3) Habits, schedules, and constraints breed creativity. I’m most creative when I have strict constraints on my day. I’ve got everything scheduled, and I’ve got an hour and a half to solve a problem. I always work on problems in 1.5 hour segments, then I take some sort of break. I can usually get through four separate 1.5 hour segments each day. When I’m planning for the following day the night before, I’ll schedule out these four segments with the four most important things I need to get done. The end time forces me to be action-oriented. Nothing is open-ended.
4) Sleep early. sleep often. There are only a few things that will add some coffee back into your energy cup. Exercise can add a bit, as can caffeine and eating well. However, the only real solution is long, deep sleep. The bad rap sleep gets is shocking. Sleeping doesn’t make you lazy. It’s actually one of the most important things you can do.
When I was in college, my mom used to remind me that “nothing good ever happens after 1am.” I’ve adjusted that a bit - there’s nothing great happening after 10pm on a weeknight. Head to sleep and get 8 hours. You’ll notice the difference.
5) Practice makes perfect. When I was building my basketball recruiting startup, I wasn’t able to get through a full hour and a half of uninterrupted work each morning. I know how crazy that sounds - it’s not a very long time and it was the first thing I did each day. But I simply wasn’t used to working on anything that long without being interrupted. You might not, either. We are used to being tapped on the shoulder every five minutes. Start with 45 minutes, and build. Humans are incredibly adaptive - you’ll get used to this framework and thrive in it quickly. But it will take a bit of practice early on.
Practice goes for creativity as well. Being creative is no different than learning to play the piano. It’s not innate - it’s learned. Think about ideas every day to keep the creative bone limber - write out 15 ways to make lines shorter at your soup place at lunch, or 15 alternatives to college. Stretching your idea muscle every day is important so you’re ready with a great solution when a problem you can solve falls into your lap.
Bonus: Email maintenance. I know people have service jobs where you need to respond to emails quickly when they come in. In that case, be ruthless with email filters so only important ones can ping you when you’re doing focused work. The effort needed to get back into the “flow” of difficult work after being disturbed by an email is incredibly high - it can easily take 10-15 minutes each time. Make sure these distractions are worth it.
The biggest takeaway here is to be cognizant of your energy and focus limits, and to be purposeful with how you spend your time.
We’re all busy. We’ve all got jobs. By thinking about all the decisions you make throughout the day, transitioning as many as you can to healthy habits, you’ll see drastic improvements to your quality of life. My goal is to get you all thinking like entrepreneurs. The quality I admire in the best entrepreneurs is their ability to maximize their strengths.
Doing everything with a purpose will start you on that track. Then, once that idea hits, you’ll be ready to capitalize on it.
Brian is a serial entrepreneur, writer, and currently the founder of Find Your Lobster. He’s also a teacher at General Assembly, and the EIR at Mayday-Mayday-Mayday, a branding and design company. He can be found on Twitter. Check out his first IrishCentral post, about how anyone can be an entrepreneur.