J.K. Rowling, Carl Jung and I Have This in Common
Right now I’m sitting in my suite in Las Vegas. Not here to gamble or party or even have so much as a drink (though I may have a nice vino after dinner). But to get productive and focused.
I flew in two days ago from San Diego to think and work. Intensely. For three days.
See, there are a number of important projects I’ve been putting off a bit or just haven’t had time to focus on. They’re not urgent, but they’re big, important.
So I did what J.K. Rowling did when she couldn’t muster the focus to write the final book in the Harry Potter series. She checked out of her home office and checked into a posh hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland for two weeks…and banged it out.
It’s called The Grand Gesture: Making a radical change to your environment, coupled with a significant investment (of money or effort or both), to force yourself into a more productive and focused state.
Pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung did his most import thinking and writing only in the turret of the castle-like home he himself built, expressly for the purpose of productive and focused work.
Now, before you yell at me about not being able to build your own turret or to zoom off to Scotland or Vegas, let me first answer this question…
How Does the Grand Gesture Make You More Productive and Focused?
The radical change in environment is part of the magic. I talk a lot about the restorative power of “venue change” — a simple productivity hack where you just switch work locations every hour or two. Even from one chair to another, but ideally from one room or building to another.
But when you combine that change of environment (what I call Venue Change — see more at bottom) with an appreciable investment (could be money, but effort works just as well)…
ONE. You create an invisible contract with yourself to stop procrastinating and do the work you set out to do there, and…
TWO. You are therefore much less vulnerable to distractions, busywork (pseudo-productivity) and lollygagging (e.g., futzing around on YouTube).
Get ultra-productive and focused with even a little radical change.
So whether you can get away for a few days or just a few hours, making a grand gesture can get you away from the “tyranny of the urgent” — and focus hard on things that are critical to your career or business, but that may not be screaming at you right now. (In other words, those “Quadrant II” things that are important but not urgent.)
As Cal Newport puts it in his book, Deep Work, the Grand Gesture helps you mitigate distractions and “wring every last drop of value out of your current intellectual capacity.”
Now, back that question of cost…
Hold On! I Can’t Afford to Go to Vegas…or Edinburgh!
I definitely put more effort than money into my three-day Vegas jaunt: I’m in a huge suite near The Strip that costs $36 a night (Vegas rooms go begging in summer, when it’s over 100F/38C), and the flight was $80.
But most importantly, you don’t have to go very far at all to get the benefits of the Grand Gesture. For instance, consider…
Working in a conference room (preferably with glass walls so people can see you working — that “body double” effect will keep you more disciplined and focused).
Working at a coffee shop instead of your office — and maybe not the same one you always go to. Try a different one, in a different neighborhood.
Working in a park, or in your back yard or on the roof — literally, if possible. Chris Ducker, a famous entrepreneur and author, has a chair at the very top of his house that he only sits in when he’s doing his biggest thinking. That’s his Grand Gesture chair.
As some of you know, I do a mini-Grand Gesture several times a week by getting in my truck and driving to the ocean or to a park — or even a parking lot — and working from the passenger seat for several hours.
These are all enough to be considered Grand and to provide some disproportionately productive and focused work sessions.
Venue Change: Maintaining Energy Throughout 3 Days
I change where I work up to seven times a day. Each change provides a psychological and physical “fresh start.” It’s a great productivity hack. Here’s how I used it in Vegas.
7:00am-9:00am: Grab Starbucks from hotel lobby and work in room. (Desk was rearranged to look out window — not at a freakin’ wall!. Research tells us that sunlight as well as looking at sky/nature while working help with focus, mental stamina and clarity.)
9:00am-12:00pm: Head to pool and work there until heat becomes unbearable. Again, sky and trees and fresh air provide brain fuel.
12:00pm-1:00pm: Have a solid protein lunch and head back to room for a 15-minute power-nap and/or meditation and/or exercise.
1:00pm-2:30pm: Another work session in room until 2pm — then treat myself to 15 minutes of news headlines and email checking.
2:30pm-5:00pm: Find an empty conference room in convention area of hotel (check out the one I found empty!) — and work until my brain won’t go no more.
And at the end of the day, I find some form of recovery (power nap, exercise, just “being”) so I might have a shot at another little burst of work after my (protein-rich) dinner.
Of course, I might also call it quits and hit the blackjack tables or the wine bar. Hey — I worked for it!
Interested in more productivity hacks like this?
I dedicated an episode of Crusher™TV to productivity Power Rituals. Click the image below for the Episode Preview.
Episode Description: Imagine if you could power through your day, thinking more clearly, getting more top priority tasks banged out, and actually having reserves of energy at quitting time. This is the power of Power Rituals. Not hard. Just need to do ‘em. I’ll show you how. With Guest Expert Eliza Cantlay, CPO®.
You can watch over 100 full Episodes of Crusher™TV as a Member by joining for just $1 (cancel any time you like) at CrusherTV.com. Crusher™TV is one of the largest libraries of evidence-based productivity and quality-of-life videos in the world.
Alan P. Brown, an internationally recognized Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to get more done in less time with less stress. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.