I used to rely on the weekend papers for business news, then a couple of years ago I was in a hotel room, killing a few hours before a lunchtime presentation on the morning Robert Peston reported the collapse in the HBoS share price.
Over a two hour period it became clear that my precious savings were not so securely locked away in the Bank of Scotland. News that had once changed little from week to week became dynamic. Dramatic, most days potentially life changing events were occurring on an hourly basis.
Consequently I added a business news subscription to my SMS alerts. So now along with the endless stream of emails, meetings and voicemails I also need to keep a watchful eye on my text messages. On a Monday morning when I look over the appointments booked in for the week ahead I know, that no matter how few engagements are listed, my week will be full. Full of unexpected interruptions, news updates and urgent requests for information.
The funny thing is most Friday’s I reflect on the week just gone with a sense of frustration. What happened to that good idea I vaguely remember having on Wednesday, or the conversation I was going to have with someone on Thursday. I write this knowing that I’m not alone and this reactive, always available style of working is affecting all of us and I’m not so sure it’s a good thing.
My work should involve a fair bit of creative thinking as my team and I are asked to dream up ever more engaging staff conferences and team building programmes. Believe me the last thing you need as you are in the midst of writing out a stream of consciousness is an email pinging up in the corner of the screen advising you to change a password.
So if like me your job requires you to find time to think creatively or work out strategic plans without interruption, here are eight suggestions to help free your mind:
- First list the creative and strategic challenges that you are responsible for, identify which require input from others and which simply need ‘thinking time’
- Set aside time to think alone, when travelling or better still head out for a walk with just a notepad and pen – no phone, Blackberry or laptop.
- Book time away from the normal work place to work creatively with key colleagues at least once every week, use inspiring meeting places like art galleries, parks and well designed bars and restaurants, this will make the experience fun and eliminate distractions.
- Be tough on incoming information, unsubscribe from anything that you wouldn’t go out of your way to read if it didn’t land in your Inbox.
- Only deal with emails before 10am and after 4pm and include an advisory note to that effect in your email signature.
- Buddy up with a colleague who will field your interruptions and vice versa when you are wanting to focus
- Resign from any meetings you routinely attend that are not critical to your role in the organisation
- At least twice a week start your day by deliberately clearing your mind of the ‘chatter’ that impedes clear thinking. To do this simply turn off anything that could communicate, sit in silence, alone for up to half an hour and consciously try not to think of anything at all. It takes practice but after a time your brain will feel like it’s been released to work as it should. Later in the day when you need it to solve a problem or create and idea your brain will astound you with its ability to assimilate and process information.
If you want to build more creativity into your organisation the writer can be reached at team building experts Fresh Tracks.