Blocking out the noise of the world will make you more creative and productive.
I have a thing for productivity hacks – those little tweaks and games you play with yourself to help get more done. A few weeks ago I wrote about the five-minute rule, when you set a timer for five minutes and start on whatever task awaits (pleasant or not) and inevitably find that you accomplish far more than you expected.
This week I'm excited about a concept I just discovered in writer and artist Austin Kleon's weekly newsletter – the creation of a bliss station. Apparently this is the topic of chapter two of his newest book, "Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad," which I haven't yet read, but he explains the bliss station in a quick video interview with Dan Pink. (You can watch it here.)The goal of a bliss station is to create time and space in which to be creative. There are three simple steps.
1. Turn your smartphone into a dumb phone (a.k.a. put it on airplane mode so you can't receive any calls or texts).
2. Set a timer for 15 minutes (or whatever amount of time you need).
3. Put in a pair of ear plugs so the world cannot disturb you.
Thus equipped, set forth and create!
My favorite real-life example of a bliss station is my mother's art studio, an old boathouse in northern Ontario, Canada, where she spends every day painting. There is no Internet and limited phone reception. She spends her hours either in silence or listening to classical music, surrounded by vast stillness and occasional flurries of wildlife activity. Talk about an inspiring space! (It's also pictured above.)
Kleon's suggestion may sound a bit simplistic, and yet we could all gain so much from doing it. I don't know how many times I start writing a post and get onto a fabulous roll with my thoughts and words, then I hear a ping on my phone. My mental momentum is thrown off and, after initially trying to ignore it, I usually end up checking my phone because otherwise it will bother me.
Just the other day, my TreeHugger colleague Lloyd pointed out that it takes 23 minutes to recover concentration after a chat on Skype. He cited a Vox article,
"After being interrupted, it takes about 25 minutes to get back to the task you were working on, according to a Microsoft study. It can take even longer to get to a 'flow state,' alternatively called 'deep work.' These terms refer to the concentrated frame of mind you’re in when immersed in a task and time just seems to fly. It’s also when you do your best work."
It's time for us all to embrace our bliss stations. Whether you're a writer, artist, musician, reader, or whatever, it's time to get aggressive about seting those phones to airplane mode when you really want to accomplish something. After all, in Kleon's words, "Life is short. Art is long." Let's block out the noise and focus on making the things that really matter.