As our e-based world increasingly blurs the line between our personal and professional lives, it’s important to make good use of our time. Yet the best approach is usually the one we resist the most.
I don’t have time to write this blog. Dealing with emails, clients, home life, meals, travel, social media and everything else seems to fill every waking hour. I’ve convinced myself that this is the way to do things – working intensively, researching new markets, making new contacts, blogging, networking etc – and I’ve built a rock-solid belief system around it.
If I want to see my life like that, I can easily make a convincing case for it. But if I take full responsibility for the way things are, I have to admit that I set things up this way. It’s not healthy, it’s not particularly productive, and it’s definitely not helping me achieve great things or have a wonderfully fulfilled and happy life.
It’s time the hamster got off the wheel
In myself, in others, in businesses, in organizations, in governments and even in nations, I see patterns of behaviour that, sooner or later, demand change before decline or destruction sets in. The process of evolution goes something like this:
- Start – with passion. A business founder starts with a great idea; a community is inspired to initiate a project; or a politician gets fired up to influence improvements.
- Articulate – with energy and focus. Do the research, the due diligence, proof of concept. Define the message and/or the product. Define the policy and practices.
- Build – with close attention to detail. Do the physical stuff. Build the factory, prototypes, marketing. Gather your team and get on the campaign trail.
- Produce – with a highly refined system. Make sure you’re on top of things, build consistency, increase efficiencies, maximize profits. Keep the customer satisfied, garner more advocacy and loyalty.
- Change the game – before it’s too late.
By the time you reach step 4, you’re in hamster mode. It’s taken longer than expected to get there (usually 3–5 years, for small businesses), you’ve expended all your energies on steps 1–3, and you need a break. After all your hard work, it makes sense to let the systems take over and run things for you. No need to change, now that you’ve finally got things under control, right?
There are several compelling reasons to change:
- Life moves on. Your original idea is now a few years old and may be out of date.
- Unless you have a particularly agile set-up, your processes, facilities and equipment that you broke the bank to pay for (and may still be paying for) are probably out of date too.
- Best practices are, by definition, historical and things change all the time.
- Market movement, the business environment, the competition and alnost everything else beyond your control have all affected your bottom line.
- Keeping up with new developments, tweaking and adjusting, firefighting, investor relations, administration etc all lock you ever more firmly onto the wheel.
- By now, you’re probably emotionally and physically tired.
Space – the final frontier
If you jump off your wheel when it’s going full tilt, you might get a bit battered and dazed when you land. But then something magical happens. Firstly, you find that it’s strangely peaceful. Secondly, you can actually see the wheel from a better perspective. Thirdly, you can better control the wheel’s movement. Most importantly, though, you have space in which to creatively ruminate, dream, think abstract thoughts, doodle, commune with nature or do whatever feeds your creative self.
That may sound a bit trite, but our creative impulses are what drive change, and maintaining an innovative mindset enables us to adapt and grow as life unfolds. Yet we allow ourselves to get buried in processes, unwittingly blinding ourselves to whatever new dynamics may be unfolding within us. Stress replaces enthusiasm and more and more of our time gets used up – until we have none left.
Our original idea wasn’t born out of stress. It came from our intuition, out of left field – a dream, a social event or an off-the-wall conversation. It came when our head wasn’t filled with logistics, processes, meetings, staff issues, financial accounts or legalities.
We need space. No one’s going to give it to us; we must take it for ourselves. So, in the face of all the logical reasoning, pressing concerns and conditioned reflexes that modern living convinces us we need to subject ourselves to, the best way forward is to jump off the wheel. I find that it’s the only way I can tune back into my creativity – the most powerful part of me. It’s the part that has all the answers that I need and that I cannot possibly find by continuing with actions based on past experience. It’s the big priority that we avoid acting on because it’s usually unpredictable, unstructured and chaotic, and seems, to our logical mind, to be irresponsible.
I’ve decided to have a ‘creative week’ every month. Like some of the most successful companies in the world, I am allocating at least 20% of my time every month to creative activity. Anyone else up for it?
Watch this space – it’s the best one!
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