Tracking Your Creative Hours

I rarely listen to Tim Ferriss’ podcast anymore, since I saw diminishing returns on the amount of information I could apply, and I no longer had a 2+ hour commute per day. I still keep tabs on it though, as occasionally someone/ something I am interested in will be featured, and I will give it a listen.

Last week, it was Jim Collins, author of best-selling titles such as Built To Last and Good To Great.  Although I was not interested, I thought I would still give it a listen, and if I found myself bored, I could always turn it off. Instead, I found myself taking many notes and going back to listen to several segments again. Collins has done a lot of deep thinking, which seems to have led to a very productive (in a real sense of the word; actually producing value) life.

He attributes much of his success to his practice of tracking creative hours. He defines a creative block as “a direct link to something new, able to be replicated, or durable.” If you can keep 1000 creative hours in any running 365 day period, you will produce valuable work, says Collins. Every day he checks his 3-month and 6-month pace to ensure he is on track for the next 365, as well as his current 365.

In the context of his teaching career, he stated that 50% of your time should be spent in purely creative work, with 30% going towards teaching and the remaining 20% going toward administrative duties and other tasks that cannot be avoided.  

In my line of work (sales management) I am not sure how much of this can be directly applied, but it certainly has given me a lot to think about. For one, I have started tracking time that is “a direct link to something new, able to be replicated, or durable” and logging it at the end of the day. Naturally, this will bring awareness to how much time I am spending doing things that can truly be defined as “productive” (you know, actually producing something) vs. consuming things or completing menial tasks that could be outsourced or eliminated.

This lines in with something I have been thinking a lot about lately. I consume entertainment, but I do not entertain. This is the reason I started practicing up-close card magic. I read a ton, but do not write, hence, this website. I eat a lot but do not grow any food (more on this later).

As a society, we have really tipped the scales in terms of producing vs. consuming. Most people are pure consumers. The people who actually put effort into creating, many times, become wildly successful only because there are so few of them doing it. I am not so interested in extraordinary success, but just in the uncommon act of creating in itself. Before high-quality entertainment was ubiquitous, we spent our spare time conversating, tinkering, observing, experimenting, and building things.

When I built furniture, I had an immense satisfaction from looking at the finished piece that I do not get after binge-watching Netflix, playing Words With Friends, or even finishing a good book. Yesterday I did a closeup card trick for my wife. When, in the end, she looked at me with wonder and puzzlement, I felt a similar sort of feeling – I created something.

By tracking my creative hours, how many times can I say the same thing?

I created something.

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