In this short post I will just touch on the topic of how to sustain creativity. Creative work, software development included, requires lots of energy(as you may know, your brain feeds mostly on carbohydrates). An outsider can only see that ‘you’re sitting in front of a computer all day long’. To keep energy, apart from providing healthy food during the working hours, task and time planning are of high importance. Instead of food, let me ramble a bit about other activities to help you keep productivity during thought a day.
Work smart and don’t be busy
Work at most 40 hours. I mean the dedicated time like working on your client’s project. This does not include, as I call it, ‘investment time’; time when you hone your skills and tools. Still, don’t overdo that time. Try to be fully engaged and focused for scheduled time. Be ruthless to say ‘that’s enough for today’. If you don’t have anything to do, go to sleep.
As time passes during the day, your energy drops accordingly. Ask yourself: when I am most productive? Perhaps it’s in the morning or late in the evening. Suppose that you’re an early bird. Wake up and start what needs to be done. You have to do it anyway so don’t procrastinate. Don’t check Facebook, Twitter, or e-mails before you do something valuable. Batch similar work like replaying to emails. In Getting Things Done David Allen writes about following contexts and pose questions like (just recalling them from memory):
- Does the work require a computer or Internet connection?
- Do I have enough energy to do the task?
- Do I have enough time?
- And so on
Sharpen your focus and do most important things right away. They will have to be done anyway, remember?
Sometimes my colleagues at Selleo don’t like how rarely I check notifications on HipChat. Basically when I’m focused I’m turning off all notifications. Do I miss something? Nope. Checking emails 3 times per day is enough. Checking them compulsively makes your ‘go into the flow’ harder. This kind of discipline is very difficult but worth it. I fail at it periodically, but I’m trying again.
If you feel not productive, if possible, go home, take a nap, and finish the task you could not before. Does not work? Park the task. Reach for another, a smaller one to have a sense of a small win and accomplishment. One more thing. A software developer with five years of experience deliver greater value than the one with three years of experience. Think of you the same way. Now, in 40 hours you can do more than your past-self.
Refresh your mind with sports activity
It is said that sport activity increases cognition, memory span and your performance. You know ‘American scientists discovered that’, but you can experience it yourself. I can tell you that I often I took an evening run after eight or nine. When I’m back in an hour, I feel like I was running for many hours. It’s as if time stopped. Then, with this kind of brain dump, I’m even more eager to tackle new tasks or write something and still have energy for a few hours.
It does not have to be running. I mix it with mountain biking. The two complement perfectly. Running around your town can easily become boring. Mountains give you lots of sightseeings on the way and fresh air.
Start small and don’t invest everything in whatever sport discipline you may be willing to pick. I’ve been running for more than three years now. Only less than a year ago I invested more to buy new or replace old wear. I started with cotton T-shirt and cheap shoes so don’t fret about not having ‘enough-pro’ doodad, but move your ass. As the way of investment caught up, I’m doing the same with mountain biking (even wearing the same running clothes).
Be an explorer
It’s easy to stay at your comfort zone. It’s easy to do the same thing all over the same. The same way, yet expecting different results. In order to grow, however, one has to step out of the comfort and be ready to try and learn new things. Don’t ask how to do it. ‘How’ is none of your business. Be ready to fail, but that should not bother your mind, though.
When you do something for the first time you can feel ashamed or even stupid. Move on. In order to become an insider one has be be an ousider with a fresh perspetive. Don’t pretend to be ‘nice’ to everybody. Be authentic and speak up. Don’t follow other people just for the mere sake of being with people.
There are more introverts than extrovers on this Earth. Yet most introverts brag for being ‘sociable’ to hang out with ‘extroverts’. I hate parties and noisy surroundings as they suck out energy from me. If something makes me tired, I just stand up and go out without giving a fuck about ‘being unpleasant and rude’.Yet I thrive at world of ideas, love tech meetings, workshops and can spend a whole day on conferences still having energy reservoirs late in the evening. Do what fits you, not other people.
To be creative you have to become a ‘T-shaped’ man. Read a lot, on the bus, while commuting. Find ‘time windows’ to read inspiring articles or books; don’t spend that time on Facebook. Be curious about budgeting, time and tasks management, diet, heath. Learn how to maximize what you have. How to sleep better. Start blogging or keep a diary to clarify your thoughts. You have to realize that during your life you can only achieve a tip iceberg for what’s possible. Don’t waste that time and don’t spend your entire life doing the same job the same way.
Whatever you do, every day do it better.