Every person has a different length of time he or she can work before productivity and efficiency begin to decline—and this length of time can also shift over the course of a day. Keeping track of when energy levels rise and fall will help determine a schedule for alternating between mindful and mindless activities. Once these ebbs and flows are determined, a timer can be used to keep track of, and direct, these shifts to help prevent exhaustion and time-wasting.
Given all this talk of tracking and training, it might sound like you need to be a scientist or an athlete to truly excel at making great creative work. And in a sense you do: any kind of excellence ultimately requires observation, refinement, adaptation, and endurance. Just listen to acclaimed writer Haruki Murakami explaining the self-control he must put forth to complete his work: When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen-hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.
There’s no executive in the digital era better known for long-term planning than Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. In the early days of the company, when future-thinking was perhaps most important, Bezos would try to keep his schedule completely open on Mondays and Thursdays. Rather than playing catch-up or taking on a typical CEO schedule of back-to-back meetings, Bezos preserved a good chunk of his weekly time just to explore, learn, and think. He would poke around the various Amazon sites and spend time on the stuff he would ordinarily never get to do. As Bezos explained in a WIRED profile, “I wander around and talk to people or set up my own meetings—ones that are not part of the regular calendar.”11 Setting aside this unstructured time to fully invest in inhabiting the present moment—to take the tenor of his team or fully dive into his own thoughts—has no doubt served Bezos well in honing Amazon’s long-term vision.
Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (The 99U Book Series)) by Jocelyn K. Glei
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
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