“Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.” Gustave Flaubert
So you start the day full of enthusiasm. You’re excited about a new piece of creative work and itching to put your ideas into action. Firing up your computer, the familiar stream of e-mails pours into your inbox, burying the ones you didn’t get round to replying to yesterday. Scanning through the list, your heart sinks – two of them look as though they require urgent action. You hit ‘reply’ and start typing a response to one of them… 20 minutes later you ‘come round’ and realize you’ve got sucked into the e-mail zone and have been sidetracked by interesting links sent by friends, as well as writing replies about issues that aren’t a priority for you. You minimize the email window and get back to your project…
After 15 minutes you’re really enjoying yourself, getting into your creative flow – when the phone rings. Somebody wants something from you. Something to do with a meeting last week. You rummage through the papers on your desk, searching for your notes.
You can’t find them.
Suddenly your heart leaps as you lift up a folder and find an important letter you’d forgotten about – it needed an urgent response, several days ago. ‘Hang on, I’ll get back to you’ you tell the person on the phone, ‘I’ll ring you back when I’ve found it’. You put the phone down and pick up the letter – this needs sorting immediately, but you remember why you put it off – it involves several phone calls and hunting through your files for documents you’re not sure you even kept. By now, you’ve only got half an hour before your first meeting and you’ve promised to ring that person back. . Your design stares at you reproachfully. The e-mail inbox is pinging away as it fills up – already there are more messages than before you started answering them. Your enthusiasm has nosedived and the day has hardly begun. Creative work seems like a distant dream.
Is this a familiar scenario for you? I’ve been there a hundred times. In an ideal world we’d be putting all our time and energy into creative work, but the realities of modern work often seem to be conspiring against us. And in lots of ways the scenario is getting worse. The wonderful thing about modern technology is the amount of communication and information-sharing it facilitates. And the awful thing about modern technology is the amount of communication and information-sharing it facilitates. We are deluged with new information and connections, via telephones, webcams, instant messengers, e-mail, websites, blogs, newsletters, wikis, and social networking technology. The list gets longer every year. And with Blackberry and the mobile internet you can have data and demands coming at you 24/7. No wonder people are starting to run workshops on ‘digital stress’.
All of which is bad enough whatever your line of work. But if you’re the type that believed all you are doing is called “being busy”, it’s even more damaging. Concentration is essential for creative work – certain stages of the creative process require single-minded focus on the task in hand. Interruptions, multi-tasking and the anxiety that comes from trying to juggle multiple commitments – these are in danger of eroding the focused concentration that is vital for your creativity
I know it is common in this part of the world to swap busy for hard work or smart work. But, I want you to understand that busyness is not business. You cannot be busy and be creative at the same time. You must learn to focus on the single task ahead while you have to do list to help concentrate and evaluate the entire day. In other to be creative on the job/business, you need a well-planned day which of course includes break and if your type of work includes your boss disrupting your plans, you should help your boss plan his/her day. What I mean is, while there can be some permanent schedules on your To-Do-list, from the previous days, guess what your boss would love you to do for the day. And, if that won’t work, learn to enjoy his/her errands while you make you learn or gain certain knowledge on the execution.
Creativity is cheap if you can save its currencies, fun, focus and planning.
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