Your best strategy is to manage your creativity, not your time. People who manage their creativity get happy and rich. People who manage their time get tired. – Scott Adams
Are you one of those people that needs a break after being around other people for too long?
It’s a trait, I understand, of introverts – something that Susan Cain has popularised in her book Quiet.
Many people find themselves in situations that don’t seem designed for them – instead they’re expected to plug into whatever is there and perform at peak capacity.
But, like the increasingly dismal performance I get from batteries that I try and use in my cameras, things go wrong.
So, if you were a battery, how should you use yourself?
The first thing to understand is how you charge your battery.
Some people need quiet time to rest and regroup.
Others need to be around people, amidst the buzz and vibe to be energised and ready.
If you’re one kind of person too much of the other kind of stimulation, or lack of stimulation, is going to mean you’re just not available to do anything.
Then there’s what you use your battery to do.
Maybe you’re an AA battery and can plug into most devices – but an AA battery designed for a remote control is not going to power a professional camera for more than a few minutes.
Or are you a specialist cell, designed for specific or demanding work?
It’s also important to know what kind of work drains you quickly – what’s the power draw?
I like the Alphasmart Neo, for example. It’s a portable electronic typewriter than you can write on for a year without depleting the three AA batteries that power it.
If you built a raspberry pi based unit to do the same thing you’d get about half an hour.
I bought two NEOs instead – they’ve stopped making them so I’m stocking up for the next 40 years of writing.
Which takes us to the topic of burnout.
The reason I was musing about this topic is that working with others depletes my energy – I need some quiet time to recharge after a burst of activity.
Some people say that burnout happens because you don’t get enough rest – which makes sense in that context.
The other way of looking at burnout is that it’s about doing too much work – about pushing yourself for to long.
But there are other things we do, things that we could do for a long time and emerge at the end of that time feeling more refreshed and energised than we were when we started.
I find that’s the case with activities like writing – at the end of a session I’m not drained – if anything I’m recharged.
But clearly if you work five back to back 12 hour shifts you’re going to be in a very different situation.
All of which suggests that burnout is not about enough rest or too much work but about how you manage how you charge and discharge and what things you plug yourself into.
You’d pick the right battery for your camera – and you should probably pick the right combination of environment and activities that are best for you.
And that might be an office with a door or a loud open plan space. It might be long periods of reflection or prolonged sessions of high intensity debate.
But as Adams writes in his book, The Joy Of Work, managing your creativity is what matters.
And if you want to manage your creativity what you have to first learn is how to manage your energy.