Helping our clients get in the “flow”
In sports it’s called being in the zone. In the creative arena we call it the “flow.”
However you refer to it, surely you’ve experienced the frustrations of not being able to get into that place where you’re free from distractions and capable of producing outstanding work. While we consider ourselves an extremely creative company here at SOZO | Pivotal, we certainly don’t spend 100% of our day being creative. No company does. The phone rings. The bills are due. Minor edits need to be done. The CPA wants us to find some old receipts. The plants need to be watered. Employees need to be met with. The budgets need to be balanced.
This is the stuff that you don’t necessarily see on Mad Men.
But it’s really a day-in-the-life of the entrepreneur. Without proper focus, business owners unfortunately aren’t able to carve enough creative time out of their days. It really needs to change. While we face our own challenges with focus within the walls here at SOZO | Pivotal, our clients see the same obstacles when it comes to focusing on their brand and the things they need to do — on their own or with us — to differentiate and tell their story. Too often we step into meetings where the client hasn’t properly allowed themselves the time for the creative attention that they need to draw upon to be effective. It’s not their fault. They rush from meeting to meeting and their creative time is wedged in between a number of daily tasks.
I’ve been banging my head against the wall in how we can make a switch to be able to focus better and get into that uninterrupted happy place for a while now. Then I found this article on one of my favorite blogs called “The 99 Percent.” While the system outlined in this article seems simple, trust me it’s not. “Getting Creative Things Done” is an impossible task if you indeed look at creativity as a task.
We say it all the time, but it’s definitely worth repeating: the best work we do is the work that is a face-to-face collaboration between us and the client. It’s never about us getting an assignment, leaving a meeting and returning a week later with a completed piece of work. What we offer isn’t a commodity, so why should a client be allowed to rattle of a list of items without being actively engaged? This isn’t the grocery store.
I encourage our clients to really take a look at that article and reflect on where their responsibilities are in participating in the creative process. This certainly isn’t a criticism of our clients and for the most part all of our clients are truly engaged in this process! But, are they robbing themselves of the necessary time it takes to focus on being creative without the phone ringing or email blinging or thoughts of the next meeting looming over their heads.
So with the Holidays upon us, take some time as you review your 2011 goals and resolutions and think about how you’re going to engage more in the creative process. Here are some things I’m focusing on in regards to creative focus:
- Eliminate my obsession with seeing and responding to email. Checking messages as soon as possible kills any type of focus and flow. I’m trying to make the habit of only checking email twice a day.
- Turn off the Internet. In addition to checking email with less frequency, I’m also staying off Facebook, Twitter and blogs that I like to frequent. I’m a firm believer that the more people are on these sites the less they accomplish. Sorry, that’s how I feel. I feel the same about television. I’m willing to bet there aren’t a lot of successful people who spend hours upon hours in front of a TV set. However, while many say these tools are simply just a waste of time, I tend to think they just waste time at all the wrong times. I’ll do a quick check into these things while I check my email. That’s it. I seem to come up with my best ideas while I’m riding my motorcycle, driving my car, waking up in the middle of the night or while I’m in the shower. Why do you think that is? Because, for the most part, there aren’t any distractions waiting for you while you do those activities. When you’re at your desk you need to create, not surf!
- Finally, I’m doing a thorough job of creating my “to do” list of tasks that need to be completed. These are generally five to 15 minute activities. Everything else is a project with many tasks. True creative endeavors are projects and I try to separate the tasks from creating. Creating can be sitting there sketching out ideas, thinking about the project’s pros and cons, throwing ideas on a whiteboard or visualizing the various aspects of the process. The key here is that you won’t necessarily feel “done” with these creating endeavors, but they are a very important part of the overall project.
- Inevitably while I’m in these creating modes, stupid items will pop into my head. Everything from grocery lists to bills that need to be paid. Make sure your to-do list is near. Hurry up and right it down and then forget about and get back to creating.
While there’s nothing earth shattering in here, I think it’s important to digest everything you possibly can about getting into flow and focus in the work that you do. Think about what you love about you’re work. I’m willing to bet it’s that uninterrupted time where you’re extremely productive. You know what I’m talking about…that period of time where the clock stands still and you forget to eat lunch or stretch your legs. Yeah, we could all use more of that time.