Ever notice how you can chat with a friend or family member about a problem you are having or a situation you are in and in a split-second they have the perfect solution… when you’ve been racking your brain all week? It’s because they have a “fresh perspective” and sometimes being further away from a dilema, problem, project (etc.) gives someone the perfect vantage point to have a great idea.
The past three weeks have been my first ones working on The Prepary. The days I am able to dedicate to building the site, writing, talking to clients and brainstorming have been completely consuming. I’ve worked in high-demand, fast-paced jobs before but a 10-12 hour day (not uncommon for me) didn’t prepare me for 16 hour one (that’s basically all my waking hours)… not to mention I am rolling around in bed at night, not sleeping, still thinking of things I want to accomplish… and sometimes dreaming about them too. Most of the people I know who have their own businesses have told me this is how it would be. Yesterday, I hit a wall though – my laptop was becoming an extension of my body (as usual) but the juices didn’t really feel like they were flowing and so I left my apartment (yup, embarrassingly for the 1st time that day!) to go for a run.
Ironically, it was probably the most productive 40 minutes of my day. Re-focusing my attention on something different was the best way to re-energize (I suppose people tend to say exercise is good for that too) and I started thinking of things super quickly that I hadn’t been able to “get to” all day. It made me think about “productivity” – the past 5 years has led me to be convinced that productivity meant being at my desk, churning out tangible work. In one sense, of course it is. You have to be able to show results of how you spend your day. On the other hand, how you spend your time away from your desk greatly affects the quality of work when you are there.
People (who are more experienced than I am and super smart) have been telling me this for years – but sometimes when you’re wrapped up in a crazy environment it’s tough to believe it. You’re focused on putting one foot in front of the other and just making things happen – but more hours do not necessarily lead to better work. Today is Saturday, and part of me felt that I should wake up and immediately write a new article and add to my “interview guide” that I’m super excited about building (stay tuned). Instead, I got coffee from my favorite SF spot (Philz, by the way), came home to my couch, cuddled up with an US Weekly (my guilty pleasure of choice) and just spent the hour that way.
If you’re in the first few years of your career, it may feel like you have to be constantly “on-call”. I definitely had friends that didn’t leave home without their work blackberry for the first few years out of school and checked it compulsively. Sometimes, that is mandatory (I’m thinking ibankers)… but for most of us, things can usually wait. Consider spending your weekends actually unwinding and not worrying about the week ahead. Coming in fresh on Monday will actually improve the quality of your work – and minimize the “burn-out” risk.
I’m going to try to take my own advice in this case. It will be an experiment for sure but my guess is that spending more pockets of the day “away” from the task at hand, will give me that vantage point I mentioned earlier – the one you only get from taking a step back and re-approaching things from a better (and fresher) angle.