I've been fortunate in my career to meet a lot of different people with a variety of views on the world, career, technology, and more. I've learned a lot about various things by focusing on conversations with these people and getting alone time with them, just talking. This is one reason I make it a point to get a couple quiet, focused conversations with a few person at events, and I'll usually bail out of dinners with more than 6 people. They're just too chaotic and less attractive to me when I'd rather have an engaging chat.
I was reminded of a few pieces of advice I've received in life while watching Jes Borland's keynote at the Chicago Code Camp. It's a nice talk, and worth a bit of your time to help you reset your view of the world and remember to choose the things that matter to you. Certainly Jes' advice to learn to say "no" is some of the best advice I've ever learned in my life. I'm still trying to get better at this, but I am learning to let some opportunities go by and not agonize. Time is far and away the most valuable resource I have in life, and I value it more each day as I age.
One of the best pieces of advice, though, came from @sqlandy. Years ago, as we were both working full time jobs and keeping SQLServerCentral going at night, he let me know that we were treading water, just doing the same things we'd been doing and thinking about driving our enterprise forward. He'd noticed the same problem at work, with so many people letting themselves get caught up in day to day tasks and not looking ahead. We end up worrying about getting a query done, or checking a server, or writing an email, updating our resume, getting dinner cooked, and we are not coming up with ways to improve their job, career, life, server monitoring, development habits, and more. We're not actively moving in a direction that matters to each of us.
Jes reminded me of the need for thinking time in her keynote. We all need some time that isn't devoted or focused on a task, or a particular endeavor. We need time that let's us just think about anything, or everything related to a topic. Unstructured time that lets our mind wander over possibilities, opportunities, or even evaluating some course of action. Time away from a keyboard, time to think about how you might change your world.
I often find running or swimming is good time for me. Taking a known route, not worried about speed or pace, just plodding along and letting my mind wander. Sometimes I'll even end up walking, or sitting by the side of the pool, just thinking because my body won't move on automatic when I get deep in thought. I have sometimes tried to just sit and think, staring out the window, letting my thoughts take me where they will.
Life is busy, and it's easy to get caught up in all the demands on our time. It's even easy to get caught up in trying to relax and focus on a task (cooking, playing games, etc.). Taking some time to think about a topic in an unstructured way, without any goal or outcome is important to help us evaluate and review where we are, and where we might want to go in some part of our life.