Contrary to popular belief, the key to creativity is actually focus. I know a lot of creatives are going to be like, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I don’t like rigidity. I don’t like this out there. I want to be creative. I want to be in flow.” Well, you can’t be in flow if you’re constantly being interrupted. In today’s age, we have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, social media galore going right at us. We have chats coming up on our computer, email coming in, people talking to us left and right, so many distractions that it’s almost impossible to be in a flow state unless you actually create it by being focused.
What I’m going to invite you to do is something that I’ve been playing with quite a bit. I tried different methodologies, but it’s really setting a timer and then turning off everything else around you. That means putting your phone in airplane mode. That means signing out of chat and letting your team, your boss, your coworkers, whoever it may be, your spouse, letting them know that you have focus time at this moment, turning off all the distractions around you, and then having that focus time so you can be in flow and be creative.
You can be creative when doing accounting. You can be creative when doing art, of course. You could be creative when doing business strategy. This is why I love coming in and doing business strategy for companies. It’s one of my jobs. It’s one of the things that I really enjoy, especially on the marketing side, because I go in there and I use basic science and combine it with art and come up with a creative solution to allow them to dominate their marketplace. “It’s my version of painting,” is what I tell people. What is yours? How can you actually get more creativity in your life by getting more focus?
One of my clients happens to be a coach, and he was going through the similar thing, and we were talking, and he was just telling me, “Hey, Doug, I just don’t have enough time. Business is good. I just don’t have enough time in my life,” and when I looked at it, what I had him do was something I’ve talked about in these Daily Growth Hacks, and I do it with almost all my clients, is I said, “Send me your calendar. Tell me what you’re doing all day.” I looked at his calendar, and there was just huge gaps in the day, which is great if you’re doing things that you like to do, and he wasn’t. He was a very high-end … He is a very high-end, very respected coach, and he’ll be listening to this, so hi, but what happened for him is he was being distracted constantly, and so I had him do two things. One is I had him install a program that tracked what he was doing on his computer and his cellphone. Then I had him write down what he felt he was doing throughout the day in 15-30 minute increments.
What he found after four days of this was he was actually spending three to four hours on social media each and every day. This wasn’t social media for outreach. This wasn’t social media for a business dev. This was social media in a sense of going on, being distracted so you can avoid doing those things that are important to you. Social media, I call it cat videos. I use that analogy a lot because it’s going onto Facebook or Instagram or even LinkedIn and just getting sucked into one video, one post after another, responding to people’s comments, etc., etc., etc.
I love social media. In fact, one of our agencies actually has a thing called The Authority Maker, and a big part of that is social media dominance. However, social media can be one of those slippery slopes, as can chat, as can all other distractions, whether it be Slack, HipChat, for business, phone calls coming in. We get so distracted by all these external things in our world that we don’t actually take control and have focus.
One thing that I’m doing is something that’s called Jam Sessions. My coach actually recommended I do this, and it’s very similar to things I’ve done in the past. He calls them Jam Sessions. What we do is take 90-minute blocks twice a day and just focus and turn everything off, and, also, for some of my clients, I usually say start off with 20 minutes. Start off with a 20-minute increment, and that’s what you can do.
There are all kinds of other principles out there and things that people use to do this, but it’s the same, same idea. You can get more creative when you get more focused, and I notice that where I get the least amount of focus are in two areas of my life, relationships and in business.
In business, what happens, as I have three screens going on at any given time, plus another laptop, plus a cellphone, and I’m running six companies, and I’m talking to different people, business partners, colleagues, affiliates, staff, I’m going customers, I’m going all over the place. I used to pride myself on the ability to do that, but it just not focus work. What I’ve done is I’ve shut all that down, and so when I focus, I actually focus, and my team knows I’m not available until 10:00 AM, and after 10:00 AM, I’m only available till 2:00. What that does is actually allows them to do the work that they’re supposed to do and hyper-condensed the things that they need from you, really.
Another thing that I’m doing, in the area of relationships I was noticing, is my cell phone would go off, and I’ll think, “Oh, someone needs me,” or something would happen. I’d be distracted. I wasn’t being present. Having an infant, I can’t even imagine a better presence meter than a young child. He knows right away when I’m not present or if I’m on my phone, and so I just turn distractions off. I just try not to even bring it around anymore, and after a certain time, I’m just done. I’m done. I’m just with my family. In fact, I’m lucky enough that even in my office, I just walk out the door and play with my family throughout the day. I wrestle with my child. I hang out with my wife. In fact, just before this Daily Growth Hack, I was just chatting with her about things that we’re going to do today, and I want that lifestyle to you if you want it. It took me a while to get here, but I want that for you.
Part of the way that I was able to get here is having focus time, and so I invite you to look at this, as well, and the way that I would recommend doing this is where in your Five to Thrive like me are you possibly losing focus? Is it in your mind? Is it in your body? Is it in your soul? Is it in your relationships, like me? Is it in your business, like it was for me, as well? These are areas I constantly focus on or look at, and the way that I look at it is I write down my Five to Thrive, and I write out what’s true. I’m just raw, relevant and honest with myself and see where in those areas that I’m losing focus. Where I’m losing focus, I know I’m losing creativity, and creativity is the magic of innovation, and innovation and marketing are the magic of business, and so if you have any interest in business, you need to always be innovating and marketing. Those are the two things if we’re going to do anything else in business, but focus and creativity apply to all those areas. I want you to have those.
Write out in your journal. See where you’re leaking focus and then course correct, and I’ve given you a number of tips to do that. Of course, if you want more tips or deeper dives, reach out to me. I’m easy to find on social media, but now you know that I don’t always check it except for at specific times, so I’ll respond to you as quickly as I can. My team also monitors that for me. Then, of course, share this with three people that you know. Grow your tribe so you can have conversations that matter. It is so important that you actually have these people in your life that you can talk to, that you can actually grow with. They say that you’re the product of the five people you spend the most time with, and, of course, you’re spending time with me right now, and I thank you for that, but you need four other people, and so by sharing this with at least three other, you are growing your tribe and you’re growing your circle of influence, and this is going to get you to your path just a little bit quicker.
If you like these daily growth hacks, it would mean the world to us if you would take a moment to subscribe and review us on iTunes!