It’s easy to fill every spare moment of your life with items on your to-do list, yet never really accomplish anything at all.
The reason this happens is that most of the tasks we engage in on a daily basis provide only a temporary relief. For instance, checking your email and responding to all of your social media notifications may help you to achieve that all-powerful inbox zero status for a few minutes, but once the next ping comes in on your phone you have to start the process all over again. You will never ‘finish’ email or social media.
Your personal life is also full of the same types of recurring tasks, from laundry to grocery shopping to mowing the lawn. Cars will need regular fill-ups and oil changes, cell phone bills will always need to be paid again next month. No matter how accomplished you may feel when you check off a number of boxes on your list, you’re really just treading water until that checkbox returns to be completed once again.
Even client work, which allows you to provide value to a business or individual with ever-changing goals, only temporarily gives you satisfaction and pads your bank account. Next week or next month, new client work will need to take its place on your to-do list.
Would it be nice if you could hire some of these tasks out or find systems to make them easier to accomplish? Of course. This post is not about productivity hacks, but please do try some should you feel the desire. You should be warned, however, that chances are you will fill all that saved time back up with new busy work.
Instead, I propose making space in your life for a different type of task. The kind of work that will allow you to create a legacy that outlives this week, this year, and perhaps even this decade.
You need to make space for your genius.
The idea of having to produce something genius-worthy is certainly daunting. Especially when you know all of the other projects and tasks you need to work on just to keep your life from imploding.
For those of you saying you couldn’t possibly make the time, I challenge you to start with something minor – like mowing your grass every two weeks instead of every weekend or checking social media twice a day instead of four times – and commit those precious saved minutes and hours toward your genius-level work.
You might be wondering what to do with this time when you’ve carved it out in your schedule. How exactly can you find the important work, the projects that you can’t wait to get back to… in essence, find your passion? The answer is surprisingly simple. It is nothing.
Whether you have found an hour a day or just 20 minutes a week, sit still and create nothing. Be disciplined in your nothingness. Do not do ANYTHING. Do not do ‘research’. Do not read blog posts or watch videos for inspiration. Please, for all that you hold dear, do not attend a webinar that will teach you how to find your next big idea. Sit in the slightly uncomfortable blank space you’ve made for yourself and think until the magic of an idea arrives.
Truth be told, you’ll probably either have too many ideas or none at all. The real challenge is not allowing yourself to take action until you’ve found an idea that won’t leave you alone. No checklists or brainstorms. No pros and cons. Just white space until something worth creating comes along.
The idea may be something small and easy, like writing a blog post. It may be complex, like creating a new niche in your industry. You never know what will show up or when, but when it hits you want to act fast. Never sit on your idea for too long.
Use your blank space for that one idea and that one idea alone until you complete the project or decide it’s not worth your time any longer, at which point you go back to the quiet space and wait for a new idea to come along. Do not allow your blank space become the time that you use to produce recurring work (like your weekly newsletter). If you get a newsletter idea that won’t leave you alone, go for it! But make sure you have other time in your schedule for ongoing tasks. The newsletter you write during genius time should be outstanding. If it’s not, put the idea aside for later and keep waiting for a better idea to come along.
The point of this space in your calendar is not to create a large body of work, although over time you probably will. The point is to give yourself space to be completely and uninhibitedly creative – something sorely lacking in most people’s world after they graduate from preschool.
What have you really got to lose? Even if you sit without an idea for a few weeks, or spend a few months creating something you decide not to take to market, your life will mostly be the same (aside from the grass blades being a little taller than normal). But just imagine for a moment that you find an idea for a book or a software application that you decide to pursue. What if you re-imagine the way your service is delivered? Picture finding the driving force to learn a new skill set because you just HAVE to produce this idea. Would that be worth the sacrifice?
You have a choice here. No one will force you to find the time and discipline to create something new. You can continue on with life as usual and hope you find that spark along your way, or you can purposely make time for your genius to visit and experience the pure magic that is the excited passion of a creative pursuit. The planet will certainly survive without whatever you might have brought to life, but maybe, just maybe, the ideas that you see through will change someone’s world for the better.