“Would love to, but I’m just too swamped. Just toooo swamped. Not a chance…but would love to.”
We’ve all uttered some iteration of the line above as we decline meetings, skip outings and hunker down in our offices to plow through a slew of email responses or attempt to draft up copy for some new deliverable. It’s part of our DNA and routine at this point – just “how it is” at our busy gigs.
Mind racing at 4 am this morning with a slew of RFP creative nuggets churning, I stumbled upon a great NYT editorial entitled “The Busy Trap“ shared on Twitter by my colleague @cmoffett.The piece really struck a chord with me despite my hazy state.
Just yesterday at a staff meeting, the ask was put forth by our office’s General Manager that we stop worrying about immediate action and instead take time to reflect each and every day. Reflect on what’s working, reflect on what’s not working, reflect on your team’s dynamic, reflect on how your clients view the work you are doing and what can be done better. I liked that.
Too often in agency life, we’re sucked into a flurried mess of balancing client work, pitching new business, networking our tails off and trying to finish the project that is due an hour from now. But that’s not how agencies have to operate. In a world where clients pay agencies to provide smart creative strategies and to push the innovation envelope, reflection can be your most powerful weapon.
Author Tim Krieder notes:
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.
If we’re busy, we can’t possibly be asked to do more work and thus we’re safe in our job, right?? Wrong.
Projecting an aura of business isn’t the solution. Instead, consider making it culturally acceptable for your office and team to take time to reflect. Take an extra hour for lunch. Extend a deadline in order to allot time to nail down that idea that is swirling around but not quite ready to present to your client, decline that hour long weekly meeting that you don’t really need to be at, shut down your email for a couple hours and focus on one project. Then, watch the efficiency meter jump. Watch your team’s dynamic improve. Watch your clients react to the crisp work being delivered and run with the new ideas that surface on a regular basis.
Tomorrow is the Fourth of July. It’s the middle of the week and for many, it will be tough to shut down completely and enjoy the day with family and friends. I challenge you to do so and push you to require that your teams do so as well. As Krieder notes, idelness is something to embrace as a path towards greater effectiveness.
Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.
A safe Fourth to all. You’re not too swamped to kick back and enjoy the day. I promise. Cheers.