Killing Creativity

Uninspired WorkerI have about an hour left at work for the week. I'm looking forward to the weekend, and I have sat here for the last few hours, diligently working on projects, feeling terrible about my inability to focus 100%.

I am excellent at denying my humanity, I am guilty of constantly treating myself like a robot, I actually get stressed over the times that i just don't feel like focusing, when I'd rather schmooze round the net looking for inspiration and catching up on what's new in the web design business. I accuse myself of being the only one who can't cope with 100% focus 100% of the time.

I finally gave up trying to focus and read a timely post by The Brand Builder which outlines how denying yourself (or your employees) those times of 'focused relaxing' – reading relevent blogs, browing relevent sites etc etc, is the easiest and best way to kill creativity.

I am a firm believer that a relaxed, inspired worker can get more done in 4 hours, than a focused, stressed and unhappy one can do in 8… Even if I don't always follow through on my beliefs. It's a tough call when you have employees that appear to be slacking off, especially if you're a small business and every one of their paychecks gives you 10 grey hairs. You demand return on your investment, and an idle worker does not give you any sense of security. 

It is hard but vital to ignore the process and focus on the results. Was enough delivered today to a high enough standard? If the answer is yes, force yourself to forget the hour spent watching your employee on Digg and congratulate them on a job well done.


5 thoughts on “Killing Creativity”

  1. See? You aren’t alone.

    True story: These guys I know were looking for a name for a band they were putting together. They tossed names around for days, but weren’t getting anywhere. The harder they worked on it, the worse things got. Finally, they decided to take a break, grab some coffee with me, and get their minds off the problem at hand.

    We started talking about movies, smoothie flavors, food coloring, and a bagful of other completely unrelated topics. Twenty minutes into this little break, we “accidentally” came up with the perfect name. (All irony aside, we were trying to find a cool name for a smoothie – not a band.)

    We knew we’d hit gold when a guy who was just hanging out a table away chimed in and said “hey, that would be an awesome name for a band.”


    More often than not, our brains need playtime in order to construct something new and cool and smart. They aren’t “breaks”. They’re trips to the inspiration well. To the muse’s garden. To the creative oasis of the mind.

    Play tends to unveil patterns obscured by excessive focus and concentration. It oxygenates the brain. It allows patterns to emerge on their own. It relaxes your point of view enough to make you flexible and open to new solutions and ideas.

    Einstein didn’t come up with his theory of relativity at his desk. It came to him while he was riding a bike. There’s a big lesson in that.

    Nobody ever said that work and play were mutually exclusive.

  2. Speaking of 4 hour work days, check out Sharon Sarmiento’s efforts …
    You know, the inspirational stuff, the web surfing, online mooching etc can be just the thing that helps you find that break-through idea. But it is MUCH harder in a small business, where every hour that you dont bill hits your wallet. But I bet you wouldn’t choose an alternative way of working! Or would you …?

  3. When I was a student I had a summer job in the proverbial widget factory (actually a chimney factory), and hard as the work was, the most difficult job of all was ‘looking busy’ on a Friday afternoon – the machines had to be switched off and run down before we left, so we had about 10 minutes at the end of the day where we had to look as though we were doing something useful in case the supervisor was watching… It took more imagination than the rest of the week put together.

    Olivier, you’re absolutely right about taking a break/change of scene for creativity – I blogged about it here a while ago: creative environments

  4. You're right. I didn't really give that a term, but I do have the 'get the post sorted', 'get the blog done' tasks that I reeeaaaallly enjoy when motivation is lagging on the tough stuff. Man I need to read that book!

  5. David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” systems focus on having tasks ready in different contexts… eg. list of things to read, list of calls to make, list of errands to run, list of things to look up on the net…

    Anyway, what it means is you can sit down and go “hey, i can’t be bothered doing yucky boring [MYOB], maybe I should surf the net”. Your list helps you achieve things in that time.

    Blogs always make it on my things-to-read list though :)

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