It’s useful to think very deeply about a situation but beyond a certain level of effort or length of time you need to do some drifting and recharge. I think you need a mental circuit breaker for detecting an impasse and triggering activities that can lead to a change in perspective.
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
C. Northcote Parkinson “Parkinson’s Law“
I hate to do low quality work and I refuse to fail for lack of effort. Working against a deadline has triggered many creative breakthroughs in teams that I have been a part of. But sometimes working harder just means that work expands to fill my life and that delicious feeling of emerging possibilities is replaced with a sensation akin to sleepwalking.
Here are a few things that work for me when I need to drift:
- Read a book
- Go to a networking event and talk to strangers (Bootstrapper Breakfasts have a blind date flavor I find re-energizing as well)
- Call a friend or meet for a meal.
I always carry 3×5 cards and a pen so I can jot down any insights that occur to me and I keep a pad of paper on my nightstand so I can quickly jot a few notes down in the dark and go back to sleep.
I probably don’t do enough to block out my work periods and schedule breaks and a quitting time. What triggers your circuit breaker?
If I start dreaming of final exams from high school or college I know that I have been redlining (running above my effective maximum workload). How much burnout do you have to experience before you realize you need a break?
What actions do you take once you realize you need to take a break?
A man ninety years old was asked to what he attributed his longevity. “I reckon,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “it is because most nights I went to bed and slept when I should have sat up and worried.”
Related Blog Posts
- Drifting Part 2
- Innovation Needs Starvation, Pressure, and a New Perspective
Dave Snowden identifies three necessary but not sufficient conditions for innovation to take place:
- Starvation of familiar resource, forcing you to find new approaches, doing things in a different way;
- Pressure that forces you to engage in the problem;
- Perspective Shift to allow different patterns and ideas to be brought into play.
- Step Back To See Yourself In The Problem
- Cultivating Mindfulness
3 thoughts on “Drifting”
I sure know this feeling of sleepwalking through a day when there’s too much to do and too many ideas floating around but you just don’t seem to get real things done.
Reading a book works great indeed, but sometimes you need a bit more to really distance yourself. In that case taking a short break, even for a weekend, and going to some nice hotel somewhere helps me to recharge.
Other options that I find working well:
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