Posts filed under “Creativity & Productivity”

Can we stop with the early bird propaganda?

This post, is a part of my thinking and research for my new book, HUSTLE & FLOAT that centers around the tensions between productivity and creativity. You can follow other related entries here
HOOT HOOT!

I’ve always hated mornings. Give me the darkest hours of night, and I’ll show you my most productive output. I’ve flirted with being an early riser before. Unfortunately, much like overly strict diets, the resulting misery was never worth it and the battle against my body’s natural rhythm was exhaustive and often counter-productive.

I’ve made peace with the fact that I am a creature of the night. I get up around 9am (sometimes later). I like to read, exercise, and am ready to start work right after lunch. I’ll work until dinner, eat, and then go back to my computer for another few hours. 9pm until 3 am is my most productive and magical time. I’ll average thousands of words written, I’ll power through research, and I’ll come up to solutions for client work.

I’m not advocating you adopt my methods, just outlining what works for me. I’ve never thought of my routine as worse or better than an early riser’s and so, I must admit, I’m a little annoyed at the constant preaching about how the most productive people are early risers. There is an interesting early-riser archetype that is being packaged in the media as the embodiment of discipline and success. It’s one of the fascinating cultural influences that I’m researching for my new book, Hustle & Float.

A few points:

  1. We’re all different. Scientists are discovering that early risers and night owls have different brain structures and that our preferences for early mornings or late nights is built into our genetic code. Forcing people who have a natural predisposition to stay up late to conform to early hours can have a negative impact on the actual physiology of their brain. So just because your best creativity happens at 5am, that might not be the case for your spouse, partners, and colleagues.
  2. There’s no one right answer. For every study that says early risers are more productive, there’s one that favors night owls. (Here is one about how people with higher IQs are usually more nocturnal. Not to be outdone, early risers are apparently happier. And so on.)
  3. It’s the same advantages and disadvantages. You know those early morning hours of uninterrupted time? I get the same thing at the other end of the day. While you’re getting ready for a 10pm bedtime, that’s when I’m powering up. And when you’re kicking your to-do list’s ass in the morning, I’m fast asleep. Let’s stop focusing on arbitrary metrics like hours and start looking at output instead.

So how about we stop trying to shame other people into changing a normal and natural preference? Instead, let’s encourage people to:

a) Become attuned to their own energy cycles and schedule their time accordingly. Track your energy and productivity levels during the day and pinpoint your most creative times. For me, it’s between 9pm and 3am. For you, it could be 6am or 3pm. Whatever it is, guard that period of time for your most important work.

b) Make sure you get enough sleep. This amount also varies by person, and could be anywhere from 6–9 hours. You can use a sleep tracking app to find that ideal time and try to avoid over-sleeping.

c) Let’s be compassionate to each other. Especially when scheduling meeting times. I promise I won’t hit you with a 7pm calendar request if you never schedule anything before 10:30am ever again.

Let’s stop trying to make everyone fit in some one-size fits all sleeping schedule. HOOT HOOT!

f you’ve found this post interesting you might also enjoy my monthly newsletter where I share research from my current projects, as well as talk about digital culture, creativity, productivity, and tech. Here’s one I wrote about Leo’s Oscar Meme frenzy. And one aboutAbe Lincoln’s use of the world Hustle. Happy reading!

Off to write HUSTLE & FLOAT! See you in SEPT!

This post, is a part of my thinking and research for my new book, HUSTLE & FLOAT that centres around the tensions between productivity and creativity. You can follow other related entries here

Doodles - 15

 

WRITING: THE NEED FOR SPEED

For the next few weeks I’ll be in my writer’s cave working on Hustle and Float with my co-author Riwa. I’ll be splitting my time between the deserted cafes of Paris, where most people have left for their annual vacation, and Muskoka, Ontario, where Jesse and I have rented a lake-front cottage.  It’s the perfect venue to contemplate creativity, productivity, and the importance of being unplugged.

I’m pretty excited to start this phase of the project because by the end of the month, I’ll have a very, very, early draft of the whole book. I always print out the first copy of the draft, no matter how awful it is (and it’s usually pretty heinous) because it marks the transition of something from an idea to a physical reality.

Speed is the name of the game for first drafts and so I’ll be doing a month-long writing sprint: a dedicated period of intense focus where I’ll do nothing but hit my daily wordcount: about 2000-3500 words per day. If that sounds like a lot, consider that when I was working on Decoded, I was averaging about 4000-5000 words per day.

I learned this process, called Fast Draft, in a workshop run by Candace Haven a few years ago. I was averaging close to 8,000-10,000 words per day and it was the most intense writing I’ve ever done. Add to that a couple of years of NANOWRIMO   and suddenly 3,000 words per day feels like a vacation!

On that note – there won’t be any new content here on the blog until September when I’ll be sharing chapter excerpts, research notes and more. (The best stuff always goes out to subscribers first!)

 

 A note on process: it’s not magic. 

Reading Show Your Work by Austin Kleon has taught me the importance of peeling back the layers and sharing what goes on behind the scenes of my writing. So, I’ve included a few notes on my own process and some tips if you want to try Fast Drafting yourself.

TL:DR: Hitting high word count consistently isn’t magic – it requires preparation and practice. For me, I try to make sure that I have as much of the prep work done as possible in advance.

 

1. Outlines are your friends.

I’ve been working on the research outline for Hustle and Float for close to a year now, and I’m finally ready to start putting words on the page. If you have a solid outline this process becomes a joy because you’ve basically created a map for yourself to follow.

word countOutlines are the touchstones of my process. I cannot (and will not) do anything without an outline whether it’s a 700 word post or a 70,000 word manuscript. I like to plan everything out in advance before I write anything on a page. The outline is probably the most intensive part of the process because it forces you to chart your course and figure out how your ideas will unfold beforehand.

Not every writer uses outlines but I swear by them. I’ve had too many friends  in the middle of writing a massive chapter, only to realize they forgot crucial research, have over/under estimated their word count or discover their chapter is missing a logical flow. For me, an outline addresses all of these problems. It helps me to organize my thoughts, forces me to be thorough in my research and makes sure I don’t forget  important details. My outlines include detailed research summaries of articles I want to reference, notes and thoughts, even snippets of unfinished sentences that I want to include.

I developed my outline process as a survival mechanism against the crippling anxiety that writers often experience when starting a new project and faced with a blank page. This way, I have a guide to help me move from chapter to chapter, and I can immerse myself in the writing, knowing that I’ve done the work and checked the research beforehand.

 2. Realistic Expectations 

Image result for you can fix anything but a blank page

Nora Roberts

Fast drafting is a process that addresses the biggest hurdle a writer must overcome: their own doubts. The speed adds an intensity that gets your mind off whether or not you’re using too many adverbs, or if your vocabulary sucks and it forces you to just start writing.

From an expectation perspective, a fast draft will need several revisions, but that’s ok. The goal isn’t to craft perfect prose, but to get everything out on the page in it’s messiest, ugliest form so you can take a look at an early version of the work to spot any weaknesses. The Fast Draft of Decoded made us realize we needed to make some massive structural changes and we were able to do so before we’d invested too much time polishing and editing. And I firmly believe it resulted in a stronger book!

 

I’ll report back in a few weeks to let you know how it went! Wish me luck!

 

 

If you’re interested in staying updated about my research, upcoming books and the cool things I find online, sign up for my monthly newsletter and get my best stuff first. Subscribe here!   

New York: The Sketchbook Project

This post, is a part of my thinking and research for my new book, HUSTLE & FLOAT that centres around the tensions between productivity and creativity. You can follow other related entries here

 

From my Instagram @foushy

One of my best friends, Dan, organized an amazing surprise for me during my last trip to NYC: a visit to the Sketchbook Project in Brooklyn, a crowd-sourced library that features more than 33,000 artist sketchbooks from around the world. Free to the public, you can use the handy mobile site to search through the massive collection using keywords, locations or artist names.

If you’re a creative, this place is pure heaven. I’ve been obsessed with perusing people’s sketchbooks online for years, and we easily spent a few hours diving into the imaginations of strangers. It. Was. Awesome. If you’re headed to NYC in the near future – add this to your list of must-sees! If you’re too far away to enjoy, worry not! There’s  a digital version of the library too.

 

I was so inspired by the experience – there’s nothing like being surrounded by creative work. The space just had a vibrant energy that had be eager to get back home and work on my own stuff! It was incredibly useful for my Hustle & Float research and I’m already trying to figure out when I can go back to spend some more time there. I’m even toying with the idea of submitting my own sketchbook! 😉

 

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Free Download! ArchiTechs Volume 2

ArchiTech Volume 2

ArchiTech Volume 2

 

I’m delighted to share the second volume of ArchiTechs, an on-going series of long form essay that explores how individuals are leveraging new technologies to access a scale and scope of power that was traditionally reserved for large organizations and associations. The series explores how technology is impacting our daily lives. Volume 2, focuses on the evolution of online identity and outlines the phases of online development that got us to our current state.

We also discuss how countries like South Korea have tackled some of the challenges of allowing anonymity to exist online and some of the dangers that comes with too much transparency.

 

 

 

Download Red Thread | ArchiTechs Volume 02

 

If you like what you read, please consider signing up for my newsletter, since my subscribers received this two months ago! (I promised them they would get the good stuff first.)

 

Seasons of Work: Summer School Part 2

This is a “show your work”  post about sharing some of my thinking around  my own career development.  You can read Part 1 here

Last year, I wrote about my strategy of taking online courses in the summer (click here for a refresher). As I’m well into my semester, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned as I’ve refined my process. I think it’s amazing that we live in an age where we have access to the best professors at leading universities FOR FREE.

This Summer’s Courses: 

  • Online Games: Literature, New Media & Narrative (Vanderbuilt University)
  • Social and Economic Networks: Models and Analysis (Stanford University)
  • Networks Illustrated: Principles Without Calculus (Princeton University)
  • A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment (Indian School of Business)

 

1) Choose your platform wisely: I love the coursera app.

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Last year, I took a few classes on the MIT Open Courseware platform, but I found it bulky and annoying. It took me twice as long to complete the courses because it was such a pain.  I’ve been using the Coursera App obsessively ever since and I love it for several reasons.

  • It has an easy to use design, especially on mobile devices. User experience is key for me, especially if I’m going to be frequently accessing the app. I found the app to be intuitive and well designed, and it’s made it painless to access and interact with content.  It’s super easy to add, delete and change courses too.
  • You can download videos and course materials for offline viewing. This has been my favorite feature! As I wrote in my last post, I like to maximize my enjoyment of summer weather, and this app makes it easy to consume course materials on the go, meaning I can catch a lecture while I’m out and about – preferably on a nice patio or by the seine. Alternatively, you can power through a bunch of lessons on long airplane rides, making your travel time productive and interesting. Especially if you fly in one of United’s old, horrible airplanes that have no televisions oroutlets. (Seriously United?? Not even an outlet?!)

 

2) Build it into your weekly schedule

One of my favorite quotes comes from Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Workweek. He says: A lack of time is a lack of priorities. Here’s what I believe: continuous learning is essential for professional development. So it’s a priority for me. I make time for it in a way that makes sense to me and I’m realistic about what I can and can’t accomplish.

I purposefully schedule my courses in the summer because I make a conscious effort to scale back other responsibilities. I would totally fail at completing them if I tried to do it in the winter, which is one of my busiest times. I set aside time each week to sit and study some of the material. The day of the week might change depending on my schedule, but I always make sure I include the time.

Find the cycle that works for you: is it 20 minutes a day? An hour a week? Make it work for you. Self-paced learning means there are no excuses to making it fit with your schedule. Commuting time, waiting in line, coffee breaks, workouts, while cooking – there’s always an opportunity to listen to one of the lectures if you know where to look

Pro tip: Depending on the complexity of the material, I can increase the speed of the videos to 1.5 or 2x the normal speed without losing comprehension. If it’s really technical stuff, then I won’t multitask and will listen to it at normal speed. Experiment and see what works!

3) Be realistic about what you can do

I’ve learned that consistency is far more effective than quantity as a metric of achievement. When I first started, not only did I completely underestimate the time it would take to complete the materials, but I set up crazy expectations about how much time I was going to devote to this every day.

I have since learned that it’s better to set the expectation of constant forward momentum. I don’t force myself to adhere to the course schedule, because I’m auditing the courses, I don’t feel the pressure to stick to their timelines, and focus on completing the course in a way that makes sense to me. There’s no harm in starting with one course if that’s all you have time for.

I’ve managed to take more courses without getting overwhelmed by just making sure that I did something consistently. Even if all I could do one week was listen to 30 minutes or 10 minutes – who cares! It’s better than zero, right?

4) Figure out how to capture the information

Last year, I took a bunch of notes in my moleskin as I was going through the courses, but I didn’t plan out how I was going to use the information. This year, I think I’m going to type up my notes, and create a filing system for them online (Evernote or simplenote are great for this.) I’ll be sharing some of my outlines as well, so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter if you’re interested in getting those!

 

5) Always Include A Wildcard

Wild Card

Most of the courses I take are centered around the digital space, big data or strategy. However, I always make sure I include one totally random course. You never know what will inspire you. Incorporating different schools of thoughts and unrelated subject matters will only enrich your knowledge base. This year, I’m taking A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment because I think the premise is super interesting.  Other wildcard courses on my To-Be-Learned include:

  • The Psychology of Popularity (University of North Carolina)
  • Superhero Entertainments (National University of Singapore)
  • Soul Beliefs: Causes and Consequences (Rutgers, State University of New Jersey).

 

I hope you found this post helpful and are inspired to kick start your own  summer school. If you’re into lifestyle design, I’ve written about it here and here. Happy learning!

 

If you’re interested in staying updated about my research, upcoming books and general cool things I find online, sign up for my monthly newsletters and get my best stuff first. Subscribe here.