber

Work a Plan

What is the optimal ecosystem for your think week? Intentionally select an environment suited to your objectives. Consider your preferred levels of seclusion, stimulation, convenience, etc. as well as timing and location. Determine what to bring with you and what to set aside. Set a simple schedule for each day going into the week to help provide structure and minimize random activities. My week had an art theme and an intentional urban-rural contrast, hence New York and West Texas.

Leave Space

How will you adapt your schedule during your think week? Build enough flexibility into your week to incorporate positive distractions. Rather than overloading your week with expectations and to-do lists, focus on a few key items each day and maintain a more natural cycle. Lingering on an activity of interest? Fine. Dinner runs long? Fine. Topics pivot into more exploration? Fine. Have the space to chase ideas and evolve the week as you go. I wouldn’t have stumbled upon Aki Onda if I had kept a super tight schedule, for example.

Make Change

What will you do differently after your think week? Develop your thinking into tangible actions to realize change. Identify things you can do (or stop doing) immediately as you complete the think week. Having brought Russell Brand’s Recovery book on my think week, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about addictions, and more precisely how to either bolster or break routines and habits to better align my life. Thinking has to get to action to be meaningful, even if the action is stripping away other action.

Summary think week (change week) checklist:

  • Confirm Commitment – Do you really just want a vacation?
  • Set Objectives – What do you want to accomplish?
  • Work a Plan – What is the optimal ecosystem?
  • Leave Space – How will you adapt your schedule?
  • Make Change – What will you do differently?