I was driving to work the other day struggling to find anything on the radio that wasn’t morning drive DJs or commercials. My car is in that weird range after stock tape decks but before stock aux inputs. With my only options being a CD player that jumps half the time or a radio transmitter that goes in and out, I decided to drive in silence.
Without the constant buzz of traffic law commercials and “hilarious” prank calls in the background, thoughts began to creep into my head. Pretty basic stuff, mostly work related. But one thought jumped out. I hadn’t added anything to my ideas list in awhile.
It would be one thing if I had any sort of criteria for an idea making it onto this list, but we’ve got gems like, “Ghosts can’t see in the dark. That’s why they’re always bumping in to shit.” It isn’t hard to add an idea. I pop it into my Evernote from anything that connects to the internet.
So what’s keeping me from these great ideas? There’s no criteria and it isn’t hard to add. That leaves one option. I’m not having them.
What’s caused this disturbing lack of ideas, good or dumb? I’ve narrowed it down to a few contributing factors. Over the last few months I’ve been slammed with work like never before, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else to find its way into my head. Then when I haven’t been working I’ve been trying to work on various personal projects, from learning a language to brewing beer to trying to implement the Getting Things Done methodology. Or I’ve had the TV on in the background. I just haven’t been taking time to stop and quietly think.
So it was quite the coincidence when I listened to The Accidental Creative podcast that afternoon simply titled “Alone With Your Thoughts”. In it, Todd Henry raises some great points. One being that thinking creates the accountability to go out and make your ideas happen.
A fear that deep thought yields an accountability for action.
So it’s one thing to know you need to make some time to actually think, but it’s another to actually do it. That’s where The Accidental Creative came in again noting the best practice was to make some time to sit down with a notebook and stare at the wall and just think.
So for the last week I’ve been making it a point to sit and stare at the wall in the morning. It just takes 15 minutes or 1/96th of my day. It has helped clear my head and get ready for the day and it has got me back to coming up with ideas.
The trick will be turning this into a habit. Something that I do without thinking or planning. To that point, I’ve got one more trick garnered from the podcast. I have added 15 minutes of quiet thinking to my “Dailies” list. A spread sheet of 5 tasks I want to spend time on each day anywhere from 15-30 minutes set aside for each. Taking a note from an article on Lifehacker about Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain method I’ve set my spreadsheet up to reward me with a big green square if I hit the desired minutes for that activity and a red square if I don’t. Here’s hoping I can keep turning that spreadsheet green and getting things done.