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Take A Moment And Read This Because You Might Be Too Busy Doing Nothing In Your Life

Take A Moment And Read This Because You Might Be Too Busy Doing Nothing In Your Life

Life can be busy. It seems like the older we get, the greater our responsibilities become. Our jobs, families, friends, and even our electronics and social media, are always vying for our attention. Sometimes it feels like we’re sprinting through life trying to keep up with everything.

Being busy isn’t a difficult status to attain. Whenever there’s a chunk of time, there are things that can fill it. The problem is, sometimes we focus on things that don’t actually add value to our lives. Many of us are busy, but we’re not productive.

It’s time to assess whether what you’re doing aligns with your mission

There have been times when I’ve completed a full workday without doing anything of value. Sure, I attended to a barrage of emails and performed menial tasks, but I didn’t tackle anything that put me on the path to advancement. It’s so easy to get stuck in a holding pattern.

Whenever this happens, I like to have some resources on hand to break the monotony and get back to doing purposeful work. One of my go-to reads is Benjamin Hardy’s If You’re Too Busy For These 5 Things: Your Life Is More Off-Course Than You Think.

If you’re too busy, you may need a course-correction

Even the most organized and driven people need to course-correct once in a while, and Hardy breaks down that thought process for his readers.

He starts by acknowledging that people today are too busy focusing on things that don’t matter in the long run. If we don’t stop to evaluate what we’re doing, we can fall into bad habits and stray from the path we’ve set up for ourselves.

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Then, using a series of questions, Hardy explains the areas of our lives that usually get us into trouble. These include organization, environmental energy, financial energy, relational energy, health energy, spiritual energy, and time. The areas he focuses on have to do with our internal and external worlds. Hardy creates an invitation for you to reflect on yourself.

Finally, he sets out solutions to our most common pitfalls. The first thing we have to do is hit the pause button, and organize our lives. If you’ve ever been so busy that it seems like life is just piling up around you, you know the importance of this. Your chaotic inner world leads to external disorganization, which feeds more internal chaos. He argues that you have to stop and regroup when this happens.

Then, he recommends planning and investing in your future. He means this both in terms of financial health, personal health, and relationships, but also in terms of how you spend your time. If you don’t make a conscious effort to define who you are and why you do what you do, you won’t be able to make the most out of life. Vision setting is an important part of this. He states:

“Your vision should be based on your why, not so much your what.”

He further explains that what you do might change, but your why should remain constant.

He concludes by explaining the importance of tracking your work and moving toward your goals every day. When you don’t hold yourself accountable by keeping track of different metrics, it will be difficult to see when you are off course.

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Observe metrics on your relationships, finances, and self-improvement. By keeping track of these areas, you’ll be able to accomplish more, and you’ll be more committed to the end result.

Moving toward your goals takes thought and effort every day. It’s easy to talk about what you want, but it’s another thing entirely to do the work. A famous children’s poem by Shel Silverstein concludes with this:

“But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas/ All Ran Away and Hid/ From One Little Did.”

There’s power in doing the work. Hardy reminds us that “the work” in this case is not busywork. To make progress bit by bit, you have to do the things that relate to your ultimate vision. He recommends doing these things early in the morning, before your energy is depleted by the day.

Why I keep coming back to this article

Re-reading this article is like a yoga instructor reminding you to come back to your breath. It’s the coach telling you to keep moving forward. It’s like saying a mantra over and over in your head in order to manifest a goal. It reminds us that under all the layers of social media, personal and professional labels, and menial tasks, there is a human being dreaming boldly. We have to stick to our core values and fundamentals or we risk getting lost in the shuffle.

The most successful people don’t wind up that way by sheer luck. Building a meaningful life–a life you love–requires planning. You have to monitor your progress and fine tune your methods to get where you want to go. You’ll have to think about how your personal circumstances, experiences, and priorities affect your what and your why.

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Distractions are inevitable. We’re human beings subject to wants and frustrations. We take on responsibilities we don’t need to sometimes. We start labeling everything in our lives as equally important. It’s normal for this to happen, but we have to be able to step back and do some self-study to get back on course.

Takeaways from the article that you can use right now

All this talk does us no good unless we can commit to clearing the clutter from our lives to focus on what matters.

1. Write down your goals and think about your circumstances. Thinking about your goals is great, but when you write them down, it forces you to define exactly what you want.[1]Your written goals can remind you of your purpose when life gets complicated.

Making your goals more concrete can also help you think about circumstances in your life that could affect your outcomes. You’ll be able to anticipate bumps in the road instead of stumbling.

2. Trim the fat. Once you know what you want, you can remove things that don’t fall in line with your why. Think about it like this: The more time you spend on unrelated tasks, the less time you have to do the things that matter to you.

3. Get organized. Setting goals is only one part of the equation. If you want to achieve your goals, you’ll need to break them down into small, actionable steps. When you do this, you can also determine what metrics you will use to establish whether or not you’re making progress. By making a plan and monitoring how well you’re sticking to it, you’ll have a greater chance to succeed than when you fly by the seat of your pants.

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4. Don’t be afraid to make changes. Remember that your plan and methods may have to change depending on what’s happening in your life. Perhaps you have encountered a new challenge, or you realized that your original actionable steps are not reasonable. Adjust your plan so that you don’t lose motivation. Like Hardy explained, what you’re doing can always change, but why you’re doing it should not.

Stay focused on your vision

The static of modern life can muddle our efforts and intentions until we find ourselves working without real purpose. It can happen without warning, and before you know it, you’re unhappy, unhealthy, and questioning your value.

I’ve been there before, and sometimes I just need a reminder to get back on track. If You’re Too Busy For These 5 Things: Your Life Is More Off-Course Than You Think helps me ground myself in my vision, and I hope it will do the same for you.

Featured photo credit: Finda via finda.photo

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Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

Regardless of how creative you already consider yourself to be, there’s a good chance you would like to level up your creative abilities.

You might want to write a better song, think of better solutions to problems at work or around the home or maybe paint a picture.

In any case, the good news is that creativity is not born: it’s made, and each one of us has the potential to be more creative and come up with incredible ideas.

“Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The definition of creativity is broad, and reminds us that creativity is not limited to artists or musicians. It does however require that we have some kind of impact on the domain in which we create.

Creativity also emphasizes values.

“The process of having original ideas that have value” — Ken Robinson

This makes up for what Csikszentmihalyi misses out. For instance, we can make a change in the world without adding significant value. Any destructive act, like smashing a window, creates change, but it doesn’t necessarily create valuable change.

In short, there isn’t one single definition of creativity It’s up to us to find a definition that feels true and useful. When you know what your standard is, It’s much easier to embrace creativity and start to cultivate it.

And in this article, you will learn how to be more creative and take a good look at what goes into the creative skill:

1. Cultivate Focus

In order to create, there needs to be a focus on creating something, whether it’s a song, a theory, a product, or a sculpture.

You could also call this “drive” – it’s the initial spark that drives the solution to a problem, or the will to get on your laptop and start typing.

However, it’s worth noting there are different stages to the creative process: the divergent stage and the convergent stage.

In the divergent stage, we want a broad focus – we want to be willing to let in lots of different inputs, ideas and insights. This is the time for brainstorming all possible ideas and solutions.

In the convergent stage, we start to narrow our focus, like a camera lens. At this stage, we start to drill down to a handful of ideas or solutions, discriminating throughout the process.

How to cultivate focus?

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Take a 20 Minute Walk

Walking away and getting your heart rate up is the best free tool you have in regaining your focus.

I know it might seem counterintuitive to take a break right when you’re at your busiest, and especially when you’re drowning in your massive to do list, but the effects it will have on your clarity and ability to focus are undeniable.

Walking is physiologically proven to release stress, and clear your mind. In fact, most of my most brilliant ideas (and some pretty terrible ones too) have occurred on my daily walks.

If you give this technique a try, what you’ll find is that you’re much more productive than you were before you took a breather.

Over time, if you do these walks daily, you’ll quickly find that your to-do list starts to feel a lot less significant, and a lot more doable. It’s all about keeping razor focused, and that’s what short daily walks will gift you.

2. Build a Structure

When I wake up in the morning, I start the day with a structure in mind. I know that 15 minutes will be dedicated to meditation, 30 minutes to coffee and reading, 20 minutes to yoga and so on.

The structure of this morning routine might be boring, but the act of each task in itself has the potential to be, on some level, “creative.”

The point of structure is that it gives you the space to make time for something you want to do. It helps you carve out the time to do your creative work. Once you begin that thing in itself, you are free to go about it however you’d like.

Without structure, we can lose focus and can feel overwhelmed with possibility. If you’ve ever looked at a blank page and felt too overwhelmed with possibility to make a mark on it, you’ll know what I mean. How much easier it gets when you are given some guidelines or a deadline?

The trick is finding the right amount of structure for you and your creative needs. Too little structure and we feel overwhelmed. Too much structure, and we risk feeling limited and stifled.

Again, it’s worth thinking about creating in those two stages: divergent (less structure) and convergent (more structure.)

How to build a structure?

Create a Morning Routine

Your morning routine doesn’t have to be rigid or so arduous you dread waking up. In fact, it should feel like the opposite. When you get a routine that works for you, you’ll look forward to starting the day.

We all have different needs and preferences which can shape our ideal routine. In the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, you can be inspired over 160 different creators’ daily routines, from Charles Darwin to Pablo Picasso.

Experiment with any that take your fancy, and see how you feel with a bit more structure to start your day.

You can also take a look at this article about morning routine for inspirations: The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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3. Find Motivation

There is a theory that suggests: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures. This is also known as intrinsic motivation; a drive that comes from within.

Think of a time when you did some of your best work — chances are you were totally absorbed in what you were doing, to the exclusion of everything else. You were completely focused on the work itself, barely noticing time flying by.

Now think of a time when you felt under pressure to perform. Maybe it was an exam, or a commission for an important client, or maybe your boss had told you “there’s a lot riding on this.”

Notice the difference? In the first memory, you were driven by intrinsic motivation, which made it relatively easy, even enjoyable, to be highly creative.

In the second memory however, extrinsic motivation was breathing down your neck, distracting you by whispering about the rewards for success and the horrible consequences of failure: likely making it harder to focus on the task at hand.

For this reason, intrinsic motivation, if you can find it, is what separates the good from great creative work.

This isn’t to say only internal motivators help. I personally get motivated by luring myself to work with a good cappuccino at my favourite cafe. That will get me ready to write or edit or whatever I’ve been avoiding.

How to find motivation?

Connect to Your “Why”

Your “Why” is your fuel: the thing that drives you forward, that gives you a reason to do what you’re doing.

‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’ — Friedrich Nietzche

When you have a reason to do something, a purpose or a goal that matters to you, you can connect your daily actions to it. Then, each act becomes infused with meaning and you find that intrinsic motivation comes naturally.

The trick is to remember your “why” and connect with it on a regular basis.

Think about how you want to feel on a daily basis. What would you like to accomplish in the next year? What would you like for yourself in the next five years? How about in your lifetime?

Ultimately, the tasks you face on a daily basis, or at least some of them, will connect to a greater purpose if you follow this path and you will find you feel more motivated to create and less resistance.

If you aren’t sure where to start looking for motivation, this will help: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

4. Be an Expert in a Chosen Domain

Research has shown that just as expertise in one domain does not predict expertise in other unrelated domains; creativity in one domain does not predict creativity in other unrelated domains.[1]

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So just because you can paint a pretty picture, doesn’t mean you can creatively solve a mathematical problem.

If you’ve taken one of those tests like the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which will ask you to think of a bazillion uses for a pencil, and scored well, unfortunately this is only an indicator of divergent thinking skills. It is not a predictor for creativity all round.

The good news is, you can train your creativity in your chosen domain. Much like a muscle, you can isolate exercises to strengthen it.

Of course you can still do a total body workout – or atotal creativity workout – but it means your creativity-training exercises need to come from a wide variety of domains; not just thinking up uses for a pencil.

How to become an expert?

Make a Mastery Training Plan

Following our physical workout analogy, it’s worth applying the habits of great athletes to your chosen creative domain. For example:

1. Decide what area/s you want to work on

Much like a tennis player who decides they need to improve their serving technique, you can decide what area within your creative domain you want to improve at. Get specific.

2. Decide how much time you can dedicate

Most of us don’t have all day to train like a pro tennis player might, but you can likely squeeze 20 to 30 minutes in a day, if you want to. Whatever the time you can allow is, decide to dedicate yourself to it.

3. Review your progress

Finally, in order to check your progress, you can take regular reviews. Decide what your metrics are, and take time each week to check in with yourself.

How many days did you practice? How did you compare to the previous week? This kind of review can help you stay on track, and actually creates more intrinsic motivation as you see yourself develop.

5. Create a Conducive Environment

A psychologist in 1943 proposed that behaviour is:[2]

“a function of both the person as well as the physical environment they are in.”

I would suggest that the act of creating is a behaviour and that, even though it begins as an internal process, it’s very much affected by and even dependent on the environment we are in.

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I started noticing how environment affects me when I worked in an office. Over time, I realized that the more people who were in or who were talking, the more distracted I was. If I got to the office early before my coworkers arrived, I was twice as effective.

I was even more effective if I was at home. Now that I work from home, I know I’m even more effective when in certain coffee shops. Ideally, places that have high ceilings, gentle lighting, some barely noticeable background music – and excellent coffee.

It’s these little variations in our environment that can really shape our creative output.

If you’re an introvert, you probably do your best work alone. If you’re an extrovert, you probably do your best work in the company of others.

This isn’t to say you should find one way of doing things and stick to it: in fact, varying your environment from time to time is a great way to stoke the creative fire too, which we’ll touch on more later.

How to create a conducive environment?

Add or Subtract Stimuli

Novelty in our environment has been shown to stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases our desire to seek out reward.[3]

If you’re looking for creative motivation, adding some novelty into your environment can be just what you need.

On the other hand, some people are highly sensitive and when it comes to having too much stimulation in their environment, they find it difficult to focus.

Experiment with working in different environments. Note how you feel. Note whether you do better creative work or have more interesting ideas when you’re alone or with others.

Try listening to music, people chatting or try being in complete silence. Try a dimly lit room, try working in bright sunlight.

In each case, note how you feel before, during and afterwards and rate the quality of your work.

The Bottom Line

Creativity is not one particular skill or talent one can have. It comes in as many broad and unique flavors as there are people on this earth.

To be more creative, take little steps each day. Acknowledge where and when you feel most inspired, motivated and original and spend more energy in those areas.

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Featured photo credit: Sticker Mule via unsplash.com

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