Cory Doctorow: Minimize “Pickup Time” by Stopping in the Middle

One of the toughest parts of creating work is defeating resistance (or overcoming the lizard-brain) to get started. It’s inevitable that getting started will be difficult — however, you can minimize the time and energy spent on this difficulty by stopping in the middle of a thought or sentence and leaving it to be complete the next day. 

Journalist and author Cory Doctorow advocates the benefits of leaving yourself a sharp edge in this 2009 essay:

When you hit your daily word-goal, stop. Stop even if you’re in the middle of a sentence. Especially if you’re in the middle of a sentence. That way, when you sit down at the keyboard the next day, your first five or ten words are already ordained, so that you get a little push before you begin your work. Knitters leave a bit of yarn sticking out of the day’s knitting so they know where to pick up the next day — they call it the “hint.” Potters leave a rough edge on the wet clay before they wrap it in plastic for the night — it’s hard to build on a smooth edge.

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Michael Bierut: Make the Best of What You’ve Got

Instead of just going through the motions on your next project, look for the hidden opportunities you already have. On The Creative Influence, graphic designer Michael Bierut challenges us to look for opportunities in even the most dull assignments. He speaks about his mentor, designer Massimo Vignelli, when he was asked to sort through the chaos of the New York subway signage during the 1960s. He remembers thinking:

Does that sound like an exciting job to you? I wanted to design record covers for rock bands and this is signs for the subway, what the heck? But Massimo understood that every assignment like that had within it the opportunity to do something of consequence. So imagine that, for many people when you sort of say, “what is New York to you?” Sometimes what they picture is standing on a subway platform under a sign that says ‘Uptown 456.’

As Bierut learned, “every single opportunity has the potential to be something that might have some impact on peoples’ daily lives for years to come.”

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Related: 5 Secrets from 86 Notebooks

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To Create Your Best Work, Finish Your Worst

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Scribble designed by Michael Chanover from the Noun Project

At Entrepreneur, social behavior expert James Clear states that in any creative endeavor you have to give yourself permission to “create junk.” Don’t fall under the impression that great minds are able to produce compelling work on their first attempt. As Steven Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, affirms:

It was ten years before I got the first check for something I had written and ten more before a novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was actually published. But that moment when I first hit the keys to spell out THE END was so epochal. I remember rolling the last page out and adding it to the stack that was the finished manuscript. Nobody knew I was done. Nobody cared. But I knew. I felt like a dragon I’d been fighting all my life had just dropped dead at my feet and gasped out its last sulfuric breath.

The catch? You have to finish it. Even if it is the worst thing you have ever created – get it done. Once you have a finished product, you can go back and find what needs revising. Producing something to completion will provide you with the confidence to continue creating — and eventually, something just might stick.

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Jim Carrey: Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Fail

Actor and comedian Jim Carrey delivered a powerful commencement address at Maharishi University on having the courage to make the leap:

So many of us chose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying: I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it.

My father could have been a great comedian but he didn’t believe that was possible for him. So he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.

I learned many great lessons from my father. Not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

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Stop Multitasking, Start Monotasking

Arrows by Juan Pablo Bravo from The Noun Project

Arrows by Juan Pablo Bravo from The Noun Project

Multitasking causes a greater decrease in IQ than smoking pot or losing a night’s sleep, found a recent study by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London. 

We need to stop overloading our systems with simultaneous inputs (fortunately, music doesn’t count) and revert to focusing on one thing at a time. Sandra Chapman, author of Make Your Brain Smarter: Increase Your Brain’s Creativity, Energy and Focus, shares three tips for monotasking:

Give your brain some down time. You will be more productive if, several times a day, you step away from mentally challenging tasks for three to five minutes. Get some fresh air, for example, or just look out the window. Taking a break will help make room for your next inspired idea because a halt in constant thinking slows the mind’s rhythms to allow more innovative “aha” moments.

Focus deeply, without distraction. Silence your phone, turn off your email and try to perform just one task at a time. Think it’s impossible to break away? Start with 15-minute intervals and work your way up to longer time periods. Giving your full attention to the project at hand will increase accuracy, innovation and speed.

Make a to-do list. Then identify your top two priorities for the day and make sure they are accomplished above all else. Giving the most important tasks your brain’s prime time will make you feel more productive. Or, as Boone Pickens said, “When you are hunting elephants, don’t get distracted chasing rabbits.”

Our best work deserves our full attention. Besides, most people can’t effectively multitask to begin with. 

Read Chapman’s full post on why monotasking is the way to go, over at Forbes.

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Weekend Reading: The 10 Habits of the Wealthy

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As we do every Friday, we’ve collected our best stuff from the past week for your weekend reading pleasure.

What we’re reading

There are many ways to get rich, but many wealthy people exhibit the same 10 habits toward financial independence.

If you have the unfortunate task of laying off staffers, be honest and human. Basically, don’t do this.

From 99U

Ever take the rest of the day easy because you had a productive morning? Or ate some junk food because you ate well the day before? When we rationalize bad behavior this way it’s called “moral licensing” and left unchecked it could derail your long term goals.

From mahjong parlors, to stoops, to African elections, illustrator Wendy MacNaughton attributes her creativity to getting out of her own head. In other words, get out of your element, find some strangers and then shut up and listen. You can either be comfortable to be creative, but not both.

“The idea of going freelance terrified me,” says designer Craig Ward. “I had no confidence I could turn this into a career.” It was the culmination of 10 years of work, preparation, and networking. In our latest podcast episode we asked we asked Ward how he did it.

Catch more links like these by signing up for our weekly newsletter below, which features our best content, delivered fresh every Sunday.


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Give Your Intern a Thesis Project

Coffee by Julia Soderberg from The Noun Project

Coffee by Julia Soderberg from The Noun Project

If you’re currently managing interns or planning to hire some this coming fall, it’s imperative to remember that their job isn’t to push paper and make coffee runs. In fact, such menial tasks could potentially be construed as illegal according to the Department of Labor.

Ashley Mosley, Community Engagement Manager of InternMatch, shares a handful of tips on how to generate a beneficial experience for both you and your interns. One point struck us as the strongest, and most beneficial, for both the intern and their manager:

Aside from daily tasks, your intern should be delegated one large, long-term project to undertake during their time with you. They will lead this project themselves, but you should be there to guide them in times of need. Depending on their position and your company, this could be a video project, social media campaign, marketing campaign, or even a website. This is their chance to learn, remain focused on a larger end-goal during their downtime, add value to the company, and gain a nice piece for their resume and portfolio.

By creating an awesome internship, you’ll get the best work from your interns as well as make them your advocates (and potentially future employees). Read Mosley’s full list over at the Huffington Post and then follow it up with her guide to kickstarting your internship program.

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