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Be More Awesome, Take Time Off

Recently read a two part series of articles on Creative Sabbaticals by HBR.org‘s Gina Trapani.

The first starts with a cute quote from MadMen that sounds all too familiar:

“I’ll never get used to the fact that most of the time it looks like you’re doing nothing,” Sterling quips.

Actually, that’s probably what I look like writing this post from my iPad at work … and what you look like while you are reading this with a very serious face … hold that grin back lest someone catch you in the act …

Trapani’s article advocates “that the wandering mind is more likely to have a ‘Eureka!’ moment of clarity and creativity. Taking breaks and zoning out from everyday tasks gives our brains time to do a kind of long-term, big-picture thinking …”

Here’s the punchline: with reference to designer Stefan Sagmeister, who takes a whole year off every seven years, the article states that taking long drawn creative leave will help you “refresh, rejuvenate, and yes, even make yourself more productive”.

… but not everyone owns their own design firm and can afford or will be allowed to take an entire year off … heck some of us are heckled for taking a week off … that’s right, I’m talking to you – the hard working cubicle creature that wakes up before the sun rises and leaves after the sun sets and feeds on coffee chocolate and carbonated drinks…

So, Trapani wrote a second article – which I would call “the blue collar sabbatical” but she dubbed it “A More Practical Creative Sabbatical”.

In summary she lists out some ways to use idle time to boost your creativity. Here’s her list in short:

  • Use your commute
  • Put the body to work and give your brain a break
  • Enjoy nature

… right so barring the second point none of that is possible in Kuwait. >.<' The commute to work (or anywhere for that matter) is a stroll through a war zone of flashing lights, loud horns, random moving objects, and stones hammering your wind shield ... and nature here is either the beach or dessert in scorching hot weather (might work but hmm ...) Which brings me to the value we're adding here! Yes, it's true, we don't just shamelessly take ideas or republish emails sent from people wanting to advertise their event, product, services, or missing dogs ... not always anyway (smirk) Here are a few ideas, catered to the lifestyle in Kuwait, for taking time to think in that work-filled demanding day of yours:
Cardio #hi3
The most long drawn and time consuming part of your work out is that 30 – 60 minute dash at the gym. It gets really awkward when your music starts to loop on your iPod and you think “I’ve already heard this, I need something faster!”. I find that thinking not only makes me forget the excruciating pain surging through me, but also helps me perform better, and I have the wildest (and sometimes disturbing) thoughts. Often, I find solutions whilst thinking about a problem.

The Sauna or Spa
I prefer the first over the latter but essentially you can get anywhere between 15 – 60 minutes of silence for reflection. I frequent the sauna whenever I go to the gym. The combination of heat, solitude, relaxation, and a need to focus on something other than the sizzling sound of water steaming over coal makes the sauna a great place to think. I imagine the spa is the same.

The Shower
This is probably my favourite. I think I can leave it to the rage comic to explain … but those first 25 minutes of steaming hot water pouring down from your head to the floor of the tub somehow helps you space out and think about, quite literally, the meaning of life … yeeeees … and then there are those 2 minutes of actual bathing where you think “damn, I’m so awesome … and clean … ffff yeah!”

Early Bird Hours
It’s not in every country that the people are blessed enough to start work at 7:30 am … #sarcasm … and yes we all are guilty of the 20 minute battle against the alarm clock and the 10 minute complaint the proceeds waking up sounding cries of sorrow in the general direction of our beds “Pillow!! Y U NO LOVE ME!? I WANT TO SLEEP!!!” …

Wake up with the conviction that you will spend those precious minutes (whether laying in bed, changing up your nasfa, or curling your hair with a straightening iron) thinking about what is concerning you the most.

If you’re an early bird and get to work at 6 am (ya36eekum il 3afya oo inshallah we get a life) don’t start work immediately … take 30 minutes to think … not read blogs (ok read our blog first then stop) … just think.

BedTime
Right before you sleep – (preferably after you brush your teeth, kiss your kids goodnight, and tell your significant other that they survived a day without a potential replacement for them showing up) – put that iPad down, lay the laptop down, and reflect on what you have done – and more importantly how you can do it better towards whatever your goals may be.

Closing Comments
Why is it so important to think, reflect, and take time for yourself? Other than being productive and making money for the man … it’s important to contemplate your life so that you are content and happy. Epicurus prescribed a simple recipe for happiness: Friends, Freedom, and an Analysed Life.

Friends and freedom are topics for another post … but the latter bit (an analysed life) means “take time to think about your problems and they will go away”.

When do you take time to idly think about the universe at large?
Go and think about it then come back and let us know in the comments below!