3 min read
Mitchell D. Pousson II / March 15, 2021
A small team of frantic TV writers scurried around the room tossing empty pieces of paper into the air.
They were drowning in the wake of an approaching deadline that was moving toward them at lightspeed.
"Nothing. We've got nothing. We're totally screwed," said one of them.
"Ya think?" replied another.
Procrastinating all week had left them with nothing to show executives.
The creative juices had run dry, the material reservoir was depleted, and the script was blank.
Out of fear of losing their jobs, they hitched a last-minute plan: lock the door, stay up all night drinking coffee in order to reach a state of delirium, and then start writing.
To their surprise—the ideas began flowing, the characters were talking, and the episode's plot morphed into shape.
The suggestions they wanted to make, but wouldn't in a well-rested and sober state of mind, now flowed freely as they pitched one another absurd and outlandish storylines.
They wrote all day and into the night until the script was finished.
The episode aired the following week and was met with praise as audiences declared it one of the best yet.
So what is the lesson nested in this comically juvenile, last-ditch effort?
Perhaps that procrastination and delirium are an easy combination hack for creativity, but this wouldn't be entirely true. Or maybe, not to worry too much about deadlines because you'll always find a way to meet them when s*** hits this fan, but this is not always the case.
Sometimes we feel inspired and creative.
Sometimes we feel focused and productive.
Sometimes we feel lazy and fatigued.
Cycling between these different moods is a daily juggling act that every human being engages.
But we still have to work despite how we feel. We still have to produce some sort of value that earns us that paycheck. This is simply a fact of life.
The key then, as knowledge workers, is not to fight these moods or feelings that we are bound to experience but learn to work with them instead.
Because the coronavirus pandemic has awakened so many to the benefits of remote work, it's up to us—the ones entrusted with the privilege of working from home, to optimize our workflows in order to maximize the value we add to our team and company.
You're not always going to feel like mindlessly responding to that long list of overdue emails and sometimes you shouldn't. If you wake up after a great night of REM sleep and a hot cup of extra strong coffee, maybe knock out those emails. If you wake up a little groggy but are feeling more creative than usual, sit down and start writing or work on those designs you've been struggling with. If you wake up exhausted and fatigued, go back to sleep—maybe read something helpful or inspiring when you get up.
Here are some basic recommendations for the type of work you should do based on how you feel:
Feeling Creative? W.I.D
Feeling Tired? R.R.R
Feeling Focused? B.O.T
Just like the TV writers exemplified, there are ways for us to hack into certain neurological states of mind, although staying up all night is not one that I recommend. Exercise, diet, supplements, and meditation are four well-known tools for manipulating our central nervous systems in order to achieve the feelings we desire. But instead of merely hacking your way into a mindset, be advantageous with the one you're currently in. Do the work that most aligns with the way you feel. Work with your mind and body.
At Sprinter, we are a 100% remote team so it's rare that we are all in the same state at the same time (pun intended). We see this as a feature not a bug however, because it allows us the flexibility to tackle the tasks our current mindset is best suited for while still asynchronously moving together towards our common goal. While the lack of forced structure may seem like a barrier to our collective productivity, we've found that it not only enhances individual effectiveness, but also significantly increases our enjoyment in the work we do.
This is how we help ordinary people do extraordinary work.