We’re at week three of novena one: Turning Points and Breaking Points. We’ve focussed on week one in negative influences that arise in the workplace, and in week two on how personal setbacks can affect us. This week, the spotlight turns within as we explore the ways we limit ourselves.
What’s your excuse? We all have one, “I could do more if...” We blame our busy schedule; stress, the fact that we needed to do a load of laundry, on why we aren’t making time to be our creative best. The trouble with seeing your job, energy level, or other commitments as roadblocks is that these things are just never going to go away. If you stay stuck in this thought process, you will never achieve your goals, never advance your career. So, if we have to accept a certain amount of life to get in our way as a constant, how do we contain all those time and energy demands so that they don’t drain us?
See things that never were
I love the concept of the “disruptive hypothesis,” as discussed by Luke Williams for Fast Company. A disruptive hypothesis essentially involves framing a question not around a reasonable cause and effect prediction as with traditional research, but questioning why the relationship between A and B needs to exist at all. There are several steps to creating that innovative spark and they all involve challenging the status quo:
1. Is your industry really your industry? We’ve discussed how blue ocean strategy thinking can be used to lead us away from competition and towards creative solutions that get traction because they serve previously undefined markets and needs. http://thepatronsaintofarchitecture.blogspot.com/2010/09/is-your-ocean-red-or-blue.html The assumption isn’t that everyone needs to compete with the same resources in the same way for the same market. Instead, you can create new markets and new relationships.
2. Remember what they say about making assumptions... Disruptive hypotheses provoke us to question standards and norms, the assumptions that put us in a box and disrupt innovation. As Williams puts it- question the chiches. Sometimes these “norms” we work within are so second nature that questioning them can be difficult. You really have to diagram every step of the process, of say designing a project, and ask yourself what would happen if you shortened, lengthened, or eliminated one or more of the steps. This works well as a tool for diagramming how you typically spend your day as well. How many needless steps are you taking that eliminate time for things that would feed your soul and spark your creativity?
Our biggest downfall as creatives is our ingrained failure to place a value on our time. Perhaps this comes from our days in the studio where professors encouraged the all-nighter and we were introduced to the idea of constantly second guessing our ideas. As we move forward into practice, we repeatedly provide clients with multiple options and encourage the design and redesign cycle. This is enough of a downward spiral, but is becomes completely toxic when we cross over into devaluing our time in every aspect of our lives. Mike Myatt, a leadership coach, has some great insights into this phenomenon and how to better value the resource that is our time that I have adapted to relate to our life as architects:
1. Make space for creativity by allowing yourself to focus. It can be difficult enough to hit your “zone” without being constantly being dragged down by distractions. I know it’s bad when I read and reread the same sentences over and over without comprehending them because I am reading with my eyes while my mind is literally thinking of a hundred other things (how is that even possible?). I start to seek out activities that are distractions as a cover for the fact that I am distracted. Multitasking is overated. Make the time to do just one thing and allow yourself to be in that moment. That includes unplugging yourself from the world of electronica and its siren call to check the latest updates.
2. Be organized and plan. It seems counterintuitive to plan creativity, but this seeming oxymoron is actually the formula for jumpstarting your brain. Make a plan and stick to it. We trawl around in our heads constantly monitoring our every movement, word and gesture. The running loop of “shoulds” inside our heads so restricts our behavior that we exhaust ourselves doing it all yet getting nowhere - or at least not to any truly fulfilled somewhere. It also leads us right to the derailment of procrastination.
3. Meaningfully connect- and disconnect. Engaging others fuels your thought process. Collaboration is essential for architects. But there is a difference between collaborating and sitting through the time suck of a boring unproductive meeting. If an activity isn’t going to further an effort, don’t go there. Learn how and when to say yes and no to avoid being sidetracked into activity that doesn’t accomplish your project goals, organizational goals or life goals.