I’ve notice lately that lots of people are “on the grind”. They “rise and grind” everyday. I have to be honest with you, I’m not sure I know what that means. What are we grinding? Our teeth? Our gears?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in both hard work and discipline. Nothing really great gets accomplished without them. I’m just suggesting that we may be a little too inclined to grind away on the hamster wheel of life without paying enough attention to where we are going. It doesn’t really matter how fast you’re running, if it’s in the wrong direction or on a treadmill, you’re not likely to reach your desired destination.
What if instead of grinding, we focused on growing? What if we gave ourselves just a little more time and space to think, dream, experiment, and create? What if I told you that the most productive and prolific people you know…are already doing this? Those people that you see writing books, building small businesses, and otherwise doing cool stuff…they’ve all given themselves permission to look up, take a breathe, and think about what they really want to do with their time on this Earth. They’re still working really hard, they’re just working on the right things…because they’ve taken the time to figure out what those “right things” are.
Here’s a short story that drove this concept home for me. Last summer, my co-workers and I had the privilege of spending a day with famed business/leadership guru, Jim Collins. I’d read his books (which are fantastic) and had really embraced the concepts of disciplined thought and disciplined action…but I know now, that my understanding was too narrow. I thought that Jim was teaching me to “grind”, more like a soviet-era factory worker than an entrepreneur…and as soon as I met Jim, I knew that I had it (at least partly) wrong. The first thing I noticed when I walked into his conference room was Jim’s “20-mile march” written in the corner of his white board. The term 20-mile march describes the concept of adhering to a consistent and challenging micro-goal that you believe will ultimately get you to your desired BIG goal. Guess what Jim’s 20-mile march was…spend at least 40 creative hours each month! At first, I couldn’t believe it, but then it all made sense.
We can use the same discipline and drive that makes us good “grinders” to create room for thought, reflection, and creativity. It was great news for me, because it showed me that not only was creative time important, but I didn’t have to quit my life and wander the Earth to make it happen. While unplugging for a week (or even a few days) is a great way to create space, we can actually schedule it in to our regular lives. You have the time. You’ll just have to carve it out. Here are a few things that I do within the normal rhythm of life to make sure I’m not on the hamster wheel:
- Meet my friend for coffee one day each month to discuss our current creative endeavors and review our progress.
- Get up extra early one morning each week to go for a light run and write for 45 minutes.
- Listen to stimulating podcasts like Freakonomics Radio, TED Radio Hour, and The Tim Ferriss Show when I’m riding in the car or taking a shower.
- Take a one-week vacation twice per year to a place without cell phone reception.
These are just examples that work for me, but please find a way to make this work in your life. Don’t feel guilty for taking some time to scribble on your white board, debate a topic with friends, or just sit back and think. Give yourself some room to grow…there’s still plenty of time left to be busy.