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Yes, You Really Can Schedule Creativity!

4 January 2023

Now that we’ve officially embarked on 2023, I’ve been taking stock of the challenges – the distractions – that repeat like clockwork every year, every day, when I try to work at my deepest, most focused level.

You know most of them, I expect – the phone call from one client when we’re deep into creating a solution for another. The team member who needs our guidance at once. The personal concerns which arise and want our attention, no matter whether it’s the best time for us to focus on them or not.

I’ve written in the past of the help Cal Newport’s writings have been to me in dealing with these challenges – I highly recommend his books, Deep Work and Digital Minimalism.

But there’s no permanent solution – these distractions are part of life on earth, and will arise again and again, despite our best efforts to minimize them.

So, how do we make sure we take time to focus in, burrow deeply into a problem, harness our most creative selves to devising the solution?

If we have that problem (and, again, most of us face it daily), we’re in exceptionally good company.

In his first December 2022 newsletter, Professor Newport referenced another of my favorite authors, Ann Patchett, whom he’d heard recently on a podcast noting that the more successful a writer she becomes, the less time she has to write, or even to think about, her latest novel. Quite a paradox, no?

But it’s true – often when we’ve made a success of our business, we end up doing scores of things utterly unrelated to the actual work we’re so good at – we tackle administrative tasks which we might better leave to others because we want them done now, we field calls and emails, and at best funnel them to the right team member for handling.

So, how do we avoid this? How do we make sure we are granting ourselves the undistracted time we need to work deeply and creatively on those things that we love to do and that spark joy in our lives?

What Ann Patchett does, she says, is to prepare for deep work as if for meditation – lighting a candle, settling onto her green cushion (she’s smart – green is known to be the most relaxing color to the human eye and mind), starting a 20-minute timer, and telling herself, “You now have 20 minutes to think about your novel,” she chuckles, “Namaste.”

That is, precisely, scheduling her own creativity.

And we can all do it. We just have to be resolute that, for these 20 minutes (or 30 minutes, or 60), we will shut off all distractions. Let our teams know we are not to be disturbed unless the building is on fire, turn off our phones, our notifications, etc., and spend that time focusing our creative selves on THIS. ONE. THING. ONLY. (Sorry about the shouting, but I think it’s an important point.)

I have done this many, many times, yet I keep having to remind myself of the need for it – in the moment-to-moment of the day’s progress. Distraction is the name of the game these days, it seems, and we must be vigilant against it if we are to be at our best – for our clients, for our teams. And for all the people we love – our friends and our families surely deserve our creative focus as much as our work life does.

How do you schedule your creativity? What techniques, if any, do you use to focus?

Please click here to email me directly – I’d love to know what strategies work for you.

Until next time –

Peace,

Eric

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