As writers, there are two things that we come under the influence of - a Writer's Block that really is this big boulder stuck in the head, stopping all outflow of brilliant ideas and outpouring of our creative juices. On the other end of the spectrum is the Writer's Bug - that eggs you on to become more prolific and productive, and ensures that the pen never gets lifted off the page or the fingertips off the keyboard; given your preferential style of writing.
While the Bug is difficult to catch, the Block appears more often than desired, as any writer worth his salt will tell you. What's even more disastrous is that the Block is fed by several extraneous influences, the social media networking being one of the latest and biggest viral feeders of all.
Since I am as badly infected as the next Joe or Jane in line, I would like to share this excellent piece that shares tips for getting the better off this all-pervasive, incessant distraction(s).
Scott Belsky studies exceptionally productive people and teams in the creative world. He is the Founder and CEO of Behance, oversees The 99% think tank, and is the author of Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming The Obstacles Between Vision & Reality (Portfolio, April 2010). Here follows his piece that appeared in Mashable - The Social Media Guide :-
Those of us who are social media-savvy suffer from a burgeoning problem that constantly threatens our ingenuity. If we fail to acknowledge and solve this problem, our brilliant ideas may may never see the light of day.
Every single minute, more “stuff” is being sent your way. E-mails, text messages, voice mails, instant messages, Twitter (Twitter) messages, Facebook (Facebook) posts… and the list goes on. The proliferation of mobile devices only increases the flow.
What do you do with this deluge? You simply try to stay afloat. You peck away at the latest communications at the top of your many inboxes. And since the flow of information never ends, you risk slipping into a life of what I have come to call “reactionary workflow.”
For those of us with great ideas and bold goals for the future, reactionary workflow is a big problem. If we spend all day reacting to the incoming barrage of communication, we will fail to be proactive with our energy. Our long-term aspirations suffer as a result.
For the past five years, I’ve been interviewing super-productive leaders and teams — people at companies like Google (Google), IDEO, and Disney, and individuals like author Chris Anderson and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. I’ve never asked them how they come up with ideas. I’m not interested. My fascination is how they make their ideas happen, time and time again.
Many of the people I met have developed ways to combat reactionary workflow. Here are a few tips on how they do it.
1. Create Windows of Non-Stimulation
Once you open the door to communications overload, you could spend all day reacting to what’s thrown at you. Piers Fawkes, founder and editor of the marketing consultancy PSFK, reserves a good chunk of his morning –- from 7 to 10 a.m. every day -– to do research and digest the day’s trends and news prior to going through his e-mail. Proactively blocking out time for creating and absorbing, rather than just responding, is a key tactic of productive creatives.
2. Keep Two Lists
When it comes to organizing the day’s tasks — and how your energy will be allocated — create two lists: One for urgent items and another for important ones. Long-term goals and priorities deserve a list of their own and should not compete against the urgent items that can easily consume your day. Once you have two lists, you can preserve distinctly different periods of time for focus on each.
3. Schedule Focused Periods of Processing Every Day
During the research for my book, I met a number of people who swear by “power hours.” These individuals would try to compress all response-related work into pre-determined short periods of time every day, usually one to two hours of uninterrupted inbox clearing. The notion of compartmentalizing reactionary workflow was a theme across the most productive leaders I met.
4. Don’t Hoard Urgent Items
Even when you delegate operational responsibilities to someone else, you may still find you are hoarding urgent items as they arise. When you care so deeply about a project, you likely prefer to resolve things yourself.
Say an e-mail arrives from a client with a routine problem. Even though the responsibility may lie with someone else on your team, you might think, “Oh, this is a really quick fix, I’ll just take care of it.” And gradually your energy will start to shift away from long-term pursuits. Hoarding urgent items is one of the most damaging tendencies I’ve noticed in creative professionals that have experienced early success. When you are in the position to do so, challenge yourself to delegate urgent items to others.
5. Reduce Your Level of “Insecurity Work”
In the era of Google Analytics (Google Analytics) and Twitter, we spend too much time obsessing over real-time data, just because it’s at our fingertips. Whether it is checking your site’s traffic or your bank account, these small repetitive actions don’t help you make ideas happen. They just help us feel safe.
“Insecurity work” is the stuff we do that has no intended outcome, does not move the ball forward in any way, and is quick enough that you can do it multiple times a day without realizing. But nonetheless, it puts us at ease.
The first step in reducing insecurity work is becoming self-aware. Recognize what you do in your everyday life that is, in fact, insecurity work. The second step is to establish some guidelines and rituals for yourself that provide more discipline, such as restricting all insecurity work to a specified 30 minute block every day. The third step, if applicable to you, is to delegate the task of checking on this data to a less insecure colleague who can review it periodically and report any concerns.
How do you avoid a life of reactionary workflow? You need discipline and a dose of confidence. Recognize your tendency to surf the stream of incoming data, and gain confidence in the potential for being proactive.
It’s easy to sit there and react all day. You’ll never run out of work to do. But your bold ideas will suffer unless you take your energy by the reigns.