The Cult of Busy

This diagram (edited to keep it it R-rated!) shows how my brain works when a client gives me a last minute project or task to work on:

(NB: clicking on this takes you outside of this site where you’ll see the swear word – you have been warned!)

The Creative Process by

Getting through the red section of the process can really be a mental uphill struggle at times, particularly if I haven’t given myself the space to think. In many cases if I hit this pattern too many times whether I meet the deadline or not the quality of my work is not to my standards even if the client is happy with the output. To ensure that both the client and I am happy with what I produce, it’s really important to make time to immerse myself in my thoughts. From the ones I have right in the spur of the moment to the ones that need a little more fermentation – they all need time and respect to ensure they are good enough to meet the Purple Cow criteria I have set. Over time I have learnt that I must never be too busy to be productive and it’s one I frequently have to make a conscious effort to re-learn.

The title of this post is a direct hat doft to Scott Berkun who back in 2010 posted on how many tend to confuse busy with being productive. I’ve recently re-read this post in his latest edition of Mindfire (1.1) and the bit that particularly resonated with me was this section:

“People who truly have control over time have some in their pocket to give to someone in need. They have a sense of priorities that drives their use of time and can shift away from the specific ordinary work that’s easy to justify, in favor of the more ethereal, deeper things that are harder to justify. They protect their time from trivia and idiocy. These people are time rich. They provide themselves with a surplus of time. They might seem to idle, or to relax, more often than the rest, but that may be a sign of their mastery not their incompetence.

I deliberately try not to fill my calendar. I choose not to say Yes to everything. For to do so would make me too busy, and I think, less effective at what my goals are.  I always want to have some margin of my time in reserve, time I’m free to spend in any way I choose, including doing almost nothing at all. I’m free to take detours. I’m open to serendipity. Some of the best thinkers throughout history had some of their best thoughts while  going for walks, playing cards with friends, little things things that generally would not be considered the hallmarks of busy people. It’s the ability to pause, to reflect, and relax, to let the mind wander, that’s perhaps the true sign of time mastery, for when the mind returns it’s often sharper and more efficient, but most important perhaps, happier than it was before.”

Some of the best ideas I have for my clients is during the journey back after visiting them. I don’t have hands free and I rarely have the radio on anymore (it triggers off too many floaty ideas in my head and distracts me from the ones that make money!) so the silence in the car allows me to think these ideas through to the point where they can be incubated. By the time I get home I can act on them or jot them down.

Here is a list of how I jot my ideas down to ensure they are revisited and acted on:

  1. Write them on my hand (don’t use permanant ink)
  2. Keep an email in your draft folder that you can list things on – I have one for each client
  3. Tell your nearest and dearest and get them to quiz it
  4. Use your voice recording or list app on your mobile phone
  5. OneNote/ Evernote
  6. A special ideas pad (here’s a waterproof option for your brilliant shower ideas)
  7. Hang a whiteboard in your office by your desk so you can scribble and draw

To help you along with your ideas make a conscious effort to talk some of the ones germinating in your head through with your clients – their objective perspective may help trigger fluidity with ones that are stifled by being too close to them. Never be afraid to sit down with a client and spend time listing the ideas that have popped into your heads, no matter how crazy they may seem – chances are that it’ll be those that will help you both stand out and become Purple Cows.

Moooove your mind people – no one else will do it for you.

– Download Mindfire 1.1 from here.

Further reading:

Why you get ideas in the shower

Marrissa Bracke‘s essay Why I stopped working with busy people.

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