Have you ever reflected on where and how you create your best work? No? Then maybe it’s time that you did. It might help you increase the odds of your best work happening more often.
By Darren Caveney
I'm writing this post on my smartphone whilst on one of those step climbers in the gym. I probably look a bit of a plonker but I’m old enough to no longer worry about looking a plonker. And besides, it's the nearest I am going to get to effective multitasking.
I have done this before. I find it works for me. The added bonus is that in an hour I can burn off over 500 calories (well, according the dials in front of me at least) and that means I can happily tuck into a larger than average slice of Mrs C's Victoria Sponge cake later without the slightest ounce of guilt.
I have believed for some time that we can only produce our very best work if we create the time, space and environment to give it a chance to breath and come to life.
The kind of environment I’m thinking of isn't sat in a bustling, manic office with a myriad of demands and distractions and with someone - panic-stricken - striding in each day to ask for help with the latest calamity (disclaimer- I know not all orgs work in this way but many do)
There's that killer stat about it taking up to 20 minutes to get back into the flow of some concentrated work after each distraction or interruption. 20 minutes, That’s a relative age.
So, as is always the best solution to a problem, let’s take it back to the root cause. Avoid the distractions. No one is going to come and talk to me on this step machine right now, that's for absolute sure.
The much talked about WfH(working from home for those who are not allowed to) works for me too. Especially now the sunshine has returned to our shores - sat in my back garden, whilst the kids are off being noisy at school, is a great place for me to be creative, think things through, find solutions.
I call it the magic ‘10% time’.
IT’S WHEN WE DO OUR BEST WORK.
It's the time which should be cherished and, if need be, fought for because this is where the magic can happen.
90% of the time you’ll be dragged into endless meetings, clearing your email inbox, explaining to a colleague why a back of bus advertising campaign isn’t the way to go, or batting off phone calls from people selling you things you don’t want.
No, the 10% time is golden. It’s where you may create that brilliantly simple idea. I’ve always believed that the best ideas are the simplest ideas. But simple doesn't equal easy. Ask any creative agency - they will tell you how hard they have to work to come up with the brilliantly simple creative.
The 10% time is also where you may write that brilliant comms plan or capture a brilliant image which tells your campaign's story all in one swoosh. It’s when you may experiment with a new channel or look at things through a new lense.
And the 10% time is where you will undoubtedly create your award winning work. I really do believe that all comms teams can create award-winning work IF they are given the space and the time.
The 10% isn't just for individuals either. It might be where your whole team come together to think about how best to tackle an issue (disclaimer number 2 - this isn't going to be at the monthly team meeting with '10%' as agenda item number 6)
I can remember a few years back being asked to visit a large county council to advise them on how to use social media effectively as a part of their comms plan. It was ahot sunny day and their offices where surrounded by amazing green spaces. So we suggested that the afternoon session took place in a field at the back of the building. The team there were brilliant but there a few uncertain looks on a couple of faces at this suggestion, almost as if that kind of thing wasn't allowed.
Well we did it and we had a memorable meeting - sat on logs, getting sun burnt and having one of the best comms chats I can recall. And that was five years ago so it must have been good for me to remember it.
We had created the 10%.
The 10% might be a place to invite your customers, leaders, colleagues from other departments too so that they can contribute and feel the magic of the 10%. It can truly work wonders for good engagement and collaboration.
Of course creating he 10% can be tricky. To do it well - and regularly, this shouldn’t be an annual thing - you need to be really well-planned, know what demands are on the team and how they are beingresourced. This will then help you carve out the 10% in the knowledge that you are on top of your planned work and that it won't suffer. In fact it may benefit.
Know your annual comms strategy inside out - it really will help you to highlight where the capacity might exist for 10%.
Strong time management, not getting distracted by Facebook, qualifying meeting requests and questioning non-prioritised work demands will help enable the 10%.
Finding your 10%
For you it might be sat in a pub with a cold glass of your favourite tipple. Or a quiet hour in a coffee shop on your own at lunchtime (I think that everyone should aim to do this at least once a week, by the way. A bit of 'you' time)
Many of us work well under pressure, to deadline. But you can't do it forever and hope to get away with it. It's not how the great painters or best musicians worked.
If we don't find the 10 % then I fear that creativity will wither on the vine.
Now no ‘non-comms’ line manager or leader is ever likely to find your 10% for you. It's on you and yours. Have the capacity metrics to back up why you decided to work in a field yesterday, if challenged.
And if you do something great as a result of the 10% do make sure you broadcast internally how this great work was enabled and created.
Weare working on a method of helping comms teams to do this, prioritise their workload and create their own 10% windows. We'll be sharing it in our new workshop.
This isn't necessarily uncharted thinking I know. But with shrinking resources and growing demands we all have to make changes and give communications a chance to thrive and fly instead of being battered into submission.
So, in summary, make room for the 10% to create your best work. Enter an award as a result of your 10%. It may be the thing which helps make you famous, the work which gets you noticed or even into that new job you’ve been after.
And I bet, if you make room for the 10% it’ll remind you why it can be so great to work in communications
(p.s. in case you’re wondering, this post took me 32 minutes to write on that charming little step machine. Now it may not be literary genius but it does prove the point of 10%)
Darren Caveney is co-founder of comms2point0 and a creative communications specialist.
Picture by me, taken at North Devon Cricket Club