On average, when you’re in your office you get interrupted every three minutes.
I’ve just interrupted you now.
The more responsibility you have in your organisation, the more interruptions you get.
Research from the School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, shows that the majority of these interruptions are external and work-oriented – people asking questions, checking progress and needing answers.
If your job requires you to have ideas (and if it doesn’t, resign!), these interruptions are killers. You’re just beginning to focus on your current task when someone reminds you your timesheets are due.
Now you’re distracted by a chore you hate. You might be lucky. You might be able to put that negative thought aside and get back to your creative thinking. But remember, you only have 3 minutes, after which someone else will interrupt you.
External interruptions are only half the story. 44% of the time, you interrupt yourself. Why do you do that? Well here’s one reason – you’re struggling with the task you’re working on. If you’re struggling, you actually welcome interruptions. If none happens, you create your own.
Let’s say that the task is indeed coming up with ideas. Ideas come about by connecting the seemingly unconnected. You’re sitting in an uninspiring office, surrounded by files, people and emails that are all connected with your business. You’re trying to get original ideas by connecting things in your head – knowledge about your business, old knowledge, facts you’ve acquired throughout your career. The big idea just won’t happen.
To get original ideas, you need to find a way to swap interruptions for inspirations. And the best way you’ll do that is to get out of your office environment.
I spent decades as an advertising copywriter. As is usual in that industry, writers work in tandem with art directors. I worked for a long time with a talented art director named Paul Figg. We worked well together.
Whenever Figgy and I needed ideas, big ideas, we would get out of the office.
If it were summer, we’d go to the beach. Or a café. We were surrounded on all sides by distractions – especially at the beach. But here’s what happened – instead of interruptions to our creative thinking, they became inspirations.
Because the distractions had nothing to do with our work. They weren’t about timesheets or meetings or other clients.
On a typical day at the beach, we might find inspiration from a yacht’s red spinnaker, a girl’s breasts, an old man swimming laps, the sound of an anchor chain, a dog playing with a ball, a girl’s breast, a seagull stealing food, the sun disappearing behind a cloud, crabs at the water’s edge, lovers on the promenade, or a girl’s breasts.
If you want ideas, you won’t find them in your office. If you’re struggling with a task, an interruption might even be welcome – but it won’t become in inspiration.
To get inspired, you need to get out more.