Ok, so you’ve gotten a great night’s sleep, started out with your winning morning routine and now you’re ready to hit the ground running. You’ve meditated, written in your gratitude journal, run five miles or whatever you use to get your body and brain ready for creativity to flow. You sit down at your already booted computer and you know exactly where you’re going next to make the biggest impact in this universe. You decide you’re going to go into your blog, hit “Posts > add new” and you’re ready to rip, right? You kick around a few of the ideas you hopefully wrote down yesterday when you had them. You’re sure it’s just a matter of picking the one that grabs you and run with it!
Are you with me so far? I mean what could be easier than just picking a topic and running with it? You can ALWAYS edit later, right? You spend a few minutes trying to decide between two of your favorites and then something quite like an out of body experience happens. Do you know what it is? C’mon, be honest here! You know EXACTLY what happens. I’ll wait until you can come to terms with your own human frailties. Just let me know when you’re ready.
What happens is you blank out and when you come to, you’re knee deep in email, facebook, twitter or any other distraction you tell yourself is really for the good of your brand. Forget about the post you saved with nothing but a lame title and maybe some quick gibberish. You’re reaching out and that’s GOT to be a good thing, right? Or worse, you find the day is almost over and you’ve created nothing but you’re still oddly exhausted.
It’s Ok To Be Human
Before we go getting all high and mighty on you, let’s take a look at some stark facts. We are not machines that can be programmed to do what we do. Thank God for that! We are humans who have trouble staying on task a LOT more than we’d ever admit in public. When we are faced with a challenge without clear objectives, such as writing, we start scanning for ways to alleviate that stress. It’s the indecision that stresses us and email, twitter and Facebook do not require any decisions or any brain power that might generate stress. So, let’s be clear about our tendencies and move forward with simple process to help us work with them. Notice I said work with them and not fight against them. The latter is a losing proposition right out of the gate.
Simple Task Shifting
Let me propose something I’ve been working with that I think will give you nearly immediate results. I apologize if it seems too easy or not complicated enough. I purposely made it this way because of what Steven Pressfield would call “The Resistance”. That is, the more complicated something is to do the less likely we are to either choose it at all or choose it consistently. The mental pain is just too much.
Here’s what I’m proposing:
- Tomorrow, keep a pad of paper next to you as you start your workday.
- Keep a log of every activity you do as soon as your logged in. Be honest. Not what you SHOULD be doing. What you actually ARE doing. Write them down and if possible, make an entry for the amount of time you spend on it.
- At the end of the day, take a look at what you’ve done and where things invariably went “wrong”.
- Home in on the one thing that started your creative and productive slide.
- Decide tomorrow to move just that one thing to later in the day. It will vary individually but make sure you move it to a time you naturally feel less creative or that you’ve never produced anything of real impact.
- The next day, see if moving that thing to later helped you avoid that slide. If not, repeat the process with the remaining tasks until you get down to either starting right off with your daily goal or with something that kick starts your brain into creative mode.
- Rinse and repeat whenever you feel your days getting away from you again. You’ll no doubt find a new pivot point where you got off track thinking you were doing something useful.
Some Final Words
Although it seems unbelievably obvious, this point can’t be repeated enough: YOU’RE HUMAN! You WILL be distracted and there’s not a specific time or circumstance in which this will happen. There’s too many variables. The best thing you can do, as in mindfulness meditation, is to notice it and let it go without judgment and return to your discovery process.
Once you’ve gotten to your creative task that doesn’t mean you have to stay with it until completion. That is also a recipe for failure. Instead, when you find your attention, mental clarity or just interest wavering, stop what you’re doing! Congratulate yourself for the time you’ve put on this task and agree to return to it tomorrow. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just finish and move on. Maybe now would be a good time to check that email, twitter or whatever?
Don’t believe for a second that simple means easy. I learned this from my Three Simple Steps training. I find myself all the time starting out with the best intentions and preparations only to end up sorting my email and wondering how the hell I got into gmail in the first place. Again, patience and forgiveness are key here. You ARE doing something that will profoundly change your creativity and productivity. There’s no reason to think you can do this overnight. Be kind to yourself!
What Do You Think?
Have you struggled with your creativity and productivity? Leave me a comment below and tell me what your number one creativity killer has been and how you’ve tried to work around it. I don’t believe there is one correct answer here because of all the variables involved. I’m just stating a process I’m working with now that I think has great promise to help many people who are struggling to create great work. I’d also like to hear your story about trying this method and how it worked for you.
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