We’re salivating just thinking about Neapolitan Express, one of the most delicious Grindist-founded ventures out there. If the thought of pizza doesn’t already make you hungry, read on to find out what makes this food truck so special…and then go grab a slice!
Neapolitan Express created & built a fleet of state of the art trucks which run solely on Compressed Natural Gas and Solar Power; two of the cleanest, safest and most efficient sources of alternative energy. Our trucks feature a unique open kitchen design and house cutting edge appliances, which assist in making you the perfect Neapolitan style pizza.
We are dedicated to quality pizza and improving the environment. We are proud to be the first mobile restaurant entirely powered by alternative energy sources including Compressed Natural Gas and Solar Panels. With the help of our strategic partner, Clean Energy Fuels, we are able to provide quick, delicious and healthy pizza while helping to create a greener planet. Each of our mobile restaurants promotes a clean environment through the use of CNG, recycled and compostable paper products and solar panel technology. We use the best, freshest, quality ingredients and state of the art equipment to give you authentic Neapolitan pizza in minutes. We operate under the idea that fast food should be good food, not only for you, but for our environment!
We not only bring you the most authentic Neapolitan pizza on wheels, but we believe in doing well by doing good. A percentage of our proceeds go directly to organizations that we believe share our values. We donate to the following:
The Water Project and Thirst No More strive to end the water crisis by providing safe, clean drinking water to nearly one billion people. At the end of last year we donated $100,000 to Thirst No More who used our funds to drill water wells in Africa.
No Kid Hungry: Share Our Strength is determined to end childhood hunger by connecting kids to effective nutrition programs.
Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) serves veterans, service members, and their families who suffered a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, immediate to their military service on or after September 11, 2001.
Serendipity…it’s not just one of John Cusack’s greatest films. For many entrepreneurs, it’s what they believe will ultimately launch their products’ success. According to the good people of Psychology Today, however,”serendipity, as a method of innovation, has a very poor track record.” Read on to find out what Drew Boyd suggests as an alternative.
The Myth of Serendipitous Creativity Lucky inventions happen at a much lower rate than we think.
In 1891, a physical education teacher named James Naismith invented the game of basketball when he nailed two ordinary peach baskets to the wall of a gymnasium. His students loved the game. But, there was a problem. Every time a player shot the ball into the basket, somebody had to get up on a ladder and take it out. That wasted a lot of time and it ruined the flow of the game.
But then something happened. After many games, the bottoms of the peach baskets became so weak that they eventually broke off, allowing the basketball to fall straight through.
This simple serendipitous invention allowed the game to be played continuously without interruption, and it gave rise to a global billion-dollar industry we know today as professional basketball.
The game of basketball isn’t the only invention created through pure chance. Many successful products you see around you today are the result of serendipity. The Post-it note, velcro, penicillin, x-rays and even chocolate chip cookies were created by chance.
With so many successful products created through serendipity, it makes you wonder whether companies can rely on it to create breakthrough products. The answer is no. Serendipity, as a method of innovation, has a very poor track record. The number of serendipitous products is a tiny percentage of the total of all products. It just doesn’t yield nearly the amount of blockbuster products as you would think.
So why does it seem there are so many of them? That’s because serendipitous products are more memorable than others. We hear about them in the news media more often. Because of that, we recall more examples of serendipitous products than other inventions. So we’re fooled into thinking they must be occurring at a much higher rate. It just isn’t true.
Instead of having to rely on chance, you’re about to learn a method that you can use proactively to create new products and services.
Let’s look back at our basketball example. What if James Naismith had used a thinking tool that guided him to remove the bottoms of the peach baskets right from the start? Had he done so, he would have seen the benefit immediately.
We’ll never know for sure. But, what would you rather rely on? Pure chance? Or would you prefer to have a method that leads you to these same inventions in a systematic way?
If you’re serious about innovation, I advise you to go with the odds, not the gods. While serendipitous products are fun to read about, don’t let them distract you from using a systematic approach that will increase your creative output.
Micaela Brown Micaela Brown knew she wasn’t the only go-getter in town.
She created the “Minority Report” video series with the Chicago Sun-Times to showcase the city’s vibrant community of entrepreneurs and professionals of color. Micae also hosts the twice-a-month episodes, which feature business-minded interviews with guests as diverse as Chicago Treasurer Stephanie Neely, advertising executive Sherman Wright and media lawyer Daliah Saper.
Along with her work on the “Minority Report,” Micae is an interactive account executive for the Sun-Times, where she creates advertising strategies for clients like Comcast, Macy’s and the Chicago White Sox.
Micae is a Chicago native and graduate of DePaul University and the Sandler Sales Institute. When she’s not making connections for the Sun-Times, she’s taking care of her two Yorkshire terriers, Bentley and Studley, and planning her next travel adventure.
Jason Henrichs of Startup Institute Jason works with the Startup Institute team to accelerate our growth. He’s been a founder, investor and advisor to numerous start-ups and is an active mentor across the Techstars network. Jason began his education in leadership and engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point and completed studies in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Sciences at Harvard University. In his free time, Jason can be found searching for the perfect wave, running even in the harshest of conditions, or undertaking some form of home improvement project.
Angelia Hopson of iCoach360 For many years Angelia has worked with, for and on behave of small and minority businesses, serving on various committees and boards that support small business. A few of these include CMSDC (Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council); HMSDC (Houston Minority Supplier Development Council); Chicago MBDA (Minority Business Development Agency) and WIPP (Women Impacting Public Policy).
During her career, she has owned and operated several companies and founded a non-profit organization. Her experience includes safety and environmental management, design of a mobile app for safety, development and implementation of a closed loop environmental sustainability process for a fortune 500 corporation, real estate management, realtor and broker, multi-level marketing, serving in civic organizations, founding and directing a non-profit organization, fundraising and participating as a core member to political campaigns.
A brief list of her business development efforts that resulted in seven figure contracts include Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club, UPS, City of Chicago, ComEd, Albertson’s, BP (Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill), SuperStorm Sandy Recovery and the list goes on.
Nigel F. Telman of Proskauer Nigel F. Telman leads the employment practice in the Chicago office of Proskauer and is co-head of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group.
Nigel’s practice is concentrated in litigating single and class action disputes arising out of claims of workplace harassment and employment discrimination. He also represents employers in collective and class actions involving allegations of wage and hour violations under federal and state law. In addition, Nigel has significant experience defending and enforcing Restrictive Covenant Agreements, as well as protecting employers’ trade secrets and other confidential information from misappropriation by former employees through the institution of emergency litigation seeking temporary and permanent injunctive relief. Nigel utilizes his experience litigating employment-related disputes to counsel clients on effective ways to avoid such litigation. His counseling practice focuses on training and advising clients on ways to improve all aspects of the employment relationship, including techniques on how to make effective hiring decisions; reviewing and revising employment policies, practices and procedures; and advising on employee disciplinary matters, reductions in force and termination decisions.
Nigel represents clients before state and federal courts throughout the country as well as before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Illinois Human Rights Commission and the American Arbitration Association.
Erin Kube Erin Kube is a Talent Acquisition Specialist and Recruiter. Erin’s exposure to Human Resources was cultivated during the eight years she spent at Tripp Lite Power Protection as a Corporate Recruiter and HR Generalist. While at Tripp Lite, Erin developed a passion and strong background in internal relationship enrichment, employer branding, and candidate experience. She is an active member in SHRM and HRMAC with a HR Generalist Certificate from SHRM.
Erin has led various HR projects and implemented Applicant Tracking Software. In 2011, Erin was invited to speak at Robert Morris University to engage students in job seeking best practices. Most recently, Erin has moved into consulting roles for young companies looking to establish their recruitment and HR process, which is her current role at Studio M Creations. Erin has been studying and participating in comedic writing at The Second City since 2012, and currently resides in Chicago, IL.
Meighan Newhouse of Colette Allen Consulting Meighan Newhouse is the Founder and Owner of Colette Allen Consulting. A learning professional with over a decade of experience, Meg created her company nearly two years ago out of a passion for job satisfaction. With a master’s degree in education from the University of Illinois, she understands that learning new skills can increase employee confidence and happiness. Happy employees are engaged in their work, and engaged employees are not only great to work with, but they help improve the bottom line.
Colette Allen has worked with such companies as Abbott, BP, Dell, Deloitte, and US Foods, creating custom learning experiences to engage employees and improve efficiencies. Meg is also active in the talent development and workplace performance community, serving on the executive board of the Chicagoland Chapter of the Association for Talent Development. To learn more about Meg and how Colette Allen help employees learn to love their work, check out www.coletteallen.com or on twitter @custom_learning.
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for our next installments!
Funding (Capital Raising & Budgeting/Using Capital Efficiently) - Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Real Estate/Expansion - Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Exit/Succession Planning - Wednesday August 6, 2014
Get a glimpse into the brilliant brain of Grindist Jeremy Goldman as he explains why his membership at Grind makes him human–an extremely awesome human, we say!
Why Being a Grindist Makes Me Human
I’m all about efficiency: enough so, that when I take the dogs out for a walk, I have to make sure I have the proper podcasts and audiobooks queued up so that it’s a productive 15 minutes. So naturally, when I launched Firebrand Group as a boutique consultancy after leaving Unilever in 2012, I fought against the inefficiency of finding a work space. After all, it takes quite awhile for me to commute – I live in Yorkville on the Upper East Side, which is far enough east to be Roosevelt Island. Until the Second Avenue subway line is completed in August 2037, a commute anywhere is going to cost me precious productivity time.
While efficiency and productivity per minute is absolutely a valid metric to look at, I was forgetting about the human side of the equation. Overall, people tend to be more productive around other people, and I’ve found that’s definitely true for me.
I think sometimes we forget how important being social is to us as animals. Within just a few hours of birth, newborns try to imitate the facial gestures of the first people they meet—an early attempt to socially interact. Humans have such a need to be social that we’re social even when we’re still inside our mothers’ wombs. Researchers recently used ultrasound to record the interactions of twins and found that twins were reaching out for one another at 14 weeks of age. Which is, of course, cuter than the typical BuzzFeed article about napping kittens.
We’re not only that social as a desire: for most of us it’s a pretty hardcore need. You’re probably familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the theory usually defined as a pyramid, with the most fundamental needs at the very bottom and the desire for self-actualization at the very top. The most fundamental needs are physiological, such as breathing, food, water, and sex. I’m happy to report that three of these four are abundantly available at Grind.
Next up on the pyramid is the need for the safety and security of the individual, the family, and property. After that come love and belonging: friendship and family. Once an individual’s physiological and safety needs are met, the remaining layers of needs are all related to social well-being. What’s great for me is that Grind takes care of my social well-being in a very subtle way, while at the same time letting me focus on my primary goal: growing my business.
I was recently sitting in a Starbucks on 75th Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan. It was 7:30 on a Sunday night, and I could count 18 people sitting alone. Most were on their laptops; a few were reading from piles of newspapers in front of them. Oddly enough, not a single one of these people was be sitting with someone they know; everyone was reading or working. All of these people seem to have coffee next to them, but they’re not really here for the coffee. The coffee is serving, essentially, as an admission pass. The benefit of sitting in Starbucks, as opposed to working at home, is the availability of company, of human companionship. Even though no conversations are going on between patrons at the moment, all these people would rather spend $3 for a cup of coffee from which they’ll only drink a few sips so that they can work in a big room surrounded by other people. When we go online, why would we lose our overriding urge to be sociable? It’s deeply embedded in all of us.
Given the benefits of working in Starbucks just to have that “social ambience” all around me, it’s nice to be able to hang my hat at Grind, where I don’t have to worry about fun things like a bunch of ladies having a loud, detailed conversation about wilted spinach, a man in a trench coat arguing about Katy Perry with an invisible friend, or mysterious blood on the bathroom sink faucet. The buzz and energy I pick up from Grind is probably a large part of why Firebrand Group keeps pushing ahead, and how I stay human. So, thank you Grind, for helping me figure out that co-working is a great way to increase one’s productivity.
We’ve got a new crop of awesome events coming up at Grind in NYC and we don’t want you to miss them! Here’s what’s on the horizon…
Member Happy Hour
Wednesday, June 4 at Grind Park from 5:30pm to 7:30pm Join us in the Grind Park cafe (you read that correctly) for our first organized member happy hour in a long time! There won’t be puppies, unfortunately, but there will be beer, wine, and snacks.
This is a casual, social event, so feel free to bring friends and come prepared to have fun with your fellow Grindists. RSVP here!
#Rethink Charity with Paull Young of charity: water
Tuesday, June 10 at Grind Broadway from 8am to 9:30am What would a charity look like if it was built for and by digital natives? In seven years charity: water has raised over $100 million for clean water projects in the developing world, while innovating online to provide transparency and connection to donors. Learn how digital innovation can change the world with charity: water’s Director of Digital, Paull Young.
8:00am – 8:30am 8:30am – 9:00am 9:00am – 9:30am
Breakfast and Coffee Paull’s Presentation Discussion & Networking
Thursday, June 19 at Grind Broadway from 6pm to 8pm Come find out what that guy sitting at your table has been working on here at Grind. Sign up to present about yourself (each presenter will get about 3 minutes) or sit back and relax in the audience. Sign up here!
6:00pm – 6:30pm Beer and Wine 6:30pm – 7:30pm Presentations 7:30pm – 8:00pm More Beer and Wine
Jason Wisdom is a longtime Grindist, joining our space in January of 2012. He and the The Design Gym crew have established a flourishing business and we can’t wait to see what else they accomplish under Grind’s roof. We recently picked his brain about how he got his start and what drew him to our coworking community.
What made you decide that a coworking space was the best fit for you? Why Grind? A good buddy of mine Ari introduced me to Grind. Since that initial intro it’s been impossible to leave because of the relationships that I’ve developed here. A bunch of people I’ve met here have become close friends outside of work, others have become clients and some have become advisors to our business. You can have great coffee and amazing accent colors but it’s the people that make the space. Grind has amazing people.
What inspired you to found The Design Gym? We started The Design Gym because learning this sort of thinking was inaccessible to pretty much everyone who was intrigued by it. Institutions and agencies were charging 5 figures for 3 day workshops. Our goal was to teach people a process and common language for solving complex problems but do it in a way so that the people in the room represented every facet of industry. Since than we’ve had people from education, government, agencies, start-ups, management consultancies and Fortune 500 companies come through our doors. It’s those unique perspectives collaborating together that got us really excited.
Is this something you were always interested in being a part of? When I went to school I didn’t know a business like ours was a thing you could do. And I went to school for Entrepreneurship…I think it took me a while to find the middle of the venn diagram between things that I was naturally very capable of and things that I loved spending time doing. This business definitely was addressing a need in the market but our offering is things that we all just love doing anyone. That combination has made for a very fulfilling ride.
What’s your favorite part of what you’ve created? The relationships that have come out of our community are remarkable. Our community members have created their own circle of friends from others within our community. We’ve seen a lot of jobs found, businesses started, advisors gained and partnerships formed. When you’re collaborating intensely with a group of people you need to connect with them in order for the outcomes to be good (and to not kill each other). It makes for really strong team bonds coming out of the work that we do, whether it’s a workshop for the general public or we’re building internal capabilities within an organization.
Do you have any advice for others trying to start their own company? Go build something interesting. I came from the digital agency world where everyone I met who was a potential client had 50 intrenched relationships with existing agencies who did exactly what we did. If you’re not doing anything truly unique from anyone else than it’s going to be miserable winning new business, getting anyone to write about you or finding a willing ear at a cocktail party. There’s new markets opening up everyday and the solution to the problem of that new market doesn’t have to be an app.
In the immortal words of Run DMC, “We ain’t afraid of no ghosts!” Or, in this case, “We ain’t afraid of no tech bubble!” When Blue Sky Innovation recently begged the question, “What would happen if Chicago’s tech bubble burst?”, our co-founder Benjamin Dyett, was on hand to supply his answer.
“Grind would certainly feel the effects but less so … since we cater to a broad base of entrepreneurs and, thus, are not totally ‘tech’ focused. While we would be saddened by the loss of some tech members that would fall by the wayside, we would compensate by shifting the focus of our community make-up more towards other industries — PR and marketing, analytics, branding, education, data systems, management consulting, not-for-profits, and so on.
“Could it happen? — that’s anyone’s guess … but I hope not.”
The core idea behind Mathias’ book is to help people do their work in a way that is both beautiful and highly effective (not just efficient). Instead of quickly sending 100 emails (efficient) and getting one response, what if you could think clearly and write just the 10 right emails and get the 10 right responses (effective)? What if your meeting notes were beautiful? Then you could share them with your team and increase the chances that they actually follow through. What if you felt that work was satisfying? Less distractions. More making. What the book specifically offers is a set of lessons in using the Paper app for iPad to do real work.
If that doesn’t make you want to try it out, check out this video, showing all you’re able to do in the Paper app after reading the ebook. Think Clearly with Paper for iPad is available on iTunes now for just $9.99.
Our upcoming #Rethink Music event at Grind LaSalle has us thinking about how sound fits into the workplace. So we went in search of answers and, luckily, we didn’t have to look far. Read on to see what Lifehacker has to say about sounds and how you can use them to your benefit at work.
Does Music Really Make You More Productive? The answer falls somewhere between “Listening to Mozart makes you a genius” and “Just be quiet and work.”
The most often cited study into the question of music’s effect on the mind involves the so-called Mozart effect, which suggests that listening to certain kinds of music—Amadeus Wolfgang’s classical works, in particular—impacts and boosts one’s spatial-temporal reasoning, or the ability to think out long-term, more abstract solutions to logical problems that arise. The Mozart effect has been overblown and over-promised, and even outright refuted as having “bupkiss” effect, but that doesn’t mean a great mind-juicing playlist can’t be created.
The Workplace Doctors site details both sides of the question. In one study, University of Illinois researchers found that listening to music in “all types of work” increased work output 6.3% over a control group. In another study (dissected at MetaFilter), 56 employees working on basic computer tasks were found to be more productive when there was no music playing over the same period tested with music.
So the real answer turns out to be, unfortunately, “it depends.” It depends on whether your office or workspace is noisy enough that a good kind of noise or music is preferable to the natural cacophony. It depends on your personal attention span, and how likely you are to fiddle with controls versus letting a music stream trickle past your ears. Though many of the final answers to studies of music at work conflict, the general consensus seems to be that people canbe boosted at work by music, if they’re willing to be.
If that sounds like you, here’s a few suggestions on where to find music that others have found helpful in their own workspaces.
The Classical Route How it works: The ornate instrumentation and composition of Baroque classical musicgets a lot of attention for its possible mind-boosting effects. Eight radiologists were asked to go about their day while listening to Baroque-period tunes. They mostly self-reported better mood and productivity, except for one worker who said the music had a negative effect on his concentration.
Followers of Getting Things Done and productivity writer David Allen note in forum posts that the man himself seems to dig Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #3, and other Baroque tunes as mood-setters for tackling tasks like a weekly review. A key suggestion from a David Allen forum poster—look for tracks paced at about 60 beats per minute:
It’s the beats-per-minute required to get the brain up to optimal revs. David has a segment about it on GTD Fast – I also came across it at a speed-reading class. It seems to cause a “bright and breezy” frame of mind where thinking and creativity are easier. I find it works.
Where to get it: Being often hundreds of years old and a niche interest these days, classical music is relatively easy to find online. Wikipedia has hundreds of freely-licensed files, and public domain search sites like Musopen offers a lot of good stuff, too.
If the Baroque sound doesn’t quite do it for you, Lifehacker commenter Catalyst suggests theVitamin String Quartet, which covers pop tunes in string quartet/chamber music style. It’s not the same kind of down-deep arrangement as traditional classical work, but the Quartet’s work takes away distracting lyrics and soothes out pop music’s more annoying edges. (Though it’s worth noting that unfamiliar music may be better than stuff you know).
The Ambient/Electronic Route How it works: The label “ambient” has been applied far too broadly to be of much help to anyone but record store owners. Still, at its core, all ambient music is designed not to jump in your face, but still keep your brain engaged at a lower, subconscious level. Pioneers like Brian Eno developed ambient music as an experiment in composition, allowing algorithms, randomness, synthesizers, and whatever sounded neat to replace the standard components of pop music.
A modern variant, chillout, and its categorical cousins downtempo, ambient house, and certain varieties of IDM, or Intelligent Dance Music, grew out of a need for dancers and partiers at techno clubs to take a break, relax, and recover from their efforts, along with whatever else they needed recovering from. Like the original ambient music, much of it is designed to relax the mind and allow it to roam, while providing just enough stimulation to register as inspiration.
Gina and many, many commenters dig the Groove Salad stream and other stations, like Drone Zone and Secret Agent, provided by Soma.fm. Half as many recommend the ambient offerings at Digitally Imported, and often flip between it and Soma.fm for fresh streams. Both sites provide free audio to most any music player that can tune in web playlists or radio.
If you’re a fan of streaming recommendation site Pandora, or like the minimalist, “glitch,” or seriously ambient side of techno, commenter maczter recommends a playlist created by a Pandora employee, Ovals, that he describes as “minimalist elemental glitch.” I tried it out for an afternoon writing session, and found five out of six tracks to be unexpectedly calming and helpful in the task—with the exception of one rather jarring, high-pitched interloper.
The Noise Route How it works: If music is too distracting for your tastes, but your chatty co-workers, office machinery, and general clamor are even more distracting, colored noise might be a worthy addition to your audio repertoire.
Noise generators, usually grouped into groups of white, pink, or brown/red, cover a range of your ear’s audible spectrum with generic sound to mask or lessen the distractions of other sounds. Wikipedia’s entry on sound masking puts it best:
Imagine a dark room where someone is turning a flashlight on and off. The light is very obvious and distracting. Now imagine that the room lights are turned on. The flashlight is still being turned on and off, but is no longer noticeable because it has been “masked”. Sound masking is a similar process of covering a distracting sound with a more soothing or less intrusive sound.
1. Overload: The frenetic employee who works toward success until exhaustion, is most closely related to emotional venting. These individuals might try to cope with their stress by complaining about the organizational hierarchy at work, feeling as though it imposes limits on their goals and ambitions. That coping strategy, unsurprisingly, seems to lead to a stress overload and a tendency to throw in the towel.
2. Lack of Development: Most closely associated with an avoidance coping strategy. These under-challenged workers tend to manage stress by distancing themselves from work, a strategy that leads to depersonalization and cynicism — a harbinger for burning out and packing up shop.
3. Neglect: Seems to stem from a coping strategy based on giving up in the face of stress. Even though these individuals want to achieve a certain goal, they lack the motivation to plow through barriers to get to it.
Every “yes” you say adds another thing on your plate and takes more energy away from you, and your creativity:
If you take on too many commitments, start saying ‘no’. If you have too many ideas, execute a few and put the rest in a folder labeled ‘backburner’. If you suffer from information overload, start blocking off downtime or focused worktime in your schedule (here are some tools that may help). Answer email at set times. Switch your phone off, or even leave it behind. The world won’t end. I promise.
With real burnout mode, you’re too exhausted to stay positive. So don’t:
When you’re mired in negative emotions about work, resist the urge to try to stamp them out. Instead, get a little distance — step away from your desk, focus on your breath for a few seconds — and then just feel the negativity, without trying to banish it. Then take action alongside the emotion. Usually, the negative feelings will soon dissipate. Even if they don’t, you’ll be a step closer to a meaningful achievement.
For real recovery and prevention to happen, you need to find the real, deeper issue behind why you’re burnt out:
Instead of overreacting to the blip, step back from it, see it as an incident instead of an indictment, and then examine it like Sherlock Holmes looking for clues.
For example, you could ask yourself: What happened before the slip? Did I encounter a specific trigger event such as a last-minute client request? Was there an unusual circumstance such as sickness? When did I first notice the reversion in my behavior? Is some part of this routine unsustainable and if so, how could I adjust it to make it more realistic?
To help relieve pressure, schedule daily blocks of downtime to refuel your brain and well-being. It can be anything from meditation to a nap, a walk, or simply turning off the wifi for a while:
When it comes to scheduling, we will need to allocate blocks of time for deep thinking. Maybe you will carve out a 1-2 hour block on your calendar every day for taking a walk or grabbing a cup of coffee and just pondering some of those bigger things. I can even imagine a day when homes and apartments have a special switch that shuts down wi-fi and data access during dinner or at night – just to provide a temporary pause from the constant flow of status updates and other communications…
There is no better mental escape from our tech-charged world than the act of meditation. If only for 15 minutes, the ability to steer your mind away from constant stimulation is downright liberating. There are various kinds of meditation. Some forms require you to think about nothing and completely clear your mind. (This is quite hard, at least for me.) Other forms of meditation are about focusing on one specific thing – often your breath, or a mantra that you repeat in your head (or out loud) for 10-15 minutes…
If you can’t adopt meditation, you might also try clearing your mind the old fashioned way – by sleeping. The legendary energy expert and bestselling author Tony Schwartz takes a 20-minute nap every day. Even if it’s a few hours before he presents to a packed audience, he’ll take a short nap.
Trying to maximize every task and squeeze every drop of productivity out of your creative work is a recipe for exhaustion and procrastination. Set yourself boundaries for acceptable work and stick to them:
Consistently sacrificing your health, your well being, your relationships, and your sanity for the sake of living up to impossible standards will lead to some dangerous behaviors and, ironically, a great deal of procrastination. Instead of saying, “I’ll stay up until this is done,” say, “I’ll work until X time and then I’m stopping. I may end up needing to ask for an extension or complete less than perfect work. But that’s OK. I’m worth it.” Making sleep, exercise, and downtime a regular part of your life plays an essential role in a lasting, productive creative career.
Keeping track allows you to see exactly how much is on your plate, not only day-to-day, but consistently over time:
Disappointing feedback can be painful at first – research shows that failure and losses can hurt twice as much as the pleasure of equivalent gains. But if you discover you’re off course, reliable feedback shows you by how much, and you then have the opportunity to take remedial action and to plot a new training regime or writing schedule. The temporary pain of negative feedback is nothing compared with the crushing experience of project failure. Better to discover that you’re behind and need to start writing an hour earlier each day, than to have your book contract rescinded further down the line because you’ve failed to deliver.
Entrepreneurs or freelancers can be especially prone to burnout.Joel Runyonplays “workstation popcorn,” in which he groups tasks by location and then switches, in order to keep work manageable, provide himself frequent breaks, and spend his time efficiently:
You find yourself spending hours at your computer, dutifully “working” but getting very little done. You finish each day with the dreaded feeling that you’re behind, and that you’re only falling farther and farther behind. You’re buried below an ever-growing to-do list. There’s a feeling of dread that tomorrow is coming, and that it’s bringing with it even more work that you probably won’t be able to get ahead on.
List out everything you need to do today. Try to be as specific as you can…Next, break that list into three sections. Step 1: Go to cafe [or desk, a different table in your office, etc.] #1. Step 2: Start working on item group #1…Once you finish all the tasks in group #1, get up and move. Close your tabs, pack your bags, and physically move your butt to your next spot. If you can, walk or bike to your next stop…When you get to the next cafe [or spot], start on the next action item group, and repeat…
When you’ve completed everything on your to-do list for the day, you are done working. Relax, kick back, and live your life. Don’t take work home with you because that won’t help you get more done – it will just wear you out.
Vacations themselves can cause, or worsen burnout, with high-stress situations, expectations, and sleep interruption. Use it to help in recovery from burnout instead:
Make a flexible itinerary a priority. [A] study from Radboud University found that effective vacations give you the choice and freedom to choose what you want to do. That means two things: Try to avoid structuring your vacation around an unbreakable schedule, and plan on going somewhere that has multiple options to pick from depending on the weather, your level of energy, or your budget.
Seth Godin uses self-fan mail as a way to keep motivated instead of burning out on a project that seems far from completion:
I define non-clinical anxiety as, “experiencing failure in advance.” If you’re busy enacting a future that hasn’t happened yet, and amplifying the worst possible outcomes, it’s no wonder it’s difficult to ship that work. With disappointment, I note that our culture doesn’t have an easily found word for the opposite. For experiencing success in advance. For visualizing the best possible outcomes before they happen. Will your book get a great testimonial? Write it out. Will your talk move someone in the audience to change and to let you know about it? What did they say? Will this new product gain shelf space at the local market? Take a picture. Writing yourself fan mail in advance, and picturing the change you’ve announced you’re trying, to make is an effective way to push yourself to build something that actually generates that action.
Taking a task on in one entire lump can be exhausting and provide little room for rest in between. Breaking up your projects into set chunks with their own deadlines provides a much healthier, and easier, way of completing a large project:
The default take on deadlines is typically to consider them to be cumbersome and stressful. Yet, from another perspective, a deadline can be viewed as a huge benefit to any project. Without the urgency of a hard deadline pushing a project to completion, it’s easy for you, your team, or your client to lose focus. We’ve all worked on agonizing projects where the timeline just bleeds on and on, merely because the flexibility is there…
It turns out that the manner in which a task is presented to someone – or the way in which you present it to your brain – has a significant impact on how motivated you will be to take action. A study led by researcher Sean McCrea at the University of Konstanz in Germany recently found that people are much more likely to tackle a concrete task than an abstract task… It seems to me like the difference between being handed a map versus following the step-by-step instructions of a GPS device. Not everyone can read a map, but everyone can follow the directions. By breaking your project down into smaller, well-described tasks, the way forward becomes clear and it’s easy to take action.