After 35 years in the industry (did I just write that?), I’ve been fortunate to have seen some fascinating changes; new technology, new ways to slice and dice messaging, and new techniques. While I don’t miss designing ads for the Yellow Pages, with new media comes new challenges. Sure, the evolution has helped to keep me on my toes and engaged, but with increasing regularity, I worry; will I still be able to come up with new ideas? Am I going to be able to learn a completely new industry?
I love what I do and the people I work with (yes, technically they did pay me to write that). But after three decades, the thing that challenges me most, even more than keeping up with the constant flow of technology, is finding a way to avoid burn out.
Following is a list I’ve created (and revisit with increasing regularity) that has helped keep me excited about what I do (except perhaps early morning meetings). Hint: the first one is the most important.
Schedule Free Time
If you can’t carve out some free time for yourself, don’t bother reading any further. Everyone seems to suffer from chronic busyness. It’s understandable; there are obligations at work and home. To-do lists seem to follow us around. If it’s not in a notebook or calendar, it’s likely on your phone. Taking time to recharge yourself (however you do that) is certainly more critical than many tasks on your list. And remember, if you’re not around to do them, they’ll never get done, anyway.
Experience Live Performances
There is nothing more inspiring for me than watching immensely talented people doing things for which I have no aptitude. Forgo the arena shows and see a local musician who is happily strumming or singing their original material a few feet away from your table. Take in a show that you’ve never heard of put on by a local theater group in a former church. The inspiration comes from reminding yourself that you also have a particular set of valuable skills and talents that not everyone has. And feel fortunate that you don’t have to demonstrate those skills in front of a room of strangers.
Meet Interesting People in New Places
You don’t need to go halfway around the world to gain a fresh perspective (although everyone should at least once in their lives). Obscure historical landmarks and “The World’s Largest” whatever are waiting for you to discover them just a short drive away. After a day cruising on a blue highway with the windows down, searching for a diner that serves homemade pie, you’ll feel like you had a mini-vacation. Your email will be there when you get back, I promise
Go Outside and Play
Your mother was right. Being outdoors, whether parked in a lawn chair in your own back yard or doing something more active, is good for you. All day, digital images and sounds compete for our attention. Tasks are derailed by interruptions and creativity is diminished by multi-tasking. It’s exhausting. Removing yourself from that chaos not only lowers your blood pressure but, in the quiet where you can finally hear your inner voice, ideas can come out of nowhere. Try it. Take a walk around the block (without your phone) – you won’t be the same when you get back.
Sit Down and Read a Book
Becoming immersed in a novel does more than take you out of yourself. It re-calibrates your attention span. I sometimes struggle to make it through the first three paragraphs of an online article, so it takes a concerted effort to spend an hour reading a book with actual pages. But it’s worth it and sharpening your ability to focus will help you to concentrate on projects when phone calls and emails start coming fast and furious
Stroll Around a Museum
For me, it’s the St. Louis Art Museum. My favorite times to go are when there isn’t a special exhibit and it’s not too crowded. When a piece creates an emotion in me, I’ll find the closest bench, sit down, and stare at it for a while. The simple act of focusing on (and feeling) an emotion is grounding. Letting one wash over you while you look at beautiful artwork is somehow both cathartic and restorative.
Remember Your “Why”
You picked your career for a reason, right? Personally, I never imagined that I’d be looking at a computer screen and pushing pixels around with a software application. But it’s not the how – it’s the why. I love making things prettier because aesthetics matter. It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter if it’s packaging, a website, a tradeshow booth, or an invitation to my cousin’s wedding. There is plenty of ugly in the world but, with time and some ingenuity, maybe I can make a small part of it a little more beautiful.
Spoke’s discovery process is where we get down to the business of finding out what makes our new clients tick. Whether we are meeting with a small startup or a large corporation with a full C-Suite, we are exposed to the passion that they have for their innovative products or services. And it’s contagious.
We have this process down to a science, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a lot of head scratching and furrowed brows when we were trying to figure out how blockchain works, why IOT is a cool thing and how to communicate these complex ideas to consumers. But this is OUR passion and aligning it with our client’s goals makes for some exciting success stories and relationships that have lasted for years.
Speaking of which, Spoke Marketing is proud to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. We’d like to thank our clients, both past, current, and brand new for challenging us and making the last decade anything but routine. In the meantime, find something you love doing, put it on the top of your to-do list…and schedule plenty of time on your calendar (go on…make it a recurring event, you deserve it)!