Staying engaged and motivated has been cited as the second greatest workplace challenges right after poor communication.
On the surface this doesn’t seem important enough to rank #2. But, here are some important questions for you:
How would you describe the person who always gets promoted?
How would you describe the first person that gets let go when the market gets worse?
What were you feeling when you went home from “the best job you ever had?”
When friends are making crazy decisions about their job and need to be talked off of a ledge, what is behind their dissatisfaction? For example, we have a family friend who is considering taking a sizable pay cut, increasing her commute by 45 minutes, not being allowed to work from home anymore, and working for a company that is less stable than her current one. Why? She’s “ready for a change.”
Staying engaged and motivated is critical to our success, longevity in our business, and income increases.
Here’s the tough part.
Staying engaged and motivated is 100% on us. Our company, family, friends – no one can do this for us.
How do you stay engaged and motivated?
What are you actually experiencing when you are staying engaged and motivated? You are happy. You may have no idea what time it is because it is flying by. You probably don’t need food. You forgot you had to go to bathroom. You don’t hear what is going on around you.
You have been there. We all have. It has gained the now-oh-so-common description as flow.
How can we quickly enter this state? Creativity
Here is the simple science behind it.
Brain scans have shown that satisfaction / flow / creativity light up both sides of the brain nearly equally. Work on the other hand, lights up the analytical left hemisphere. We don’t (and can’t) turn that half off because our success is dependent on it. What we can do is ramp up the right hemisphere so that our use of both hemispheres is near equal. And like everything in life, we have to set some time aside and practice.
“It’s the synchrony between these systems that seems to be important for creativity.”
Roger Beaty, a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Psychology
Here is a simple process that we use with great results inside the Inner Path.
Ensure You Are Staying Engaged and Motivated by Adding a Creative Day
Creative Days are times where you simply get away from your normal life. The difference between creative days and vacations is that creative days are typically solo adventures and you remain intentional about your time.
Let’s first talk about planning your creative day:
First, choose a place that rejuvenates you or gives you energy. For some of us this is a really quiet place and for some of us this is a noisy coffee shop. I would encourage you to go somewhere that is AWAY from your home, office or the coffee shop you regularly work at. I like to go to different places each time. Places where I’ve had creative days include: coffee shop in a neighboring town, camping by myself, country cabin, cool Airbnb, friends place while they were away, hotel room, libraries, etc.
How much can you commit to? Choose a time that is doable and doesn’t get you into (too much) trouble with your spouse or business associates. Give yourself at least two hours though. When I first started doing these, time away was usually shorter…2 hours here, 4 hours there. For example, one time I took about 2 1/2 hours in a nice restaurant between clients. Over time, I worked up to taking 12 to 24 hours away regularly and it feels just right.
Fuel for the Body
If you’re taking a shorter creative day, consider getting your favorite smoothie, favorite coffee, etc. If you’re taking more time away, I always pack the food and drinks I need and bring everything with me. This usually means an ice chest. On just about every occasion, I will eat one meal out…normally dinner, after a long day of creative time. Regardless, I would encourage you to eat healthy, so that your brain has optimal energy and you’re not struggling to stay awake or stay focused. Whatever type of time away you choose, undertake your creative process, set it down, and tuck in for some food or beverage that you can sit back and enjoy while you rest or contemplate more of what you are thinking about.
Fuel for the Mind and Soul
I love to begin or end my creative days with something active/physical and something for my body. You can draw or listen to music. I like to work in time to be active outside, like going on a short hike or swimming. Even a scenic drive to and from your creative day can make a difference. I’m also a huge fan of Float Tanks. You can probably find one near you if you are interested in trying it out. This is in part a celebration of your focused and intentional effort in all areas of your life!
What do you do during your Creative Day?
Now, on the day itself, what to do?
A big percentage of your time will be spent in reflection. If you’re spending more than 6 hours away, then I’d recommend you spend some time in Deepening, by doing one or two self-development exercises. You’ll always want to spend time visioning, which includes planning for the next 30 days
Here’s an agenda for a 4-hour creative day to help you get started. I’ve also included one of my personal favorites.
Read back through notes, journaling and work. Here, you are looking for insight or patterns that you feel are important to make note of when it comes to planning your next 30 days. If you don’t know what Review Days are or haven’t implemented them in your life yet, Review Days are a powerful way to guarantee progress. Basically, at set intervals you look back across the last period of time, reflect on how things went, and use that information to influence what you will do differently over the next period of time.
I also like to read through my calendar to identify patterns. Areas I’m looking for include tasks I continually put off, tasks that could be delegated or deleted off my plate, where I spend the majority of my time, etc.
Spend time looking at your greatest challenge right now.
Spend some time defining success for yourself. Start this step by asking; “What does success look like?” and as with everything else, write it down! Contemplate how this matches your vision (if you have one already). Are there changes you want to make to your vision? This is one of my most useful activities. For each area of life, I write in first person what success looks and feels like. I have 3-6 statements for each area.
Spend time planning the next 30 days. What targets are you planning to focus on? Before I wrap up, I ask the question again:
“Will these objectives, if completed, ensure I reach my vision? ”
Wrap up with a clear trail map for the month, in terms of the targets you are focused on AND the specific actions you will take each day. You don’t need to have every day lined out, but you should be able to draw from a list of actions that you’ve assessed and determined they are the most important steps for you to focus on.
Stepping into Your Own Rhythm
We’ve covered a lot and you may be asking yourself, where do you start?
I used to encourage students to start with a regular weekly review, but after seeing better results, I’m now recommending that you start by implementing Creative Days, first.
Start with a small chunk of time, say 2-4 hours. Schedule it on your calendar. Protect this time 100%. Make this time away a priority EVERY month.
This may be hard to hear, and you are not alone. The three most common reasons why people fail at planning a creative day are:
1. I don’t have enough time
Not all of us can take a full day away. But trust me, once you see how powerful creative days are, you will make more room for it. Can you take four hours? Can you take two hours? Can you stop at a coffee shop for 45 minutes when traffic is heaviest and you are on your way home?
2. I’ve got a plan, I don’t need to think about it anymore
We hear this often among motivated professionals. However, creative days stop us from mindlessly working in one direction only to wake up one day to find that we are off course. Think of them as calibration. Life changes rapidly and we have to check back in with ourselves so that we know that we are still progressing towards our goals.
3. This is too self-indulgent
At a recent conference, when we asked if the idea of taking a day to plan felt self-indulgent half the room yelled “Yes!” before they knew the word had escaped their mouth. Many of us are conditioned to see “self-care” as “self-serving” but here is the reality. A creative day means you are making sure you are using your time highly effectively so that you have more time with the ones you love. You are focusing on results to provide income for others. You are reducing your stress which means you are healthier when around others. Creative plans invigorate us which means we have more energy for those around us. Once you wrap your mind around the benefits of the creative day, you will see that this is one of the best strategies to assure that you are effectively serving others.
After doing this for years, I’ve come to realize that when I don’t schedule Creative Time, my life suffers. Yeah, things might seem good for a while, but ever so slowly, you’ll find yourself working harder, but benefiting less. So, take my word for it and just build the rhythm of scheduling consistent time away every month.
And, at the end of the year (or start of the next one), schedule one to three days for annual reflection and planning. Again, make this a priority. Even if it’s April when you’re reading this, go ahead and schedule it on your calendar and set your reminder for 30 days out, so that you have time to get prepared.