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I really liked what blogger Emily Heyward had to say on her recent FastCompany.com blog post called Desks, Where Creativity Goes To Die. The SXSW attendee stepped outside of her comfort zone at the conference and learned a thing or two.
Initially, I tried to attend talks or panels directly related to my industry and clients, but each time the information felt like things I already knew, and instead of feeling inspired, I just felt tired. —Emily Heyward
By seeking out experiences that had nothing to do with her own personal day-to-day, the SXSW conference became more meaningful to her. I also find that when I attend talks or lectures about the industry I work in, I hear the same things over and over again. Like Emily, we all need fresh thinking. Below are some of the ways she suggests stepping outside of your comfort zone, as well as some tips I’ve learned along the way.
Leave the Office
I have a home office and a work office. At home, I freelance and run the magazine I co-own, and at my work office I edit a monthly regional magazine. My work office is less than ideal. It has no window and the door sticks when I close it. Some days when I’m really busy (like yesterday) I don’t see the sun all day. And I hate it. I try to get out of the office at least once a day. Most of the time I can do it, even if it means a quick walk around the block or down the street to grab a coffee or cookie.
But when I’m on a roll—and I know you know what I mean—leaving the office just doesn’t happen. Fresh air and a different perspective than the four beige walls that surround me are necessary when I’m stuck. And it almost always helps.
The same is of course true for travel and time off, but even on a very small scale, leaving your personal space for just a few minutes can make a huge difference in generating new ideas. So don’t underestimate the power of a change in scenery. —Emily Heyward
At Heyward’s branding and design consultancy, they have purposely stayed broad in terms of the types of clients they work with. I’ve written about the necessity of a niche before, but for some people (like those who do graphic and brand design, for example) a broad array of work and clients is a good thing.
I think specializing is a little bit different for freelance writers out there—as the more they write about a topic the more of an expert they become. A graphic designer, for example, can probably only create so many logos and websites for people who make cupcakes for a living before they get burnt out creatively. Having a variety of work to display to your clients shows off your versatility.
Stop Reading Business Books
Okay, there are some business books that are really great, and I’m not saying NEVER to read them. But if that’s all you’re reading, I will kindly suggest that you’re wasting your time. —Emily Heyward
I always get nervous when I go to someone’s house and all they have laying around are self-help books. The same goes for business books. I had a boss once who became slightly obsessed with one business book in particular, and started planning the future of his entire business plan based on what one author had to say. Business books are not the Bible!
I love to read, and I do it for pleasure as well as business. It’s a balance, and I always keep my skeptical hat on when reading advice from anyone. No one person can offer everything you need to know about being successful. What works for them doesn’t necessarily work for you. Take nuggets from many people, try out their advice here and there, and make your own assessments.
Clean Your Desk
Our magazine runs in a five-week cycle. After one issue goes to press, my desk is a horrible, terrible mess. My mother has even visited me at work and started to pick up around me—which messes up my super intricate filing system, mind you.
Andy Rooney once said something to the effect that the most productive people he knew had the messiest desks. I’ll take that as a compliment. But once an issue is done, I make time to clean my desk off and organize. It’s a good way to symbolize the end of one project and the beginning of another one. And if I didn’t do it, I would literally become buried under piles of papers, books, Tupperware, and who knows what else. Staying organized really does save you time and stress. How often have you said to yourself, “But it was right here! I just saw it!” when looking for something important? Yeah, I thought so.
Do you have any tips to add to this list? We’d love to hear them.