Tag: Productivity

08
Aug

Anti-Social: When It’s Time to Step Away From Social Media

Image courtesy of http://rubiconn.com/

Image courtesy of http://rubiconn.com/

Recently, we touched upon the importance of giving yourself a break from social media as frequent usage is linked to lower productivity levels and even depression. But why is it so hard for us to disconnect?

While we know part of the reason is that gaining positive feedback on social media, such as likes and retweets, activates the area of the brain associated with pleasure, part of our problem may be rooted in the Industrial Revolution.

As the 19th Century economy took shape, machines introduced us to a world where quick, fast and scale were the marked steps to success. Soon, we started thinking of humans as machines, too. And as scientists studied the mind and body, they applied principles from mechanics and business together. Human habits, traits and personalities were “mechanical” including our brain’s workings.

Over the years, that has translated into a society where we no longer give ourselves permission to disconnect, treating an internet sabbatical as a luxury reserved for (some) vacations, while humbly bragging about our need to be tethered to our phones. We have trained ourselves to be always on and always available, often confusing our time spent online for productivity. In fact, as reported by Business Insider, Americans now spend more time on social media sites than any other online activity, including checking email, with 60% of that traffic coming from smartphones and tablets.

And considering the growing number of social media detox programs, from China’s more than 200 hardcore military-style boot camps to a Scottish Island social media-free experiment, taking extreme measures to break this addiction is becoming more and more popular.

And maybe we need it. According to the Badoo-produced study “Social Lives vs. Social Selves,” 39% of Americans spend more time socializing online than in person. While social media can be an incredibly useful tool for keeping up with clients and colleagues, it shouldn’t replace good, old-fashioned face-to-face interactions.

So, what can you do if your job doesn’t allow you to disconnect completely? Well, you can take babysteps.

Establish Social Media Free Time. Maybe it’s during your lunch break, or perhaps you go offline for an hour after dinner, but the more you schedule time to be off (or on) social media, the easier the habit will become to break.

Make Facebook-Free Zones. Maybe you don’t allow yourself to go online when you’re lying in bed or during your morning commute. Whatever part of your life provides you with the most zen space, make that area social-free.

Get Help. No, we’re not saying you’ve got to go to an island for a week, but if you really can’t help yourself, try installing an app or web blocker to help rid you of distractions.

And if all else fails, maybe it’s time to check out one of those boot camps after all.

 

01
Aug

It’s Summer: Daydream!

DaydreamSummer months are ideal occasions for creative ideation. As work colleagues go on holiday, and frenzied schedules relax, there are more chances for what I call unstructured creative work — ideation time without overly planned, organized and managed schedules. It’s the time to daydream, wander and to get bored. Yes, that’s right, get bored for a creative purpose.

Creativity — whether in the science, design or agency worlds — demands freedom to play and wander, and our over-scheduled and hectic daily routines don’t leave room for deep, creative work. What we know of as “aha” moments happen because you’ve just connected lots of seemingly unrelated dots that have been steeping in your unconscious over time. Think of it this way: Suddenly, the science exhibit you’re viewing brings to mind the Transformers movie you just saw and that blends with a song you heard a few weeks ago at a party. And, “aha,” seemingly out of nowhere, you came up with the perfect idea for tomorrow morning’s data visualization presentation.

That’s creativity. Taking seemingly unrelated things and combining them together to make something new. The creative process is a complex orchestration and neuroscientists are only beginning to map out the relationship between creativity and the unconscious. We do know that for the most creative and productive minds, incubation takes time and involves several steps and processes.

In a recent article in the Atlantic, researcher Nancy Andreasen studied the most “prolific” writers to see if she could see patterns and processes in highly productive minds. Andreasen found that the most productive creatives ideate, prepare and incubate. In other words, they work, ponder and engage their curiosity and produce. They’ve got room to roam and they use it cleverly.

But, as we understand from experience, the unconscious process and its strengths don’t always fit into standardized work schedules, and, in fact, many people and companies hold negative opinions, judgments and associations with daydreaming, the vital element in the creative incubation process. Sometimes, people are judged as unproductive or lazy when they don’t seem to be hitting a mark; when they aren’t relentlessly “producing” heaps of “things.”

That’s because we live in a culture that defines creativity by metrics and outputs. Fortunately, this notion is changing as pioneers of the unconscious, like neuroscientist Scott Barry Kaufman, are studying the activities of the brain where creativity emerges, and in the process, are challenging conventional notions about daydreaming and slackers who want to take a nap after lunch.

But even as science helps to evolve our understanding and relationship with our generative powers of innovation, convergent thinking and originality is elusive. In the abstract, we love it, admire it and try to fit it into schedules. But in the practical sense, sometimes we just have to give ourselves a little flexibility to go off schedule and zone out with our thoughts for a while. So, take advantage of the long warm days and empty quiet offices, and give yourself some space to ruminate.

It’s summer. Go daydream!

25
Oct

How Meditation Makes You A Mindful Multitasker

Being unproductive? Free yourself!

Being unproductive? Free yourself!

Om, that feeling of complete calm and quiet is something we’re all greatly missing in our daily lives, which is especially true when we’ve got a busy work and personal life schedule. Stress can manifest itself in many ways mentally and physically. It impacts our ability to be creative and think clearly, the way we relate to others, the quality of our sleep, and our overall well-being.

Latest neuroscience research shows that giving yourself time to relax and meditate help you better make creative decisions and even multitask. According to a paper titled “The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment,” released by professors at the University of Washington, meditation training can help people working with information stay on tasks longer with fewer distractions and also improves memory and reduces stress, which is something we could all use a little more of.

We share IDEO founder and Stanford professor David Kelley’s ideas in his most recent book Creative Confidence. We too believe that for clients to think creatively, it takes a lot of taking a step back, breathing and letting yourself assess the situation before judging or using analysis, the basic principles of meditation. That’s not just beneficial on the client side; anyone in our creative community could take a page from that. Too many times when we’re faced with a situation that has us over-taxed, emotionally, physically or mentally, we’re in such a hurry to power through it to get to the other side that we don’t often stop and really let ourselves really think on it.

So even with all of those multitasking apps aimed at improving productivity at our fingertips, the best solution might actually come from within.

 


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