One Apple A Day #752 – the doing nothing time

I read somewhere – sorry, I can’ find the source at this moment – that only 16% of intelligent and creative ideas come to us while we’re at work.
Looking back, I think I had my best ideas while I was doing something else than working. Walking, cycling, taking a shower, having a conversation, reading a novel, watching a movie.

I believe ideas are out there. We just need to pay attention enough so we can see them.

To do so, we must expand our senses. We must reach the boundaries of our peripheral vision so we can see what hides in the liminal space; between our limited knowledge and the unlimited wisdom of the universe unknown to us.

I grew up with the idea that the effectiveness of work is measured by my productivity. So, when I work, my attention is narrowed on what I’m doing to avoid any distractions that could compromise my productivity.
Plus, sometimes the agenda takes over, so I work in a rush with a continuous feeling of being late.

What I’ve realised over the years, is that this approach dries out my creative wellspring.

I know that I’m falling trap of this productivity trap when I begin to have the same ideas over and over.

When that happens, I now know that it’s time to unplug and do anything but work. To me, that means doing something for the pure pleasure of doing it, without expecting any outcome.

Like walking, cycling, having a conversation, reading a novel, watching a movie.

One Apple A Day #708 – time

How’s your relationship with time?

Mine can be complicated. It happens anytime I try to manage it.
“Time management” is a tricky definition. It may fool you into thinking you can control time.

But is it really possible?

In my many attempts to manage time, I’ve learned two things.

The first is that time is definitely relative. I’m not talking about Einstein’s theory of relativity. What I’m referring to is our experience of time. I don’t know you but to me, one hour staying still in a plank position would definitely feel way longer than one hour watching a movie.

So, it’s less about managing time and more about managing what we do in the time we have.

And that brings me to the second thing that I’ve learned. My focus should always be in managing my energy. When I’m tired, everything is a drag. I can’t focus, and hours slipped through my fingers without being able to accomplish anything. When I’m full of energy, or even better when I’m doing something that energizes me, I can get the best out of the time I have. As if time expands.

That’s why for me, it’s vital to find a rhythm in my days that follow and sustain my energy level.

One Apple A Day #689 – find your pace

Last days have offered me a huge opportunity to revaluate my relationship with productivity. 

As I already wrote, it’s an uncomfortable subject for me. 

I would never describe myself as a productive person, that’s for sure. Yet, it’s a subject that fascinated me, maybe precisely because it’s not a natural thing for me.

This morning, while I was doing a simple but effective practice to synch movements and breathing, a memory came back; my first motorbike riding course on track. 

The program was straightforward. Six students, one instructor, a 20 minutes session on the track followed by 40 minutes offtrack to analyse what we did, repeated for five times.

During the session on the track, one of us was leading the group for two laps with the instructor just behind observing. Then all the others. After two laps, the one in front went to the back of the group. 

When it was my time to lead the group, I wanted to impress the instructor straight away. So, I gave my best; full-throttle on the straight, braking hard before each turn and then accelerating as much as I could. 

At the end of my two laps, I was exhausted but very proud of myself. When we stop for the debrief, I was drench in sweat but happy with my performance. The instructor feedback was like a punch to the guts. I was one of the slowest. Sure, I was fast on the straight, but that was useless, considering that there was one short straight but plenty of turns.

On the next session, the instructor forced me to do my two laps, always keeping the same gear. That meant that I couldn’t accelerate much and I couldn’t go too fast on the straight. But, surprise, during the debrief, I discovered that my lap time was way better.

Once my obsession with speed was out of the picture, I found my rhythm and with it the performance. 

This story reminds me of two valuable lessons, that too often I forget.

One is to look at performance, and productivity, more holistically. If we focus only on one aspect, we may illude ourselves that we’re going faster while we are just wasting energy.

The second lesson is that when we find our rhythm, we use better our resources and we can keep performing high for longer. 

One Apple A Day #693 – Rhythm

Three weeks ago, my partner moved abroad for a project. She’s going to be away for a while, so we’re both dealing with the challenges that this experience brought in our lives.

Obviously, the biggest one is the distance, but there’s another one I wasn’t expecting; the loss of rhythm.

We’ve been apart before, but it was always for shorter periods. This time we’re talking months. And something happened in my head since the very first week.
My flow and productivity got disrupted like never before. Since day one, I’ve been struggling to keep my routines and habits.
It took me a while to realize what was happening.

I’ve lost my rhythm.

Over the years, we built our own unique rhythm. A rhythm on which I can improvise, create and follow the flow without getting lost. A rhythm that keeps me grounded.

I feel like I’m without my metronome.

And it is clearly affecting my energy and my flow.
Everyone is unique, but I’ve learned how important it is for me to have a basic rhythm in my life, on top of which I can improvise and move freely.

So, now my new challenge is to find a new way to keep the beat until she’s back.
Any suggestions?

One Apple A Day #689 – the halo effect

I don’t know you, but I’m terrible at managing more things at the same time. There are plenty of articles, books and videos explaining why multitasking is not a good idea. Many research and studies have proved that our brain is not wired for multitasking and that switching context is a costly task for our cognitive mind. 

That’s why many productivity experts suggest creating bubbles of focus, in which your attention goes to a single task while you keep all distraction outside. There are many strategies to create a bubble of concentration. Some put all the devices in “flight mode”, others go into a virtual cave. Some close themselves in minimalist rooms, and others just put their headphones on to cut the world out.

Personally, I use a combination of all of those. Unfortunately, creating a bubble of focus is not enough for me. It is as if anything I put my attention on long enough, leaves a halo in my mind. So, when I try to switch to something else, no matter how tight and protected my bubble of focus is, thoughts from previous tasks keep lingering in my mind.

This “halo” creates a big challenge for me. Silencing inner distractions is a lot more complicated than protecting my focus from the external ones. As a result, it takes me ages to find my rhythm when I start a new activity.

This “halo effect” or “tail effect” or whatever we want to call it, is a recent discovery. Looking back at my most productive days, I can see two strategies worth trying.

  1. Don’t fight it. If I can’t remove a thought from my mind, then fighting against it, won’t make it disappear. I have to deal with it. Understand what I need to do to get it out of my system, and do it. If something is not fully finished, I can’t move to something else, no matter how tight my bubbles are.
  2. Group similar things. Jumping between different types of activities is the most costly type of switch. I can’t easily alternate meetings and writing time in the same morning. So, I need to set big chunks of time aside for similar activities.

I’ll let you know if it works.

P.S. I just discovered that the “Halo effect” is a cognitive bias and has nothing to do with what I wrote in this post. Ouch.