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A Creative experiment

Inspired by the book from 99u — “Manage Your Day to Day” and the excellent article by James Clear — “Mental Drag”, I’m going to be setting aside dedicated time for creativity.

The concept is straight forward. Your energy levels are not limitless. Most people do their best work in the morning, yet most people tackle their most urgent tasks first. As most creative endeavours are rarely seen as urgent, they often get pushed to the end of the day.

You cant really argue with the logic. I do this all the time. In fact as the morning progresses, my todo list invariably starts to expand, to the point where more often than not I don’t get to the things most important to me.

“The biggest problem we face today is reactionary workflow” — Scott Belsky

This is what I’d describe as a reactionary lifestyle. I’m sure we’ve all experienced, ticking off item after item on a list and yet all the time feeling like you’re making no progress.

We’re confusing, busy with worthwhile. Its easy to see why. When you work on a creative project, it typically has an end date and perhaps even a set of milestones along the way. These “mile markers” allow us to easily measure our progress towards a goal. Now contrast that to a todo list. By its very nature the todo list is never ending. Yes you might clear off todays list but you know in the back of your mind other items are on there waiting for you tomorrow. Its the mental equivalent of running on a treadmill.

“Manage your energy, not your time” — James Clear

Tell me if this sounds familiar. Hands up if you wake up, roll over reach for your phone and check messages? Casually scroll through your social media channel of choice. All before getting out of bed. This distraction might seem harmless but in reality its consuming that finite resource, called “attention”.

“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention” — Herbert Simon

So that covers off the reason behind the experiment, let’s move onto the practicalities.

Between 7–10am each day the time is my own.

I’ll get into the specifics in a moment, but its important to say that none of us is 100% alike. We all have creativity within us, and express it in different ways. So when I use the term, I don’t mean you should be writing your biography or painting a masterpiece (although if thats your thing, you should!) The goal is simply to set aside time for doing whats important to you.

“Tactics are idiosyncratic, but strategies are universal” — Seth Godin

My two key tactics are meditation and staying offline. Thats it. Sounds simple doesn’t it…..

Starting my day with Meditation

I’ve known a few people over the years who meditate on a regular basis. Without exception all of them were incredibly successful in their chosen field. I’m a big believer in modeling successful behaviour, so the subject has always interested me. Its just something I’d never gotten around to (lets blame that todo list for now).

Well late in 2014, coinciding with a significant change in how I was working, I started meditating. Anyone who’s already a convert will already see how this habit feeds directly into the subject matter of this post. Its through daily meditation (only 10 mins) I began to have a different perspective on my day. I gradually began reading more and more on the subject, which in turn, lead to this article.

If I could summarise what meditation does for me each day, its provide clarity. I don’t mean I’ve suddenly become spiritual and at one with nature. (As of yet I haven’t felt the urge to grope any nearby fauna).

It does however enable me to get a top level view and perspective on my mood that day. Being aware of that state of mind allows me at least partly to control how the day develops. I’m far from perfect at this, and have fallen off the wagon on more than one occasion. All I do know is that on the days where I follow this ritual, I’ve yet to have a “bad” day. Thats telling me something.

If you’re looking for a great way to try meditation then (surprise surprise) they have an app for that. Headspace really helped me form a great, rewarding daily habit. Its creator Andy Puddicombe gave a superb ted talk on this subject, which I cant even come close to doing justice. — [10 Mindful Minutes]

Flight Mode

A few months ago I started getting into the routing of putting my phone in flight mode before going to bed (yes coinciding with meditation….) It still didn’t stop me checking in the morning, out of habit, but it did signal a cut off to the end of my day.

So this weeks goal is to leave the phone in flight mode for a few more hours each morning.

There is a practical problem though, which I’m hoping evernote will help me overcome. I still need the ability to capture my (offline) thoughts, and review them later in the day. So the plan is to use evernote in offline mode for this purpose.

I know some people will be saying, “just use a pad and paper” but thats not enough for me. I need to have a consistent method of ubiquitous capture. In knowing that the information is safe, my mind can let go of it and move on. This is a corner stone productivity principle of GTD, and something I’m not willing to sacrifice.

And that’s it! Two simple daily rituals that should enable me to block out 3 hours of the day for me.

So this is day one, and I wrote this update this morning during my first block of personal time. All very meta….

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