Should We Be Sleeping in Shifts, Rather than 7-Hour Blocks?

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Science shows that sleep is essential to memory and creativity. As the NY Times reported, “Sleep improves creative ability to generate aha! moments and to uncover novel connections among seemingly unrelated ideas.” But what if we’re going about sleep all wrong?

Most humans in the industrial world sleep in one long stretch. We go to bed, sleep for 7 or 8 hours if we’re lucky, and then get up and go to work. But, as a recent New Yorker piece by Elizabeth Kolbert explains, this isn’t the way we always slept. And it may be why nearly two thirds of Americans claim that they’re not getting enough rest during the week.

Wolf-Meyer refers to the practice of going to bed at around eleven o’clock at night and staying there until about seven in the morning as sleeping “in a consolidated fashion.” Nowadays, adults are expected to sleep in this manner; anything else–sleeping during the day, sleeping in bursts, waking up in the middle of the night–is taken to be unsound, even deviant. This didn’t use to be the case.

Until a century and a half or so ago, Wolf-Meyer observes, “Americans, like other people around the world, used to sleep in an unconsolidated fashion, that is, in two or more periods throughout the day.” They went to bed not long after the sun went down. Four or five hours later, they work from their “first sleep” and rattled around–praying, chatting, smoking, or making love.(Benjamin Franklin reportedly like to spend this time reading naked in a chair.) Eventually, they went back to bed for their “second sleep.”

Flickr founder Caterina Fake recently discussed her experiments with sleeping with shifts. And creative luminaries from Winston Churchill to Thomas Edison to Salvador Dali have been known to appreciate the art of intermittent sleep.

What’s your take? Are you looking for a better solution than “consolidated sleep”?

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Kill The Dreaded Status Meeting

Designed by Julien Deveaux from The Noun Project

Designed by Julien Deveaux from The Noun Project

We’ve all been to the notorious status meeting, where in a round-robin fashion everyone says what they’re working on. According to research by Atlassian, you’re highly likely to daydream during this meeting, do other work during this meeting or just miss it entirely.

Author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting, Al Pittampalli, suggests that in an effort to skip the status meeting and get right to work, that we kill the status meeting altogether, and only have meetings that support a decision that has already been made:

If a decision maker needs advisement pre-decision, he should get it from others via one-on-one conversations. Only after a preliminary decision is made can a meeting be convened. A meeting might be necessary for either of two reasons:

Conflict: The relevant stakeholders can debate the decision, propose alternatives, suggest modifications, or have concerns addressed.  The decision is ultimately resolved.

Coordination: If a decision demands complex collaboration from different people, teams or departments, stakeholders can convene to coordinate an action plan.

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Not Every Side Project Needs to Make Money

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Rolling Pin designed by Julien Deveaux from the Noun Project

In an interview with Explore Create Repeat, graphic designer Adam J. Kurtz talks about the importance of having a side project:

I do think it’s important for everyone to do “things” on the side. Regardless of your chosen profession, career, or job, I hope that everyone enjoys other hobbies and activities and hopefully you have the resources to take them as far as you’d like to. If you love baking, bake a whole lot of cakes sometime and Instagram that sh*t. If you’re super knowledgeable about pizza and love bringing friends to your favorite spots (like Scott Wiener, who I met recently) then maybe you start a pizza tour.

For makers, side projects are not about generating extra money or developing new skills, they simply cannot stop creating. For Kurtz, making stuff is his life, his therapy and his hobby. It’s a way to experiment and combine multiple interests without an end in mind. When you work full-time in a creative field, sometimes you need to be reminded about the joys of simply creating. Kurtz reminds us that “everyone can do anything, we just forget.”

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Why Innovation Starts With Enthusiasts

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What’s the secret to good business? “Create more value than you capture,” says Tim O’Reilly, the entrepreneur and deep thinker behind O’Reilly Media.

A key figure in the rise of the open-source and maker movements, O’Reilly knows a thing or two about launching world-changing ideas. That’s why we interviewed him for our new book, Make Your Mark.

Here’s a glimpse of O’Reilly’s take on how creatives can build businesses that really make an impact:

Where do you think great business ideas come from?

Innovation starts with enthusiasts. The reason why it starts with enthusiasts is that they are focused on the right priority, which is the change they want to make in the world, versus say, a business idea that will get funded. Their perspective is: How cool would it be if we could all have our own computers? How cool would it be if I could put up information for free on the Internet and anybody could access it? How cool would it be if I could build an assistive robot for my grandmother?

What should entrepreneurs be thinking about if they really want to make an impact?

Aaron Levie of Box tweeted something great about Uber recently. He said, “Uber is a $3.5 billion lesson in building for how the world should work instead of optimizing for how the world does work.”

Being able to see the world in a fresh way is the essence of being an entrepreneur. You have an idea about the way the world ought to be. You have a theory about why and how you are going to connect the dots.

Read the full interview with O’Reilly—and 20 more insights from creative visionaries—in our new book on building a creative business: Make Your Mark.

Bonus: Use promo code “MAKEURMARK” to get 20% off pre-orders through Nov 17th, 2015.

Get  “Make Your Mark” now –>

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Authentic Ways to Network

Network by XOXO from The Noun Project

Network by XOXO from The Noun Project

So you want to build make some connections in your creative community? Fantastic. But if your first instinct is to attend a networking event and distribute business cards, think again – traditional networking aka “dirty networking” actually makes people feel physically dirty and is an ineffective way of making a name for yourself.

Building social currency is about being honest and authentic, and showing that you value others. In their Social Capital Building Toolkit, Harvard University researchers Thomas H. Sander and Kathleen Lowney, share some high impact and more natural ways to build social capital, including:

Food/Celebrations. ie. host a start-up open house or celebrate your agency’s anniversary.

Joint activity around common interest or hobby. ie. organize a team of friends or colleagues and play agency ball.

Doing a favor for another. ie. help another company move into their new office or volunteer space for a meetup.

Discussion of community issues. ie. talk about poor trash pickup or organize a town-hall about bike lanes.

Undertaking joint goal. ie. create a meetup or collaborate on bringing an event to your city.

Intentional relationship building (“one on ones”). ie. set up coffee dates with people you want to know.

To enjoy all the benefits of social currency, you first have to build it. Then be patient and let your relationships mature organically.

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Collaborate on Information, Not Ideas

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Information designed by Mister Pixel from the Noun Project

In an essay recently published on MIT Technology Review, Isaac Asimov states that meeting with other creatives is important, not for the creation of new ideas, but to share information that leads to new ideas:

No two people exactly duplicate each other’s mental stores of items. One person may know A and not B, another may know B and not A, and either knowing A and B, both may get the idea—though not necessarily at once or even soon. Furthermore, the information may not only be of individual items A and B, but even of combinations such as A-B, which in themselves are not significant… It seems to me then that the purpose of cerebration sessions is not to think up new ideas but to educate the participants in facts and fact-combinations, in theories and vagrant thoughts.

New ideas are often the result of making connections between two or more unrelated items. For this to be possible, you need to have a good background knowledge in a particular field and a wide variety of items available to connect. Asimov suggests meeting colleagues in a relaxed environment to discuss a particular subject and throw around all types of odd connections. To get the best ideas, make sure your participates are “willing to sound foolish and listen to others sound foolish.”

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How to Find Your Purpose & Live It

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Illustration by Jessica Hagy.

“Whether you’re a leader doing the hard work of articulating a purpose for your organization, or you’re an individual ready to live a more directed life,” says Keith Yamashita. “The first step in living your purpose is distilling it.”

Once you find your purpose, it acts as a comfort and a compass for every decision—big and small—that you make about how to spend your time.

Kicking off our brand-new 99U book Make Your Mark with a bang, Yamashita dives right into the key questions you should be asking to uncover your purpose.

To define your personal purpose, start with these questions:

  • How will the world be better off thanks to you having been on this earth?
  • What are your unique gifts and superpowers?
  • Who have you been when you’ve been at your best?
  • Who must you fearlessly become?

At the intersection of these four questions lies your personal purpose. The questions are deceptively simple, and you might be tempted to rush through them. To really do the task justice—and to do yourself justice—you have to peel away the layers of your self-conception. You have to get beyond that image you’ve made for yourself that you so strongly defend. And you have to get at what is actually true. The tension among your answers reveals as much as the commonalities. Lean into it. This process may take days. It may obsess your thinking for weeks. For some, it takes years to unfold. There is no magical timeline. Move at your own pace.

You can find Keith’s complete essay—and 20 more insights from creative leaders—in our new book on building a creative business with impact: Make Your Mark.

Bonus: Use promo code “MAKEURMARK” to get 20% off pre-orders through Nov 17th, 2015.

Get “Make Your Mark” now –>

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