Stop & Be Creative

I like to get a lot of things done. I love the feeling of checking items off my to-do list. It is what drives my day, what makes me feel like a success or a failure. I also love challenges, so I enjoy having a lot to get done. There are few things as satisfying to me as getting to the end of my day and knowing that I accomplished even more that I thought I could. Because of this, efficiency is often my best friend. I love efficiency because it allows me to make things happen – quickly. I like finding the shortest path from point A to point B and taking it without a second thought. The problem with my love for efficiency is that it can cause me to bulldoze past opportunities for creativity. I have to admit that sometimes I look back on a completed project and realize that I could have taken an entirely different approach that may have returned a better result – but it would have taken more of my time. This is really difficult for me because the number one question I’m always asking is, “how can I get this task completed now so that I can move on to the next item on my list?” when perhaps I should be asking, “what is the best or most creative approach?” While I agree with the startup mantra, “Done is better than perfect,” I know that like most things in life, finding balance is the key to success. For me, that balance looks like taking more time to pause and ask myself (or others) if I’m speeding down the right path, or if I need to reconsider my approach. We all need these moments of stillness to allow creativity to surface.

I definitely need this balance in my writing life. My best writing doesn’t come when I’m trying to check off the “write a blog post” item on my to-do list. It takes time to create value. I have found that if I discipline myself to write for at least 30 minutes every day, I produce much better content than if I try to tackle writing as a task. It’s less efficient, but more productive and it gives me more space to be creative.

The need to pause for reflection has also become more important for me at work lately. My job at Atlanta Tech Village affords me the opportunity to be creative often. As I work to build and improve programs that help startups succeed faster, I must constantly stop and think. I have to keep a watchful eye on my own forward movement so that I don’t overlook an important piece of a project, or lose out on the opportunity to come up with a new idea that might make a program better. I have to make more time for deeper creative work that will yield more good, even if it means I check fewer smaller (and probably less important items) off my list each day.

I’ve been looking for ways to help me stop and be creative more often. Tomorrow I will explore some of the ways I’m working to develop this habit. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on striking this balance between creativity and efficiency!