Planning has never been the strongest tool in my arsenal. Ask most people I’ve worked with and they’ll tell you they don’t know when they’ll receive their mixes unless I specifically say that I’m sending them today, right now. Juggling an over abundance of jobs as a successful creative is always difficult, never mind planning around the circus show that is next year. It’s like throwing ten balls up into the air and not knowing which ball I am going to catch and which balls I’ll be picking up later.
I’ve recently been reading ‘Rework’ by Jason Fried (sweet name, bro). Jason and his business partner David Heinemeir Hansson own the technology company ’37 Signals’ and are responsible for the software Basecamp, Campfire and Ruby on Rails. They have been collecting common myths that get thrown around the creative workplace and in Rework are awkwardly saying ‘no, it doesn’t have to be this way’. I blasted through this book in three hours on a plane journey to L.A. It’s the most simple yet effective book on productivity that I’ve read to date. It’s very thought provoking and original in places such as Jason’s views on turning down venture capitalists and discarding meetings and managers. He takes pride in not having a mission statement and says it’s good for your customers to outgrow you. Most of all, I resonated with his ideas on planning. Like me, he defends the scatterbrain creative.
‘When you do write a plan, usually it’s before you’ve begun. That’s the worst time to make a big decision’ – Jason Fried.
I’m very much an in-the-moment thinker, I think of solutions to the problems at hand and work on them as they are happening, even as I type I only have a vague idea of what I want to achieve by the end of the tomorrow. If I stop for a second to give it more thought, I’m not actually getting the work I’m doing done. Before I know it, my day off will be falsely advertised and I’ll end up spending my rest time working. Plans are guesses and my guessing skills are pitiable. I remember at school, we all had planner diaries and every week we would have to show them to our tutors, they’d check we were using them and get told off if we weren’t. I had a lot of detentions. I must have used my planner twice, probably to note my first gig (Van Halen) and again for my first drum lesson. If there was ever a sign of what’s to come…
I’ve often wondered how is it possible that people are so smart that they can see the future enough to plan what will be the best thing to commit to six months from now. Ideas, opinions, influences, likes and dislikes are always influx. So why limit our options for what might become our most productive moment? Warren Buffet – one of the richest people in the world – never books an appointment beyond tomorrow; he selects the most important opportunity for the next day and then proceeds to take action on that and only that. Dressing up your decision making by guessing what will be the best opportunity in the distant future is just a waste of energy. Instead, focus on what needs doing and what you feel creatively inspired to do now, then quickly proceed to doing it.
Business plans should be a thing of the past and superseded only by staying true to your core business beliefs. Plans are just guesses, guesses change and are rarely true. Beliefs will stay true and should be used to guide your decision-making. This is something Jim Collins talks strongly about in his book ‘Built To Last’. He examines successful habits of visionary companies such as Apple, Boeing, Sony, Walt Disney and many more. While they don’t share a single core ideology, what they do share is that they are consistent with their core ideology over long periods of time.
Think about how much time is wasted when your manager calls a meeting. Most workplaces hold meetings every week simply because of tradition. The minutes then point to ground being covered and something being planned. But let’s re-think the idea of a meeting being a complete waste of time. How often are people ready to stop working at that exact same moment as their co-workers? How many staff actually want to drop everything, stop their creative flow and be willing to take two steps back, to deviate from what they were doing with the distraction of a meeting?
“Is it ever ok to trade 10-15 hours of productivity for a 1 hour meeting? That’s a pretty hefty price to pay” – Jason Fried
The reality is work gets done by doing it, not taking hours writing out a huge plan, not standing around talking about it and especially not sitting in a meeting listening to someone that likes to hear their own voice and making simple ideas more complex than they need to be. Let’s keep things simple and work on the now, give your diary some options and let tomorrow be another creative day without being tied to limitations.
check out his book and his ted talks below;