No matter what type of work you do, it’s hard to resist all of the new and shiny apps and tools that seem to popup every month. Over on the (now defunct) 43 Folders website, writer and GTD expert Merlin Mann explains why you don’t need the latest app or state-of-the-art tools to do your creative work:
My concern is that there’s a big difference between buying new running shoes and actually hitting the road every morning. Big difference. One is really fun and relaxing while the other requires a lot of hard work, diligence, and sacrifice.
Ultimately, the tools that we choose for any purpose will only be as useful as our ability to use them effectively and to understand what their improved quality means to the way we approach our work (as well as the challenges that led us to seek out these new tools). You can buy a successively more costly and high-quality series of claw hammers until you’ve reached the top of the line, but until you learn how to use them skillfully, you’re going to keep making ugly bird houses.
Sure, it’s tempting to want to test every new app or tool that gets released, but it is windup wasting more time picking out a new tool than you do actually using it to produce work.
If you want to write, for example, it doesn’t matter what app you use to do it: you still have to sit down and write the words. The same goes for designing, developing, speaking, and any other sort of creative work. Focus first on the work itself, then worry about finding a better tool to do the job.
Mann explains why our methods and reasoning for doing our work matters more than the tools themselves over on 43 Folders.
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.
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.
As we do every Friday, we’ve collected our best stuff from the past week for your weekend reading pleasure.
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.
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.
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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 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.
A research closet, a table full of index cards, and a ton of scraps: this video offers a fascinating look into the creative process of Dustin Lance Black, an Oscar-winning screenwriter with credits like Milk, J. Edger, and Big Love. Each starts with a ton of research, and then comes the notecards.
“I take material and boil down the moments that are cinematic and put them on notecards,” he says. “Each notecard should be as pure as possible. A film is not what happened, it is an impression of what happened.” He then rearranges and cuts endlessly until he has what he calls his “vomit draft.” From there he ruthlessly edits until, as he puts it, “I can get through the movie and not be bored.”
Looking to convince your boss, client, or potential customer that your ideas are worthwhile? Over on his blog, Scott Berkun covers everything you need to know to pitch your idea without having it flop. Berkun writes:
The classic mistake of would be idea pitchers is to pitch the idea well before it’s ready. When most people find an interesting idea, they’re quickly seduced by their egos into doing silly and non productive things, like annoying the pants off of everyone they come into contact with by telling them how amazing their new idea is. The thrill of being clever is so strong that they forget the fact that there are 100 interesting ideas bouncing around for every single truly good idea.
Most of the time it’s not worth pitching an idea until you’re able to answer some of the basic pragmatic questions about it, such as: What problem does this solve? What evidence is there that the problem is real, and important enough to solve (or in the corporate world, solve profitably?) What are the toughest logistical challenges implied by the idea, and how will (or would) you solve them? Do you have a prototype, sample or demonstration of an implementation of the idea (aka proof of concept)? Why are you the right person to solve it?
There’s a lot to consider when pitching your ideas. Before identifying who the right person to pitch is, and trying to understand their perspective and why your idea matters to them, take Berkun’s advice and answer the important questions to help you decide whether your idea has been fully flushed out, or needs tweaking.
Doing so can make the difference between your idea becoming a reality, or seeming half-baked and falling through the cracks.