Most people love to remain engaged in their ‘core’ area of expertise. They spend long hours over the years to understand, study, apply and innovate ideas in this core area. Most of the growth happens when we stick to one thing and do it really really well.
In my experience, the key to remain innovative in your core area is to find an ‘alternative’ – a creative pursuit that you love, that is different from your normal work and where you spend at least a few hours in a week. It could be playing a guitar, learning salsa, hitting the gym, writing a blog, reading novels, learning how to cook, starting a social initiative and so on.
I know a doctor who is passionate about music. He does not miss a single live music concert that happens in city. “It just refreshes me, pours new energy into my system and makes me more effective at work” – he says. He also started taking tuitions on music in the weekends to explore his passion. What a fun and what a refreshing change.
Studies have shown that these ‘alternate’ activities have a huge impact on your stress levels as well. They could be your greatest tool to bust that stress you accumulate by doing the routine. These activities can also stimulate different faculties (emotional, creative and logical) of our mind.
For me, writing is refreshing. I love the written word and I get a kick when my mind works in tandem with my fingers ferociously hitting the keyboard to produce ideas in form of words. I practice my passion for Quality – the core. But I stay effective because I write. Writing then, is more of a selfish activity for me.
Biggest folly is to think that these ‘alternate’ activities are time-wasters and that we could have produced better results had we spent that time doing our core work. In my view, it could have been counter-productive. Spending a few hours on these alternative activities is not a ‘waste’ but an ‘investment’.
The key however is -
To experiment with yourself and do things you like doing (or you wished you did).
Find out activities that gave you most pleasure. (you wished you did them more).
Eliminate the rest and focus on these one or two activities.
Devote/plan at least a few hours a week to do these set of activities.
When you do these, don’t plan too much. Just go with the flow. Enjoy those moments.
Create an alternative body of work that you could be proud of.
So stick to your core and get better at the ‘alternatives’ – they could be so much of a fun, so much of refreshment and a great tool for making you more effective in your core.
On that note, have a super-effective week ahead!
P.S: My post “On Leadership, Opening Up and Being Prepared” is featured in February Leadership Development Carnival, along with a number of fantastic posts from Leadership community and friends. Check it out.