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Busy, busy: 10 ways to regain control of your life (and your creativity) 

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Busy, busy: 10 ways to regain control of your life (and your creativity) 

Think about the last time someone asked about your day.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how highly did the word ‘busy’ feature?

A strong 12 out of 10? Was it the sole focus of your response?

And when you said ‘busy’, did you wince internally, knowing it’s your ‘go-to’ answer? The point is this: as employees, we’re always on fast-forward.  The perceived idea of happiness and fulfilment gained from being constantly busy is overwhelming at best; unsustainable and depressing at worst.

Sounds dramatic? Every time you cram something new into your schedule, you’re denying yourself the opportunity to focus on the task at hand. Every time you rush through a project without giving it thought and structure, your creativity is suffering a creeping death.

Perhaps ‘creeping death’ is a notch too far on the drama-geddon scale, but the effects of being continuously busy?
A hugely negative impact on your creativity and wellbeing.

  • So what can you do to make a change?
  • To eke out some well-needed and deserved time?

We’re not going to tell you to just fit creativity in because that’s unrealistic. We’re giving you a few suggestions that will encourage some changes in your daily schedule…

Worry about the big things to do first

On one hand, you’ve got your big things to manage – campaigns, events, projects, strategy planning, etc. On the other, there’s the little things – the gazillions of emails and updates that require your attention every day. Check out this nifty trick by Mike James that will help you to prioritise the big things and comfortably fit the little thingsin too.

Make little changes

When you’re busy, big changes in the way you work can only add to the pressure. Small tweaks are often better. So unsubscribe form those emails you don’t read, decide if you really need to go to that meeting, park a little farther away from work to make time for a 10 minute walk…

It’s not always about the grand gestures, the little things make a big difference too.

Channel your inner tortoise

Not by hiding in your shell, but by managing tasks more slowly. Separate the urgent from the important and prioritise accordingly.

A little time invested here will allow you to focus on tasks more slowly and more meaningfully, leaving your head less crammed. Slow and steady – as any tortoise knows – wins the race.

Straight outta the office

There are so many distractions in the workplace it’s hard to know which way is up. So if you can work offsite – even just for a few hours – do it. A distraction-free environment will not only help you re-focus, but will also give your creative demons a shake up.

Cultivate the art of ‘deep work’

In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport describes the skill of achieving more in less time and learning to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. Newport claims that most people have lost the ability to go deep — spending their days instead in a frantic blur of busyness. He encourages us to allocate sustained chunks of time for concentrating on the difficult things that provide the most value.

Quit social media

Let’s face it, social media is designed to be addictive and research tells us that when we spend large portions of our day in a state of fragmented attention it will permanently reduce our capacity for concentration. When you consider that every distraction takes 20-25 minutes to recover from you can start to understand the damaging impact of those Facebook / LinkedIn / Twitter / Instagram notifications…

…and the second word is ‘off’…

It’s not only social media that provides a constant source of distraction in our already busy lives. Sitting in front of the TV flicking through emails and tomorrow’s calendar is not conducive to either a good nights sleep or making your brain less busy. So be strong: switch off the tech and tuck it in for the night. It needs its sleep too.

Put your creativity on block-down

We all know of that person who regularly blocks out their lunch break in their calendar. This is a great way for you to schedule in some time for a bit of creativity. It might not be directly linked to your work; it could just be time where you write, sketch or even read. If it’s dedicated time to put your brain into a different mode for a little while then it’s never time wasted.

Ask for help

Tell people how being busy makes you feel! Chances are, they’ll understand and will be willing to help in whatever small way they can.

Slow down, even if that feels wrong

We’ve already touched on this but it’s such an important point we thought we’d ram it home!
As Carl Honoré points out in his TED Talk – ‘In Praise of Slowness’ – it’s our ‘roadrunner culture’ that sees an ‘illness or burnout’ – of you or a relationship – as an indicator of travelling in the fast lane for too long. Why does it sometimes take this to happen to make us take notice? Why is it that the things we claim to hold the most dear suffer? Simple. Because we’re ‘busy’.

“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed”

These are just some ideas that you can choose to try out and make some space for creativity.

Why? Because it’s fun! It’s great for wellbeing and mental health. And, with the right amount, allows you to produce some fine pieces of work, of which you’ll be proud.

Can’t stop, too busy!

It might sound impossible trying to fit creativity in to an already tightly-packed schedule. But that’s not true. Less is more, and it’s the small changes that will ultimately have the bigger impact and keep the wheels turning with much less effort than this guy…

If your schedule could do with some control, or if you think your organisation as a whole could benefit with a helping hand, get in touch. We’ve worked with many clients from different industries to assist when things look a little crazy. And all we ask for is a little of your time to make a big difference.

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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