It’s wonderful when a book moves me to recalibrate my routine and reclaim my creative goals. That’s what happened when I was invited to read and blog about Manage Your Day-to-Day edited by Jocelyn K. Glei at 99U. This book delivers the goods as the structure, content, and style harmonize. I keep it within reach.
So, it’s discouraging when our days feel:
- Harried or unsatisfying
- Repetitive or fragmented
- Controlled by the needs of others
- Menial and incomplete
The hours can be long and the unrelenting demand for information exhausting.
There’s an edge to our days when we’re concerned that we’ll miss something and inadvertently disappoint the expectations of others.
Working your way
You’re the one who controls the way you use your work day. It may not always feel that way, but it’s true. It comes down to setting boundaries, adopting right habits, and managing the expectations of those around you.
Manage Your Day-to-Day, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei at 99U, targets the drags on your time and psyche through short, tightly focused articles by 21 accomplished business people, writers, and academics who get at the heart of big issues and provide realistic ways for change.
Scott Belsky, founder of Behance, writes in the foreward:
No matter where you work or what horrible top-down systems plague your work, your mind and energy are yours and yours alone. You can surrender your day-to-day and the potential of your work to the burdens that surround you. Or you can audit the way you work and own the responsibility of fixing it.
The book unfolds in four sections that become the routes for a career going somewhere.
Route #1: Build a Rock-Solid Routine
All routines aren’t necessarily productive. We can spend a lot of time checking devices, meeting with people, and walking the floor, believing that somehow we’re capturing essential information we need for..well…something.
Mark McGuinness, author and creative professionals coach, advises:
The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second.
Reactive work is all that checking.
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, reminds us to protect the time needed for creative work if we want to produce something of worth.
We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently…frequent work makes it possible to accomplish more, with greater originality….
Route #2: Find Focus in a Distracted World
Differentiating ourselves is essential to our career growth. It’s how we stand out from the crowd to demonstrate our uniqueness and creativity.
Consider this point by Jocelyn K. Glei:
In a world filled with distraction, attention is our competitive advantage. Look at each day as a challenge–and an opportunity–to keep your eye on the prize.
Our ability to manage distraction to enable our creativity to flourish means we’ve conquered the paradox noted by Cal Newport, professor at Georgetown University:
Increasingly, creative minds are torn in two opposing directions. We’re asked to apply our intellectual capital to solve hard problems….At the same time, we’re asked to be constantly available by email and messenger and in meetings…..
Route #3:Tame Your Tools
In every career there are tools of the trade; pros know how to use them effectively. Technology, both a social and practical tool, challenges our decision-making and self-control.
Jocelyn K. Glei reminds us that:
Technology should be a tool, but if we do not keep our wits about us, it can easily become our taskmaster…It’s easy to blame the tools, but the real problem is us.
So each time you reach for a device, ask yourself: “Why and why now?”
Route #4: Sharpen Your Creative Mind
What we want from our work most often is the freedom to make a difference, to produce something useful, and to be creative.
Design professional, Stefan Sagmeister says it best:
If you want to do projects that you really love, you have to be aware of how difficult they are to do. For a long time I wasn’t doing certain projects, but I thought I would love to do them if I had the time. Then when I had the time, I avoided doing them because of all the other stuff that I still needed to do, like e-mail. And it’s just so much easier to do e-mail than to actually sit down and think….we don’t have time because it’s convenient not to have the time, because we don’t want to challenge ourselves.
Re-claim your time
Time is precious and limited. What we do with ours is our choice. It’s time to break our bad habits and dig into the work that will ultimately fulfill us. Taking control of our time day-to-day is immensely empowering.