Burst that myth

I get my best ideas when I’m running. Funny how the brain works that way. I’m pounding the pavement, not my keyboard when suddenly, bam, there it is, the solution to my problem. Now, if I only had a pen on me…

I was raised, just like you I bet, to accept that life is a lot about work, and work means 8+++ hours in the same place, every day, five days a week (sometimes more, right Dad?) toiling away until retirement, geez I hope it comes by 55! And I lived that way – and there were many many good days between the bad – until I started Pivot. Even then, when I took on a contract, the contract assumed 5 days a week, every day, in the office, plodding away, getting stuff done. It never occurred to me, early on, that I might be far more productive and do a heck of a better job if I just did the work when the moment struck me. I think we all think that that moment strikes so rarely that we’d never get stuff done.

If (when?) we think this, we’re wrong.

Elite athletes get it. They refer to these moments as ‘bursts.’ A marathon runner, for example, might indulge in interval training where, in the midst of a standard practice run, she throws in a few sprints to change things up, to wake up her muscles, to sharpen her focus. The advantage she has over the average office worm is she’s already getting lots of exercise. Us, we’re sitting in front of our computers, banging out stuff, lots of it inane, and lots of it that requires a redo because we’ve lost our focus or drive part way through the exercise. Or worse, we’re stuck in a meeting about nothing, going around and around in circles rather than getting our work done. There’s a simple solution to this. Get up and step away. But not for five minutes; how about an hour? Three hours? Thirty minutes? Whatever works best for you.

But many of us “can’t.”

We can’t because our boss is watching, and if we do, we’re officially slacking. Or we’re the boss, and if we do this, we’re coasting and shoving responsibility to our underlings. Are we, though? Seriously, if I didn’t take that run at 10.13 this morning, I’d still be slamming my head against the wall, trying to come up with a solution to a problem I solved 10 minutes into a 30 minute run. Last week, if I hadn’t stepped away from my keyboard to get a haircut at 2 in the afternoon, I’d have to gut and rework that great presentation I cranked out as soon as I got home – just like running, I often get great ideas when someone’s washing my hair!

We’ve advanced so much, but really we haven’t advanced at all. Our old ways of thinking – must be in office to do work; must be at desk to do work; must do work from x to x every day – get in the way of our real way of being. And it’s when we’re being our true selves that we actually get stuff done, good stuff!

One day, I hope all of us will be able to work when we’re good and ready to do it. Because that’s when true happiness and productivity will come together, and none of us will be clambering for Freedom 55. “Work,” in this new form, will be too darned awesome, fulfilling and fun to give up.