There’s a lot of talk these days about organizational culture. There are companies who have eliminated email, while others have banned mobile devices. Some organizations have collaborative workspaces and some companies allow employees to set aside time to work on exploratory projects. All of this and more is done in the hopes that giving employees opportunities to work differently will result in more and better innovation.

How Do You Work?

Recently, I picked up a copy of Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind -- a compilation of tips, tricks and insights from some of the most creative minds around, including Seth Godin, Scott Belsky, Gretchen Rubin and Lori Deschene, among others. Published by 99u by Behance, the book aims to help creatives and non-creatives alike reorganize their world, find new perspectives and inspire new ways of working.

On one hand, good advice is always welcome. On the other hand, sometimes it feels like creative geniuses never worked in a real office. Maybe they haven’t, which is why they’re smarter than us. Regardless, a lot of the advice given should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s much easier to appreciate it if you take a step back, take a deep breath and pretend that you and only you are in control of how you work. If you don’t it’s very easy to get caught up in a cynical mindset, swatting away ideas like a fly buzzing around your head.

You really are in control of how you work, believe it or not. While you may not be able to alter the amount of email you receive or reduce the amount of meetings you attend, there are little things that you can do that can have a big impact. Here are a few tips offered up in the book that have potential. 

Start with the rhythm of your energy levels. Certain times of day are especially conducive to focused creativity, thanks to circadian rhythms of arousal and mental alertness. Notice when you seem to have the most energy during the day, and dedicate those valuable periods to your most important work. Never book a meeting during this time if you can help it. And don’t waste any of it on administrative work. (Mark McGuinness)

Start with small blocks of focused time and then gradually work yourself up to longer durations. A good rule of thumb is to begin with an hour at a time, then add fifteen minutes to each session every two weeks. The key, however, is to never allow distraction. If you give in and quickly check Facebook, cancel the whole block and try again later. Your mind can never fully come to believe that even a little bit of distraction is okay during these blocks. (Cal Newport)

Every time you’re doing something, you’re not doing something else. But you don’t really see what it is that you’re giving up. Especially when it comes to, let’s say e-mail versus doing something that takes fifty hours. It is very easy for you to see the e-mail. It is not that easy for you to see the thing that takes fifty hours. (Dan Ariely)

Chance encounters can also provide enormous benefits for your project -- and your life. Being friendly while standing in line for coffee at a conference might lead to a conversation, a business card exchange, and the first investment in your company a few months later. The person sitting next to you at a concert who chats you up during intermission might end up becoming your largest customer. Or, two strangers sitting in a nail salon exchanging stories about their families might lead to a bling data, which might lead to a marriage.

...When you value the power of serendipity, you start noticing it at work right away. Try leaving the smartphone in your pocket the next time you’re in line or in a crowd. Notice one source of unexpected value on every such occasion. Develop the discipline to allow for serendipity. (Scott Belsky)

How's that Working for You?

These are just some of the useful insights shared. Many of them might not speak to you or may not be applicable to your work. Most of them are best directed towards traditional creatives, artists and designers, who have the freedom to carve out how they work during the day. However, we all have deliverables and deadlines to meet. And we all have different people competing for our attention. If you’re stressed or unsatisfied or unmotivated, it’s time to ask yourself --- is how I am currently working, working? Probably not, so why not change something small in your day -- even if it’s just talking to someone in front of you at Starbucks?

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