Solving hard problems in technology requires exceptional insight and ingenuity. But while an employee’s creative potential is highly valuable to an employer, equally important is how consistently they deliver at their promised level. While many believe creative power to be governed by unknown forces, top creative professionals know how to guarantee their performance.
Top Pros Maintain A High Average
The basic formula for your professional value is simple: 1) Do skilled work that non-professionals can’t, and, 2) Do it consistently well enough for others to invest confidently in you.
The best pros aren’t hired for their occasional flashes of brilliance; they’re hired because they’re a sound investment. Fundamental to any professional’s value is sheer reliability. After all, people resist paying for things whose quality and performance are uncertain. Top technology professionals not only excel at ingenious problem-solving, they’re also masters of maintaining high creative output, despite whatever project-based, professionally-based and personally-based problems they may encounter during their engagements – as they almost always do, because Life Is Life, and shit happens.
Why do we get creatively stuck? Mainly, we run out of energy and our perspective gets stale. Hitting the wall is usually due some lack of foresight or realism about our limits and needs. For example, it’s possible to burn out during a creative project when you’re psychologically attached to finishing it sooner than later, and run out of energy in the process. Or, perhaps you feel you don’t have enough time (or the need) to take a break to maintain your focus and recharge your synapses. Impending deadlines or the desire to “just get done with it so I can move on to other things” can cause a tunnel vision that keeps you from realizing you’re running low on creative juice.
Another reason for avoiding breaks is the fear of losing your place while you’re away. You worry that you’ll forget the details of your half-baked solution and have to start over upon returning.
Work At Your Best – Rest When You Can’t Simply put, consistent performance positively reinforces your personal brand value. By regularly working near the top of your performance curve, you can always deliver your best work and come out looking your best. For long-term survival as a creative professional, it’s critical that you don’t associate any negative feelings of frustration and resentment with your self, your work, or your clients, just because you allowed yourself to burn out. The best way is to keep your work experience “clean” by not getting to the ugly point of creative frustration in the first place. As a pro, you should know How Long You Should Work Before Taking a Break, and respect it like the gas meter in your car. Take breaks and have snacks on hand because mental performance diminishes as your blood-sugar level drops. The stubborn heroism of your ego must be contained: everyone has limits.
Nurture Your Creative Energy
After 40 combined years of managing creative professionals, from artists to technologists, the founders of 10x Management have learned much about the strange and wonderful power of human creativity. My own 25 years of studying human potential and performance through my background in cognitive neuropsychology and elite athletic coaching has also revealed clear guidelines for always feeling and doing your best. It turns out that consistent mental performance isn’t a God-given talent: it can be nurtured and conditioned. As a natural mental function, creativity flows instinctively from a healthy body and way of life. Like a muscle, the brain can be compromised by overuse and under-nourishment. In sports, the relative imbalance between exertion, recovery, and nourishment is called over-training. In mental and creative work, I’d call it “over-braining.”
Change Your Approach
As discussed in The Daily Routine of 23 Famous Creative People, many creative powerhouses have found that following a daily routine that balances various work-life activities is the most powerful long-term strategy for maximizing creative flow. However, most top creative professionals also have tactics for dealing more immediately with creative burnout.
So I posed the simple question to some of our highly successful, “10x-level” independent professionals working in a variety of tech-related fields: What do you do to move past creative obstacles? While each had their own preferences, all involved change: change what you’re doing, change how you’re doing it, or change when and where you’re doing it.
The pace of life in this age urges us to proceed rapidly and directly through every task we encounter. But, like sprinting to find something whose location is unknown, forcing yourself to solve a new problem through relentless thinking may be impossible for your mind and brain to accomplish without resting and refueling. For novel and complex creative challenges, being “efficiently indirect” may ultimately be the fastest way. But it’s up to you to convince yourself to release your death-grip on breathlessly pursuing the solution single-mindedly.
Tactics For Maintaining Your Flow
In the next part of this 2-part series, 10 Ways ’10x’ Tech Professionals Maintain Their Creative Flow, I’ll share a variety of tactics for maintaining or rekindling the creative spark that are used by some of the top creative professionals represented by 10x Management. By using these tactics in the face of inevitable creative burnout, they ensure being able to continuously deliver at the high level of productivity for which they’re repeatedly hired.