How to Be with Your Work and Find New Ideas
It’s hard to find new ideas. But finding the will power and discipline to act on your ideas, to see them to fruition, is even harder. We all know someone who seems to get more work done in a day than we can do in a week. And this makes us question our abilities and intelligence. Some of us give in to these questions and doubts and accept them. Others keep on trying, and yet success seems to evade them even after years of pursuit.
It was the same for me. To change the pattern, I purchased many books and courses on productivity and time management. Sadly, most of them were full of buzzwords and gave very little practical advice. That all changed when I took the Being Productive Course by Kourosh Dini.
The course has actionable ideas that seem simple on the surface but had a profound effect on me when I inculcated them into my daily life. One idea that had a significant impact on me is the concept of “Being with Your Work".
One of my all-time favorite authors, Neil Gaiman talked about this in his interview with The Tim Ferriss Show (he goes into more detail in his Masterclass). He calls it the “Do Nothing” rule of writing. He said,
“I would go down to my lovely little gazebo at the bottom of the garden, sit down and I am absolutely allowed not to do anything. I am allowed to sit at my desk. I am allowed to stare out at the world. I am allowed to do anything I like, as long as it isn’t anything. Not allowed to do crossword, not allowed to read a book, not allowed to phone a friend, not allowed to make a clay model of something you know. All I am allowed to do is absolutely nothing or write."
What to Do?
It all starts with intention, or as Mr. Dini calls it, “Settled Decision”. You first decide on what you want to work on or tackle. It can be anything. You might want to cook a healthy meal or clean your house or go to the gym or write your term paper. The point is to be intentional about the work you are going to do next.
Once you have set your intention, you sit with it. You don’t have to start working if you can’t find the will power or if nothing is coming to your mind. You only need to sit with the intention of working on it. There are three things to keep in mind:
- You Cannot Do Anything Else
You cannot check emails, messages, or look at videos. You have to be present at work. You do not have to start working, but you also cannot do anything else.
- Remove Distractions
Open the project you settled on and remove all distractions. Close all the other apps, silence your phone, and do what you require to minimize interruptions.
- Take a Tiny Step
If possible, take a tiny step towards your work. Write that first line, organize just a single shelf, walk only for a minute. Soon that small step will evolve into something much more substantial without you even realizing it.
If you are sitting with your work and not doing anything, let the ideas flow. Think about the project you are working on or the book you are writing. Sometimes other weird ideas will come to mind, and they might not be related to your present work. Once you realize you are drifting, bring your attention back to the project at hand.
Sooner rather than later, you will find that working on your current project is more interesting than doing nothing. And even when you are doing nothing but thinking about the work at hand, you open yourself to new ideas. You figure out ways to get out of the rut and start working.
When to End a Session?
One big question that remains to answer is how do you know when to end. Well, there are no rules. Here are some examples of scenarios when you can finish your session.
- You are feeling too anxious or frustrated.
- You feel nothing is happening.
- You feel happy with your work.
- You just want to stop.
In an ideal situation, you want to end the session with intention or a settled decision. It means you think about it, let your thoughts flow in, and decide if ending the session is the right course of action. Whether you are taking a break or starting something new, remember to be conscious of your decision.
At first, you might find it uncomfortable. Deciding to end a session is hard as you don't know if you should carry on and work through your problems or stop. If that's the case, start by using timers. That way, you will have an out, and there will be one less decision that you need to make. The end goal is to both start and end a session with intention. Use the timers like training wheels, and take them off when you get comfortable with the process.
Be with Your Work and Find new Ideas: Final Thoughts
You might feel that it is too simple and will never work for you. But I urge you to try it for a week. At the end of the week, call me out on Twitter and let me know if you notice any benefits or not. If it can work for Neil Gaiman, and it worked for me, I think there is a high chance that it will work for you too. So, try it out and let me know how it goes.