Category Archives: At the office

The lost art of convalescence: 6 things I did while I had pneumonia

con·va·les·cence /känvəˈlesəns/ noun: time spent recovering from an illness or medical treatment

Glass Beach 2

 

Every January in Austin, I and thousands of others wage war against the cedar pollen that explodes across central Texas. This year I armed myself against these nasty nostril and lung invaders with a regimen of Claritin and Flonase that began in early December. But the medicines were no match for the record-breaking spewing of pollen these vile trees perpetrated against my fair city and her citizens. By January 9, the mild spring-like weather had generated a yellow-orange cloud over Austin that had me choking and wishing someone would set fire to every single Juniperus ashei in sight.

A few days later, I found myself in urgent care getting a chest x-ray and confirmation that I had pneumonia. I now understand what the big deal is about the illness. I thought the flu was bad, but pneumonia is in a league all its own. The fever, chest pain, cough, and weakness are unlike any illness I’ve ever had, and I can’t even talk about the strange grunting sounds one makes while trying to sleep. Antibiotics came to the rescue, and a week later I was on the road to recovery. And that is one of the biggest problems of our modern world.

Antibiotics are amazing because they cure the infection, but they also make us feel like we are better and can return to our normal lives. The doctor warned me that a bout with pneumonia is different, and it can take weeks for the lungs to heal and the immune system to recover after the initial infection has cleared. I took this to heart and lay low for two weeks before resuming my normal schedule. It wasn’t enough. I relapsed, and this time, the doctor put me on bed rest. I prefer the old-fashion term: convalescence. She insisted I needed the time and space to rest, to treat myself gently, to avoid people with germs, and to recover thoroughly long after the antibiotics had done their part. My boss was 100% supportive, so I let go of the guilt of taking the time off and hit pause to honor what my body and my doctor were asking me to do.

Being still, letting go, listening to my body – convalescing – was healing and restorative. It wasn’t boring; in fact, the time flew by. I feel like I’m more immune now than before, stronger than before even though I’m still quite weak, and more in tune with my body than before. Convalescing properly was an important lesson I learned, so I’d like to share my top tips for being great at it if you, heaven forbid, fall ill, or just need a respite.

  1. Sleep when you’re tired and eat when you’re hungry. I would go into a deep sleep early, around 8:30 pm – sometimes earlier – until the sun came up, and I would also take long afternoon naps.This benefited me more than anything. I didn’t even get up to let the dog out at her normal 6 am time. I ate a lot of oranges, broccoli, carrots, pears, raspberries, tomatoes, and soup. My body hungered for green, orange, and red fresh foods. It also wanted lots of yogurts, to keep the good bacteria from being annihilated by the antibiotics.
  2. Weather permitting, get your vitamin D. The sunny spring-like weather continued in Austin in February, so I would wrap myself in a blanket and sit outside on the deck of my backyard, my face toward the sun, sipping tea. It made me feel like I was living in an earlier time when illnesses like pneumonia were treated with the respect they deserve. I would stroll around my yard feeling very 19th century-ish.
  3. Let others do things for you. This one is hard for me because I’m so independent, but I had to accept the role reversal and let others help me. Loved ones did my grocery shopping and errands, my daughter took care of all the dog’s needs and learned to do some light cooking, and friends drove my daughter to and from school and theater workshop rehearsals. It was liberating to be relieved of so many responsibilities.
  4. Watch lots of good movies. I watched many movies I had saved to my iTunes wish list. From 2003’s tragic and haunting House of Sand and Fog with Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly to all three of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s latest films (About Elly, A Separation, The Past – who knew Iranian cinema was so good?) to finally seeing Al Pacino return to being the great actor he is for Danny Collins to weeping at the predictable triumphant ending of Disney’s sports drama McFarland USA. But I was really disappointed in French film Amelie, a movie about which I had heard great things but that I found trite and ridiculous. Amelie is a stalker and she’s creepy, not cute and charming.
  5. Read. I read business books (Deep Work by Cal Newport was my favorite), my prayer book, a mystery (Sue Grafton’s X), a delicious bestseller (Lianne Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret), Laura Hillenbrand’s historical and biographical Seabiscuit, and articles on Content Marketing Institute, 99u, Houzz, and Harvard Business Review. I wasn’t able to read until the worst part of the illness was over as it was too tiring to concentrate, but once I felt a little better, I was grateful for the time to enjoy my reading list.
  6.  Thank your dog. They know you’re sick. My dog wouldn’t leave my side during the day, watching over me like a mother whose child is in the hospital. She happily let my daughter take her on her daily walk, asked to go outside only when she really needed to, and kept vigil downstairs at night.

While convalescence may seem like a bygone concept, it shouldn’t be. While it would have been nice to do my convalescence the 19th century way in a cottage by the sea, strolling along a glass beach, I am grateful for the time I had to recover at home, with so much support and encouragement from my family and friends, doctor, employer, and colleagues. I’ve had to cut back from my normal routine, and I will say “no” to a lot of things for the next couple of months, but it’s great to be breathing again and letting go of self-imposed “shoulds” and feeling like a slacker for taking the time to properly recover.

What about you? Have you ever had a period of convalescence? What did you do and what did you learn?

Blame the amygdala, but then lean into uncertainty

“Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.” – Voltaire

Maximize Your PotentialI’m a big fan of 99u, Behance’s website and rich content offerings that help empower creatives to make our ideas happen. I just finished the second book, Maximize Your Potential, in their three-part series on making ideas happen. I was again impressed with the quality of writing and advice in this book of essays. The book is organized into four sections:

  • Creating opportunities
  • Building expertise
  • Cultivating relationships
  • Taking risks

Today I want to focus on taking risks. I’ve never been shy to take risks and embrace failure; my career and personal life are full of those examples, and I’ve even left roles where I was not allowed to be an active change agent. I’ve been struggling with a subset of taking risks: uncertainty. Ever since my employer announced a major acquisition (the largest in tech history), I’ve been quite uncomfortable with the uncertainty and ambiguity such an endeavor creates. This has manifested itself as fear: fear that my team’s work won’t live on in the new organization, fear that my role (which I love) will change or be eliminated, fear that I won’t make the right decisions for my career and family during this intense period of flux.

I’ve been in high-tech marketing and sales for 20 years, so why, after so many years of living with constant uncertainty and ambiguity, am I filled with such anxiety now? While this is a “go big or go home” type of uncertainty, it’s really not that different from other scenarios I’ve successfully lived through. I have felt the same three fears I describe above many times in my career, so why am I not used to it by now?

Maximize Your Potential and the much-needed respite provided by the holidays have helped me figure this out. Psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson call this anxious state “impact bias”:

“…people consistently overestimate the negative impact of such events. And since we expect such failures to be more painful and drawn out than they actually are, we fear them more than we should.”

In the past, this has turned out to be true. Acquisitions, mergers, and reorgs were not as painful or drawn out as they were feared to be in the beginning. Essayist Michael Schwalbe affirms that humans underestimate our resilience and ability to find silver linings, rationalize actions, and find meaning in setbacks. We also find it hard to imagine the pleasure we will get from our next venture and other daily activities when we are in the throes of fear.

Essayist Jonathan Fields confirms I’m not alone. He says that most people are wired to have a low tolerance for uncertainty, and he describes what happens to us physically: We experience it as pain, fear, anxiety, and doubt. The primal fear center in the brain, the amygdala, lights up when we are faced with the need to coexist or act in the face of great uncertainty, sending chemicals through our body that make us physically and emotionally uncomfortable and fatigued. Yup, that pretty much describes me.

What does Maximize Your Potential advise? Lean into the uncertainty. It’s the only way to keep creating great work. Anxiety and inertia are the enemies of creation.

  1. Understand the psychology of the process so you can be more mindful. There are powerful chemicals at work and knowing this can help you move from inertia to action at a pace right for you.
  2. Reframe uncertainty as possibility. Fields writes, “Nothing truly innovative, nothing that has advanced art, business, design, or humanity, was ever created in the face of genuine certainty or perfect information. Because the only way to be certain before you begin is if the thing you seek to do has already been done. In which case, you’re no longer creating, you’re replicating. And that’s not why we’re here.”
  3. There is no formula that tells you how to move along the uncertainty curve. What’s more important, Fields says, is that you clearly define the resources and constraints; cultivate the mindset, workflow, environment, and lifestyle needed to fuel action; then act, and elevate learning as a core metric.

My anxiety has greatly lessened as I recall and appreciate how quickly I adapted in the past to these types of situations and how I have the power to make the outcome of any decisions a success. How have you dealt with the anxiety, fear, and doubt that organizational uncertainty and ambiguity can cause? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

 

 

Unlocking the mysteries of motivation

Many of us are counting down the hours to winter break, and I’m sure many of us will use the downtime to think about our goals for the new year and the vision for our life in 2016. I’m excited to share with you a guest post I wrote for UT’s Human Dimensions of Organizations blog In the Loop. In “Unlocking the mysteries of motivation,” I talk about how the latest UT HDO seminar helped me get unstuck in my creative life.

I hope you enjoy reading it and that you have a wonderful holiday season. Thank you for reading my blog!

The rhythm(s) of Spanish life

The return of the school year has me thinking again about the beauty of routine. I recently wrote about routine here and here, and I can tell you that sticking to my routine and taming distractions is much easier when my daughter is in school. I love summer, but the steadiness and predictability of the school year is energizing, and I find I have greater creative momentum.

This got me thinking about Spain and how my beloved other country operates on a different clock from the rest of the world. Traditional eating, working, and sleeping schedules are very different from the US and the rest of Europe. Lunch (dinner), the largest and longest meal of the day, is at 2 PM; the workday ends around 8 PM; dinner (supper) is a small meal at 10 PM; prime time TV starts at 11 PM; and bedtime is around midnight or 1 AM. Many workers are moving to a 9-6 schedule on par with Europe, but the traditional Spanish schedule consisting of a small breakfast, the long lunch (dinner), frequent breaks with snacks, and a late quitting time is the norm.

Mercado de San Miguel

The siesta (naptime) is dying out quickly, and many Spaniards get offended if it’s brought up as it feels like a stereotype. Instead, that time is filled with extra work, a byproduct of tough economic times. This is creating a drawn-out day, and I’m not sure how people are functioning on so little sleep. I love getting my 7-8 hours each night, so I started thinking, “What would my routine be if I lived and worked in Spain on the traditional schedule?” 

But first some history.

In 1942 dictator Franco moved the clocks forward to align with Nazi Germany. Franco also ordered the state-run broadcasts to run during meal times, which, going by the sun, were now at 3 pm and 10 pm (an hour less in the Canary Islands). After Hitler was defeated, Portugal turned its clocks back, but Spain did not. It’s still light at 10 pm in the summer. As a child this would perplex me as I looked at the globe and maps (my grandmother adored geography, so I had plenty of resources at hand) and could see that Spain was further north than Texas. [On a side but fun note, all homes in Spain have blackout window shades – I mean, they really black out all light. As a child, I couldn’t figure out why we didn’t have these wonderful things in the States. It was yet another one of those Spain vs Texas mysteries I couldn’t figure out.]

Franco may have changed the clocks, but the rhythm of life predates that decision due to the agrarian society and the heat of mid-day in over two-thirds of the country. Workers would break during the hottest part of the day. My father also recalls that the work and school week was Monday-Saturday until the mid-1960’s – weekends as we know them didn’t exist in Spain until then, which is another reason why the Spanish tempo included frequent breaks and an afternoon nap each day.

While the prolonged day and frequent breaks create interruptions and are often cited as productivity busters and as the reason for Spain’s economic woes (an assessment that fails to take into account a myriad of other factors), they also foster close relationships and healthy eating habits. Families eat a relaxed, healthy lunch (dinner) together; friends and co-workers socialize during morning and afternoon coffee breaks; the workday is broken up into manageable chunks instead of one long marathon; and supper is light, producing measurable health benefits. The schedule also reduces isolation as it promotes living life in group settings.

I’ve only experienced this schedule as a child and while on vacation as an adult, and it was awesome. Who I am today – my love of long meals and the ensuing sobremesa (post-meal conversation), my need to socialize, and my respect for work without being driven by it – was heavily influenced by my experiences. Spain’s approach feels more civilized than the breakneck pace of the US: There’s no scurrying down the street while downing a Big Gulp. No hiding behind your laptop in isolation at Starbucks. No eating your sandwich alone at your desk.

Yet, as a working mother with a career and interests outside of my job, I don’t know how I would manage it all in Spain under the traditional schedule. And did I say I like sleeping 7-8 hours a night? In 2013, a parliamentary commission explored the possibility for the country to return to its proper time zone to bring the workday in line with the rest of Europe. But I think Spain is shifting and already employing a variety of schedules and less rigidly adhering to one way of scheduling the day. This is what makes the country so interesting and special: the Spanish will work, eat, and enjoy life no matter what time it is or where the sun is in the sky. I know I would figure out what would work for me and my family if I lived there.

I would love to hear opinions on this topic from all my cousins in Spain, from those of you who have visited or lived in Spain, and from those of you haven’t visited but have something to say about celebrating cultural differences versus aligning to what the rest of the world does.

 

How to create a manifesto for your solution

Do you remember the 1996 film in which Tom Cruise’s character Jerry Maguire has an epiphany about his job and industry and decides to express a new, contrarian view in a mission statement? Blogs didn’t exist yet, so he proceeds to Kinko’s to have the mission statement printed and bound with a “Catcher in the Rye”-like cover.  The Kinko’s employee hands him the completed piece, titled “The Things We Do Not Say: The Future of our Business,” and tells him, “That’s how you become great, man.” Jerry delivers the manuscript to every employee in the firm and eventually gets fired for the views he expresses. He is forced to put his manifesto to the test and triumphs in the end.

Jerry’s manifesto was both a personal and an organizational one. Personal and corporate manifestos are groovy, and there are a lot of blogs dedicated to how to write these. In today’s post, I want to focus on why a marketer should create a manifesto for their solution. I recently completed such a document to rally my executives and colleagues around improvements to our current solutions story and to inspire the creative team to build compelling copy and deliverables.

A manifesto in this context is a concise yet passionate document that states what you believe about your solution. It is the POV or value proposition expressed creatively to promote internal alignment and commitment around a message. I have found a manifesto to be helpful when selling a new or evolving message, when trying to push the organization to reject current safe, “vanilla” messages that are getting lost in competitive noise, and when briefing a creative team or ad agency.

Because manifestos are emotional documents and are not a common component of the marketing bill of materials, there can be some resistance to creating and sharing them for fear they are too “touchy-feely”.  But a great story, creatively told, can move people and markets in ways traditional methods can’t. Here are the four steps that have worked for me:

  1. Complete the foundation marketing work before you create the marketing manifesto. You need a POV (point of view) or positioning statement, and your messaging framework and story line should be solid and accepted. This foundation work is important because a manifesto shouldn’t blindside colleagues and executives. Its purpose is exactly the opposite: It should declare the message in a way that inspires and fosters further alignment. Jerry Maguire failed to inspire his organization because his mission statement was the first time he had expressed his views. Change doesn’t happen from sudden knee-jerk movements; it happens through thoughtful management, inspiration, and leadership.
  2. Create the manifesto in PowerPoint. In our current 140-character-limit world, flooded inboxes, and short attention spans, I recommend that the manifesto be a short PowerPoint document with striking visuals and carefully chosen headlines or sentences for each slide. The end deliverable looks somewhat like a storyboard when viewed in slide sorter mode. Colleagues have referred to mine as a “teaser” and a “look book“.
  3. Build your manifesto by boldly expressing the key thoughts from your story line and tying those succinct messages to powerful imagery.
    • Start with customer pains and wishes. Always start with the customer’s point of view and express their struggles, wishes, and what if’s in their language and imagery, not yours.
    • Lay down your principles. Express your solution’s motives and intentions in bold, active voice language. This should not be a list of features and functions or speeds and feeds; instead, it should boldly express WHY your solution was created.
    • Explain why the customer should choose you. Using descriptive and powerful language, describe the tangible and emotional reasons your customer should choose you. This is probably the hardest part, so spend the most time here to ensure your differentiation is defensible and rings true.
    • Describe the customer experience and outcome. Describe what the experience of working with your company and solution feels like and what success looks like for the customer.
  4. Pitch it. Gather your team and most friendly stakeholders first and present your look book with the confidence of Don Draper from Mad Men. (Clarification: Don Draper of the Carousel pitch, not of the Hershey’s pitch. OK, maybe that makes you uncomfortable, but you know what I mean.) This should be a pitch that inspires everyone to connect with the customer’s pain and believe your solution is the only one that can best solve that pain. Take feedback, but avoid making changes that take you back to the safe zone. This document is meant to strengthen the overall message and inspire better downstream deliverables for your solution, so be careful where you compromise.

A solutions manifesto will likely never be seen outside the organization. It is a document that is used to inspire and gain further internal alignment on the overall story and tone, and, most importantly, on the “why” of your solution. Be brave. If you only do what has always been done, you and your solution won’t stand out. Believe in the power of emotions as much as you believe in rational arguments and you’ll end up with a manifesto that inspires the marketers and creatives around you.

Have you ever published a marketing manifesto for your solution or brand? How was it received?

Great work must happen before everything else

In my last post, I described what I learned in an offsite with myself on Memorial Day weekend after reading the wonderful book “Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus and Sharpen Your Creative Mind,” a compilation of essays designed to help us find a centered space for creativity by getting out of the reactionary workflow we battle each day. I’ve been following four pieces of advice I outlined in that post and wanted to report on progress and insights.

Great work must happen before everything else. I blocked my calendar from 8:30-11:30 AM to focus on my most strategic work and was able to utilize that block as intended about 80% of the time. Colleagues respected that my calendar looked blocked and didn’t try to schedule meetings during these times, and I experienced real breakthroughs and higher productivity. I completed a press and analyst presentation and briefing book five days before the deadline (a key executive stakeholder thanked me profusely for my efficiency and quality of work); I compiled all the information I needed to complete a thought-leadership blog post series; I prioritized the messaging projects I need to finalize before the end of the month; and I was fully prepared for the meetings I had to lead each day and for a business trip I took the second week.

There were a couple of meetings I couldn’t decline during this blocked morning period: I have a global role, and two conference calls with Europe were scheduled during my blocked time. Those were easy to accommodate because the time difference really doesn’t allow much flexibility. I also had a customer call that was scheduled, and customers always come first.

This is the hardest of the four practices to implement because there are so many excuses to avoid it, but I proved to myself it can be done and am on a path to make it routine. The concept of blocking the morning to do the most important work led me to discover another book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.

Benjamin Franklin's ideal daily routine, from his autobiography (credit: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Currey

Benjamin Franklin’s ideal daily routine, from his autobiography (credit: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Currey)

It examines the daily routines of almost 200 artists – from Beethoven, to Picasso, to Agatha Christie, to Charles Darwin, to Woody Allen – to uncover whether a routine fosters sustained creative work. Most of the artists profiled were committed to getting their daily work done but employed different routines and were never entirely confident about their progress.  Another aspect I found interesting is that “back in the olden days,” most of the artists received mail and visitors in the afternoon, so they would spend their mornings working and their afternoons replying to letters and receiving guests. It seems not much has changed – our “mail” is now electronic and our “visitors” are now meetings.

Which takes us to the next best practice: in order to focus in the morning, I had to silence my phone and turn off apps, email and other technology unrelated to the work I was doing. This was also easier than I thought it would be. I think the reason is that once you focus, you enter a state of flow and the time flies. The itch to check email was certainly there, but I found that two 90-minute periods of focus really curbed the desire. Afterwards, I would quickly scan email and make sure there was nothing urgent waiting for me. I would answer anything that couldn’t wait, and then I would take a break close to noon for lunch. Afternoons became devoted to meetings and email. So far so good.

The third piece of advice I decided to follow was breathe. This comes naturally to most people, but I do have a tendency to hold my breath while in front of a computer screen. I have been catching myself doing this multiple times a day, so I’m becoming more and more aware that I need to stop and breathe. Many of the artists profiled in Daily Rituals were also mindful of the need for breaks and exercise and set aside time to take long walks in the afternoon.

And, finally, the fourth best practice: practice (un)necessary creation. Because of my new routine, I found that I have more energy to work on my art of oil painting, and I made substantial progress on my study of Georges Rouault’s Head of Christ. Being back at the easel is a joy.

I am surprised at how easy it has been to implement these practices. There are many different practices advised in the book – these are just the top four I chose to try to implement faithfully. The first one – great work must happen before everything else – was critical to changing my mindset that I don’t have to react to everything all the time or constantly accommodate to my surroundings. It feels like if you can get over that hump, some powerful habits can begin to form. I’ll continue to update you on progress and please let me know if you’ve picked up the book or if you have any advice you want to share.

Four things I learned in an offsite with myself

I’m so glad that May is over. It was a month in which I lost control of my schedule and time to an unprecedented extent. I felt stuck in a “create-on-demand” twilight zone, reacting and responding to almost hourly urgent-but-not-important requests and attending last-minute meetings that hijacked my thinking and real work time. I had to work late nights on the project that really mattered, leaving me drained and resentful. Another month passed with no progress on a painting I had begun, a study of Rouault’s “Head of Christ”, a painting that is so full of passion and so moving that it requires the student be in that frame of mind also.

The constant heavy rain in Austin meant the Memorial Day holiday weekend would be spent indoors, so I had an offsite with myself to pause, take stock, and figure out how to make some improvements. I sought answers online and in conversations with friends. My questions were met with agreement and empathy, but everyone seemed resigned to feeling this is just the way life is now. Technology seemed to get most of the blame. Dissatisfied with the acceptance of the status quo, I kept searching and finally stumbled upon a website that claims to provide the “missing curriculum” for making ideas happen: 99u.com.  99u says they don’t want to give you more ideas – they want to empower you to make good on the ones you’ve got. I was intrigued: I have lots of ideas, but lately I haven’t been able to make them a reality, particularly in my art of oil painting, but also at work. I enjoyed reading the articles and watching the videos on the site, but the real breakthrough came when I downloaded Volume One of their three-part book series “Managing Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind.”

Manage Your Day-to-Day from 99u

I devoured the book on my Kindle app in just a few hours on Memorial Day, highlighting key passages and taking notes and making significant changes based on what I learned. The book is divided into four chapters and is comprised of essays from various creatives and thought leaders. I love this approach because it’s not a one-size-fits-all recommendation. It’s a playbook of best practices for producing great work and focusing on the things that are important to you.

The preface summarizes the dilemma so perfectly that I felt the 99u editor-in-chief Jocelyn K. Glei had been observing me: “Creative minds are exceedingly sensitive to the buzz and whir of the world around them, and we now have to contend with a constant stream of chirps, pings, and alerts at all hours of the day. As these urgent demands tug us this way and that, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a centered space for creativity.” She goes on to explain the organization of the book into four key skill sets that must be mastered to succeed in this new world:

  • Building a rock-solid routine
  • Finding focus in a distracted world
  • Taming your tools
  • Sharpening your creative mind

I highly recommend this book and cannot do it justice with a review, but I do want to share the advice that resonated with me and that I am trying to put into practice so that you may be inspired to pick it up, order it, or download it this week. I’ve chosen to highlight one key practice from each chapter listed above.

First and foremost, great work must happen before everything else. I continue to do morning pages very early in the morning to observe habits and thought processes. This five-year habit wasn’t affected by the May Madness – that’s how ingrained it has become. The big change is that I’ve blocked my calendar from 8:30-11:30 AM each day to get my most meaningful and important work done, leaving the reactive work (email, anyone?) and meetings for later. I hope I am able to respond to requests for meetings during those blocked times with a sincere, polite, and firm “I’m sorry, I’m booked at that time, but I could meet after 11:30.”

Second, turn off phone, apps, email, and other technology unrelated to the project or task. The only way to respect the first habit is to ensure that the distractions of the modern world don’t sabotage the time I’ve set aside to get real work done. It’s so much easier to answer an email or look at Twitter than it is to create something, so resisting the distractions by turning them off is something that I think will work for me. I admit that I might feel anxious if I don’t look at email for three hours, but I figure someone will call me if it is truly important.

Third, breathe. I learned a new term from one of the essayists in the book: screen apnea. I’m a long-time sufferer. I hold my breath or breathe shallowly while sitting in front of a screen, no matter the size of the screen. The writer described how unhealthy this is: The body becomes acidic and inflamed and there’s a tendency to over-consume in this state as we become less aware of when we’re hungry or sated. Breathing decreases stress and helps you make better decisions, the author says. It sounds very strange to say “I’m going to try breathing”, but I guess I’m not alone in having trouble with this basic human function.

Finally, practice unnecessary creation. This is the art of using personal creative projects to explore new obsessions, skills, or ways of working without the pressure of the real-world work environment. For work, this means keeping a notebook to record questions I have, ideas I want to pursue, or demonstration projects that I’d like to try. For my art of oil painting, it means setting aside the time to paint, to write about the creative process here, and to explore.

This new day-to-day starts today, and I will report back on the progress here. The frequency with which I post will certainly be an indicator. I’ll leave you with a quote from one of the passages by Todd Henry that is as inspiring as it is scary: “Consider the opportunity cost of spending your life only on pragmatics. You dedicate your time to pleasing everyone else and delivering on their expectations, but you never get around to discovering your deeper aptitudes and creative capacities. Nothing is worth that.”

Have you been feeling like your day-to-day has drifted to accommodate your surroundings rather than meet your preferences and goals? I’d love to hear about your frustrations and changes you’ve made to your routine, how you tame distractions, tools and technology, and how you sharpen your creativity. Thanks for reading!