The Creativity of Constraint

Many of my clients are trying to start their ventures while maintaining full or part time jobs. A major complaint is finding the time to make progress towards their project. Their routine was so nice and neat before the ball wrecker of a startup came crashing in and challenged their time management skills. For a budding entrepreneur – it is now your “moment of truth.”  Do you cringe at the thought of keeping “a schedule” or being accountable for your time? I have a client who insists upon using the word “planner” because the thought of “a schedule” would constrain her spontaneity. These folks see a schedule as a tyrant, a force that denies their creativity and free-flowing nature. This must change.

Consider this: Some time constraint will make the best use of your creativity. When you block out regular chunks of time to work deeply on your project, that type of commitment will spur on a greater concentration of innovative thoughts and insights. With even small blocks of time set aside every day devoted to your project, your brainstorming will be more targeted. You will make small, but cumulative gains that amount to something tangible at the end of the week. An opened-ended “no plan” defies progress, invites distractions and draws you into the morass of Web-surfing and social media. How free-flowing will you feel when a year has passed without progress on your venture? Is it worth risking a little spontaneity to see your product or service taking shape? Create a structure that allows your true creative potential to emerge.

Do you need to be creative with time management? Would you like to be more thoughtful and productive with your time? Contact me at [email protected]   

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Your “Guy In The Basement”

Several years ago at a National Speaker’s Association meeting, I heard a motivational speaker who planted a metaphor in my mind that I’ll never forget. He described a friendly fellow somewhere between our conscious and subconscious, who works mostly behind the scenes and is loyal to the core. He is, figuratively, your Guy In The Basement, your GITB.

Your brain’s CEO, located in the penthouse (your prefrontal cortex), orders the GITB to dig up information, and deliver the data for the CEO to synthesize and execute. For example, when the CEO is trying to recall the name of your 6th grade teacher, he directs the GITB to do a search, and a few minutes later the GITB runs up the stairs to the CEO and announces: “MRS. CRUM!”  Although it may take awhile, your GITB is good at retrieving data.

The GITB also loves autonomy. He likes to scan your existing knowledge base, integrate anything in view that is novel and shiny and interrupt your deep work (including your sleep), to proclaim his findings. Be kind to your GITB; he is always at work. But he is impulsive, gets bossy when restrained and has no sense of time.

Instead of getting mad at your GITB, shutting him out and blaming him for all your unfinished deep work, let him get his ya-ya’s out. When you’re working on a task that requires a lot of focus, have a pad of paper handy to capture ideas that your GITB sends forth. Keep a notepad at your bedside for his middle-of- the-night revelations. He’ll quiet down once he’s been heard. You can come back and elaborate on those ideas later. If he just can’t settle down, take your GITB for a walk. Remind him of your goals, problems you’d like to solve, or visions you have for your project. After the romp, your reliable GITB will gladly hunker down with his new orders, mind his own business and get to work, giving you the peace and concentration you need to do your CEO thing.

Let me help you manage distractions, get things done well and on time! Contact me at [email protected]

 

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Steer Clear of the Subtle Saboteurs

First thing in the morning, start out visualizing your most productive and satisfying day. What kind of day, from start to finish, would give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment?  If you can see it, then you know what to aim for. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve got your to-do list. But, in visualizing your perfect day, how will you tackle the more insidious distractions that could divert you?  Distractions aren’t all about noise and interruptions. If you haven’t addressed the obvious, then now is the time: shut the damn door, turn off the bleeping phone and tell people to leave you alone. If you’ve covered those bases, let’s address some of the sneakier distractions:

Unpreparedness reinforces your wanderlust:  If you set up a schedule the night before, which I highly recommend, all the pieces are in place. Your schedule should have THE TASKS and all the little sub-tasks listed below it for getting each TASK done. Then you can have a blast checking off each little sub-task as you complete it. Otherwise, if you just list the tasks, it’s like facing an inferno.

Dehydrated and de-nourished. Before you sit down to work, start off with a breakfast high in protein, good fats and plenty of water, especially if you suffer from anxiety and attention problems. Your brain is fat, protein keeps you sharp and water helps everything.

Unjustly rewarding yourself with gaming, FB time and other things you don’t deserve till you get the real work done. Newsflash: You have to earn your goodies− a good lesson to start teaching your kids now before electronics and endless fun screws up their brain circuitry for good.

Let me help you steer clear of the subtle saboteurs stealing from your success. Contact me at [email protected]

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“After the holidays…” Seriously?

Attention: Self-starters! Yes, you with projects on the table − this “after the holidays” excuse ranks Number One on the Procrastination leader board. It’s getting old, and it’s obsolete. It worked well before online shopping, when writing Christmas cards took two full evenings to complete, and when you felt compelled to write those long-winded, egocentric letters telling people about your fabulous year. Come on. You’re going to hold off doing anything productive until “after the holidays?” It’s almost laughable.

Friends, the holidays are a great time to hunker down away from distraction and get work done. You can still have family time and take a few days to hit the Mall, the slopes or the beach, but to postpone your personal and business progress because of the holidays is slacker-speak!

Two more reasons I cringe when I hear this refrain (my older clients know not to utter that phrase in my presence)  is that the holiday excuse gives people license to fudge on the habits or disciplines they’ve cultivated over the last couple months. Those nascent circuits (more productive behaviors and habits) trying to get a foothold in your brain start to break down. After a week or so of letting your efforts slide, you’ll have to start from square one again!  The other problem with this excuse is that after the holidays it takes days, and for some weeks, to get back into the swing of things.

Here’s how I follow my own advice: I’m 100% family on Christmas Day and the first night of Hanukah. Then I take a holiday week and go ski. I ski from 8:00a.m to 3:00p.m., followed by an hour of après-ski until 4:00. By 4:30 I’m back in my room writing, researching, responding to emails and checking in with my clients. Other family members have a separate room so my husband and I can work distraction free. Come 7:00 it’s dinner− quality,guilt-free time to focus on my family.

So, go ahead and carve out some hours of fun and relaxation with your family, but figure out how you can keep honing those new skills and routines you’ve started. After that first week in January, you’ll emerge on schedule and ahead of the game compared to others who are just getting over the holidays.

If you want to get started building your core skills and routines before or during the holidays – don’t delay. Visit www.MindfulCommunication.com or write me at [email protected] and we’ll get going!

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