The hardest thing you’ll do today

The hardest thing you'll do today - image for article by Greg Alder

Raymond Chandler had a rule for writing. He set aside 4 hours every day. He didn’t force himself to spend those 4 hours writing. But he wouldn’t allow himself to do anything else.

Doing nothing is the hardest thing to do. Most of us can’t resist the temptation to check emails, tidy up or succumb to any number of other distractions around us.

They’re stalling tactics. In order to avoid focussing on the single task that requires thinking time, we find something to do. Anything.

On average, we’re interrupted every 3 minutes in an office environment. After each interruption, it takes us 25 minutes to fully recover our focus.

You don’t have to be a maths genius to work out that based on these numbers, you’ll never get back into the zone.

Some interruptions are external – people seeking your time. However, many are self-generated.

As psychologist Gretchen Rubin puts it, working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

If you review your day’s achievements, you can take satisfaction in your empty email inbox. You’ve crossed off every task on your to-do list. But you’ve made no progress on the day’s most important task.

IBM and Credit Suisse research shows that 6,500 CEOs around the world value creativity and innovation above skills such as fiscal management and good governance.

In workshops, almost all business owners have declared that they consider innovation critical to success. However, of perhaps 1000 workshop participants to date, only 50 have set aside time for regular creative thinking.

The problem for most of business owners is that they’re too busy taking care of business to spend time doing nothing. And yet, if they were to make time for nothing, they’d stand a chance of formulating ideas that would transform their business’s success, their brand’s reputation, their staff’s happiness and productivity.

So, a few simple rules for achieving the benefits above:

  1. Set aside regular creative thinking time
  2. Learn some creative thinking techniques to accelerate idea generation
  3. Invite others to participate (to promote cross-pollination of ideas)
  4. Ban interruptions (mobile phones, email etc.)

When you write tomorrow’s to-do list, add DO NOTHING. Create a time slot, identify the single business improvement you’d like to focus on, and do nothing but focus on that.

It will be the hardest thing you do. But the most beneficial.

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