Whatever happened to spontaneity? Remember when you used to wake up and say, “What do I want to do today?” Now, we wake up and look to our phones for a directive. We check the weather app to see what we should wear, we check our email to tell us what we should do.
As designer James Victore writes in our new 99U book:
We have become so trusting of technology that we have lost faith in ourselves and our born instincts. There are still parts of life that we do not need to “better” with technology. It’s important to understand that you are smarter than your smartphone. To paraphrase, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your Google. Mistakes are a part of life and often the path to profound new insights—so why try to remove them completely? Getting lost while driving or visiting a new city used to be an adventure and a good story. Now we just follow the GPS.
To “know thyself” is hard work. Harder still is to believe that you, with all your flaws, are enough—without checking in, tweeting an update, or sharing a photo as proof of your existence for the approval of your 719 followers. A healthy relationship with your devices is all about taking ownership of your time and making an investment in your life. I’m not calling for any radical, neo-Luddite movement here. Carving out time for yourself is as easy as doing one thing. Walk your dog. Stroll your baby. Go on a date—without your handheld holding your hand.
This is an excerpt from Manage Your Day-to-Day, the new book from 99U, with contributions from James Victore, Gretchen Rubin, Scott Belsky, Seth Godin, Stefan Sagmeister, and many more.
Illustration courtesy of James Victore.
That’s right. Clients don’t have to just be on the receiving end of our work. Patrick Hanlon at Inc. explores the ways that clients can become collaborators. He writes:
Today, consumers aren’t just your buyers, they can also be your collaborators. They can help you design, build, promote, and sometimes even distribute your products or services.
He pulls an example from the business world about working with customers at the onset:
First, collaborating with customers during the product innovation and design phase helps marketers understand real need states. P&G, GE, Yum! brands, and others bring consumers into early stages of design and development.
Hanlon stopped short of really answering the question, so let’s discuss it ourselves. How can we collaborate with our clients to enhance our work and processes? How can we use them to gather invaluable feedback to make sure what we’re doing – whether it is building a product, developing a new service or executing new promotional ideas – is actually effective? How can we then turn clients into fierce ambassadors invested in our work, of which they feel ownership in?
Let us know in the comments what your experience is with customers as collaborators.
No one really cares that you’re an overachiever. As creative professionals, we’re seldom satisfied with our output because it’s seldom perfect. But more often than not, good enough is perfect. Head of Creative & Design at HubSpot, Keith Frankel, shared a simple guide to recognizing when a deliverable can be considered “good enough.”
- It successfully solves the problem, addresses the need, or conveys the message intended.
- It is clearly and distinctly on brand.
- The quality of work is consistent with or above the level of previous work.
- It has been thoroughly yet objectively scrutinized by other qualified individuals.
- The final decision of preference had been left in the hands of the creator.
According to Ayelet Gneezy, Associate Professor at the University of California in San Diego’s Rady School of Management, “You really, really want to keep a promise, and anything beyond that is marginal, if anything…Don’t kill yourself trying to over deliver.”
If you’re struggling to feel motivated, using tricks or treats may be all you need to get the momentum going again. Illustrator James Victore swears by the unique approach to getting unstuck:
The first step of getting motivated: identify the type of motivation problem you’re having. Are you not motivated by the work itself (such as it doesn’t excite you) or are you lacking internal motivation (like a lack of energy because you didn’t sleep well last night)?
Once you know the type of motivation problem you’re having, you can motivate yourself with tricks like forcing yourself to work for one hour by using a stop watch, or promising a co-worker or peer that you’ll get something done in the next 30 minutes. Anything that can “trick” you into getting started on the work.
Alternatively, the treats approach is just that — a literal treat. If you make progress on (or finish) the work, reward yourself with something you’ve been wanting for a long time.
We’ve all been there. Attended an exhilarating conference, met fascinating people and left charged… Only to get back home, feeling overwhelmed, pulled quickly back into our day-to-day, to the point that we don’t follow-up or follow-through to maximize our conference experience.
On Linkedin Pulse, Nedko Nedkov offers strategies for acting on the learning that takes place at conferences. He suggests:
Before you leave the conference there’s two things you need to do. One, is schedule a 30 minutes meeting with your team for the very first day when you arrive back in the office. The second is schedule a one hour slot for yourself either on the very first day or the very next day when you get back.
During the team meeting, Nedkov suggests a conference debrief of what was learned and what’s to come, including any assignments. During your personal one-on-one, he suggests that you go through any conference notes and start identifying to-dos and what’s next.
The intentionality of sharing and considering what you learned and turning that knowledge into action can possibly make the difference between harnessing that electric energy that we feel after an awesome conference and feeling guilty that we did nothing.
Projects fail all the time. Rather than wait for an ugly postmortem that often follows, why not try to help avert real failures before they happen by playing devil’s advocate.
In an interview with The McKinsey Quarterly, psychologist Gary Klein advocates for the use of what he calls a “premortem” in the planning phase, a concept he first introduced on HBR:
Before a project starts, we should say, “We’re looking in a crystal ball, and this project has failed; it’s a fiasco. Now, everybody, take two minutes and write down all the reasons why you think the project failed.”
By making it safe for resistors to voice their concerns during the planning phase, you can improve your project’s chance for success.
Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project conducted what he calls The Energy Audit with 160 bank executives and discovered a series of startling things which further supported his theory that we’re all experiencing an under-recognized personal energy crisis:
Energy, after all, is the capacity to do work. In the face of relentlessly rising demand, fuelled by digital technology and the expectation of instant 24/7 responsiveness, employees around the world are increasingly burning down their energy reserves and depleting their capacity.
Tony urges us to think of our energy as divided into four layers:
Your physical energy – how healthy are you?
Your emotional energy – how happy are you?
Your mental energy – how well can you focus on something?
Your spiritual energy – why are you doing all of this? What is your purpose?
Building up all four of these elements for a greater capacity of physical energy will build the base for getting better at whatever it is you want to improve.