When an email distracts you – in a good way

I try to start my working days with a plan. I find if I don’t, particularly when I only have a half day like today, then I just ‘waste’ time scrolling or reading. So on some mornings when I have a lot on, I skip emails and social media completely and go straight to the tasks in hand.

This morning an email caught my eye. It was from Derek Sivers (you can read about him here – and in fact you can find a video by him on this blog post). It was a link to buy his new book. So I did. I enjoy reading his thoughts on life and creativity and doing things you’re drawn to do. In fact some of the things I write about are similar to the subjects he writes about.

Then I started reading the book. It’s a series of short articles – you’ll have to have a look for yourself to see what I mean, but it’s very much like his blog content. And of course being me, I felt the need to answer a couple of the questions for myself.

Normally when this happens, I get lost in the book and don’t emerge until I’ve finished reading and thinking and making notes. (Some would argue this is a ‘waste’ of time. I disagree. But then reading books and thinking and making notes was one of my answers to this question.)

But on this occasion I have emerged to write down some thoughts and share them. (Because I was answering this question.)

I have this creative urge that just won’t go away. It just needs the right prompts, inspiration, or just enough time for my brain to loosen up and stop thinking about ‘doing’ things. I know that sometimes I write things that people like and relate to. And sometimes I may as well be talking to myself. But the creative urge just makes me type anyway. Like now. Like another blog post I wrote recently – where my hands just type and type and type until I’ve finished. And the blog post makes total sense, says what I want it to say and I publish it.

I think that if people don’t have that creative urge, they don’t understand it. I find it hard to explain. I find it hard to justify to them my little pockets of doing nothing and allowing thoughts like this to emerge. Because those who don’t need to create just don’t get it. The ideas and concepts whirring around in my head, the words just flowing out onto the page (or screen), jostling to be seen and to be put into order.

This creative urge, this need to think and write, often comes out in this form – as a blog post. And it also comes out in my work if I choose my best type of work.

When I was in a job a few years ago I realised that my job had a few different bits to it. There was the ‘doing’ – managing projects, following things up – which I am good at, probably too good as this is what people often ask me to do. There was the ‘connecting’ – the meetings, the mentoring, the networking – which for an introvert like me gets draining after a while even though I like chatting to people.

And there was the ‘thinking’ and ‘creating’ – which is the bit I love doing. Whether that was project plans or slide decks or instructions or reports or brochures. It always comes back to these two things. Every single time. 

As a freelancer I have the freedom to choose what I work on. But that’s not actually as easy as it sounds. When everyone else wants you to do things that help them but that you don’t love, it’s hard to say no. I don’t always say no, because sometimes I feel as if I need to earn money and that task I’ve been offered is an easy way to do it. Easier than holding out until I find something I do really want to do.

But since coming back into the working world after lockdown, after my 3 months spent mostly being a ‘stay at home mum’ (in the most literal sense), things are happening. My thoughts on where I want to take my freelance business are shifting. I’ve got rid of some things I no longer want to do, I’ve decided to change the way I describe myself, and I’m actively looking out for opportunities to do more of the type of work I love.

That second question in the book made me excited about my work. It made me excited about the idea of finding more interesting work like some of the things I’m doing at the moment. It made me wonder how I can reach more like-minded people with my blog, and how I can also meet the right kind of people in my work. My blog and my work are seemingly two completely different things. But actually they both satisfy the same needs.

The need to think and write. The need to create something. 

So while on many mornings an email does distract me completely, this morning an email sharpened my focus and made me excited about doing something worthwhile with the 2.5 hours I have to work with this morning.

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