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Like many people you may have a love-hate relationship with your phone. On the one hand it gives you a world of information, entertainment and diverting pastimes at your fingertips.

But it can also be addictive and feel like a waste of time — when you find yourself cycling through your news and social media feeds, you can end up feeling anxious, unfulfilled and annoyed with yourself.

The phone fills the gaps in the day, but it can leave you feeling empty. It offers instant gratification but creates dissatisfaction.

But what else can you do? If you only have a few minutes between meetings or tasks, you don’t have time to read a book or watch a movie or exercise or have a proper conversation with a friend. …


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Last night I was about to go to bed when I suddenly remembered an idea I’d had for an article a few months ago. Though I say so myself, it was a great idea, and I was keen to revisit it, so I opened up the Scrivener project where I had written it down… and found nothing!

At first I couldn’t believe it — I had had the idea walking back from taking my kids to school, and I could swear I remembered writing it down in detail afterwards. But I couldn’t find it anywhere in my Scrivener files. …


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A lot of productivity advice tells us that we need to stop procrastinating, beat Resistance, and get things done.

The Americans like to talk about ‘shipping’, meaning finished and sent out for delivery. This emphasis on getting things done and out to market is part of their extraordinary entrepreneurial culture. Famously, Guy Kawasaki even said ‘It’s OK to ship crap’ as long as you keep innovating and fixing the problems with the first version of your product.

At the opposite end of the spectrum to ‘shipping crap’, we find the perfectionists. These are the people who say it’s important to slow down, to take your time and do the best job you can. …


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I’ve recently started taking one-to-one Japanese conversation lessons. It hasn’t been easy. In fact, it’s been a bit of a humbling experience.

Between work and family responsibilities, I only have 30 minutes a day to study Japanese, and I’ve spent this time every day for the past two years memorising kanji characters, vocabulary and grammar patterns. So in theory, I know a decent amount of basic Japanese.

I say ‘in theory’, because it’s one thing to have information in your head, and another to produce it in a conversation. …


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If you think about overhearing something, you probably think of listening to someone else’s conversation, whether deliberately or accidentally, and picking up a titbit of information that you would never otherwise have been privy to.

It might be funny, or shocking or useful, or — as in the case of so many loud phone calls in public places — completely boring, pointless or annoying.

But have you ever thought about overhearing yourself?

Because in my experience, this is a great — and often overlooked — source of new ideas.

Most of my blog posts, articles, book chapters and podcasts have come from things I find myself saying over and over to coaching clients, and realising this means they are useful, so I should write them…


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Today I want to persuade you that systems can set you free.

You might not associate systems with freedom, but bear with me while I explain.

This morning I’m writing this article for you. The only thing I’m thinking about is you, and what I can say that will be most helpful.

But how is this possible? Don’t I have other responsibilities? Don’t I have children to take care of, and clients to serve? Aren’t there emails in my inbox waiting to be answered?

The answer is ‘yes’ to all of these questions. …


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This is something I’ve found myself saying over and over to coaching clients in the past few weeks.

For some of them, it’s because they’re being challenged to reinvent themselves in the face of the pandemic. They have been forbidden to do their normal work, such as making a live action film, or performing on stage, or running workshops, or exhibiting in galleries.

So they are having to come up with something new, in some cases because the survival of their business depends on it.

It’s a massive and unexpected and unwelcome challenge — but I’ve been hugely impressed by the way they have risen to the task, with courage and creativity, and delighted for the successes they’ve achieved with their new ways of working. …


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Our world has been turned upside down. It may be broken forever, given that we may never get back to the life we had before.

And right now, the entire world is dependent on creativity.

Across the globe, scientists are racing to create new tests, treatments and vaccines to detect, cure and prevent the virus.

It’s a matter of life and death for millions of people.

It’s also a matter of life and death for our society — if we want to return and rebuild, we need our researchers to succeed in their creative endeavours.

Meanwhile, medical staff are having to be creative as well as courageous, finding ways to deliver treatment at scale in challenging conditions, often without the essential equipment they need to protect themselves and their patients. …


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Back in 2016 I outlined a fundamental strategy for your career as a 21st century creative professional: forget the career ladder, start creating assets.

The argument I made was that there’s no career ladder for creative people like you and me — no clearly mapped out career progression, via a series of promotions, pay rises, and increasingly fancy perks and job titles.

As an independent creative, or at least an independently-minded creative, if you want to progress in your career by doing more fulfilling work, earning more money and attracting more opportunities over time, you should focus on creating assets.

As I said back then, an asset is something you own and control, that generates value for you over time. …


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Have you ever had the experience of solving a big problem, or removing a major source of stress from your life?

Before you solved the problem it dominated your life for weeks or even months on end. It sucked up all your time and energy and mental bandwidth. It felt like life and death.

When you thought about life without the problem, having achieved the outcome you wanted, you imagined it as a life of bliss. A promised land of freedom and pleasure and possibility.

“If I ever get there,” you may have said to yourself, “I’ll never sweat the small stuff again. Nothing can be as bad as this. Life will be so great and I’ll be so grateful. …

About

Mark McGuinness

Poet. Creative Coach. Host of the 21st Century Creative Podcast 21stCenturyCreative.fm

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