Creative time

Being self-employed, I never complain about being too busy. Of course, there are periods when I’m not busy and these give me time to write on this blog or on togetherLearn or pick up an interesting book. I have even taken up reviewing books for some publishers because I can usually find the time to do so and it’s cheap professional development for me. My friend and colleague, Michele Martin talks about the breathing room we independents have for thinking or “creativity” that many salaried workers just don’t have the time for:

But  it’s easy to focus on doing cool things in new and different ways when you have some breathing room. When you don’t, I can see where it’s just annoying to hear people tell you that you should be open to new ideas. Hello–I’m just trying to get through the day here. I have no time for your “creativity.”

I believe that this “breathing room” makes me a much better consultant to my clients. I have the time to read or research a topic in depth. I can spend time trying out a new tool or platform. This “luxury” is my business advantage. No one pays for this learning time, only my productive time, but in many cases I’ve spent a fair bit of time on a generic problem before I’m contacted by a client. At the risk of putting consultants out of business, I would even suggest that employees be given more time to think and even play so that they can become internal consultants for workplace change. As Michele says:

Creativity shouldn’t–can’t–be a luxury, though. It can’t be something that we bring to a problem only when we have the space and time for it, because more often than not, we will be in situations where we lack both.

4 Responses to “Creative time”

  1. Jason K.

    Harold: I certainly agree in principle that creativity shouldn’t be a luxury, but how do you manage this in practice? When you are exceptionally busy as a consultant, do you prioritize creative time over productive (billable) work? Or do you actually turn down consulting engagements to allow time to be creative?

    I do admire Google’s 20% philosophy for allowing 1 day a week to work on projects not in the job description. Encouraging your organization to be creative and building it into the culture is very, very smart.

  2. Harold Jarche

    Hi Jason. I usually take time when I can get it. It helps that I don’t have a daily commute or any internal meetings to attend. Even when I’m busy I try to write blog posts, as these are often thoughts in progress and I revisit them later.

    I have turned down work that is more contracting than consulting. These are projects where the client wants you full-time on-site for an extended period of time. Being in control of my schedule helps me find time to be creative, go for a walk or even take a nap.

  3. Jeff Goldman

    In a corporate setting we do not always have the luxury of focusing enough time on research and learning new creative solutions..often due to tight deadlines. So, I find myself often researching new creative ideas and solutions “off the clock.”

    One advantage that I have found working on a corporate training team is that others on the team will share research and creative solutions they have found. This allows for a lot of learning development opportunities. In fact, recently we have started having “development meetings” in which each person on the training team has facilitated presentations on their particular expertise. I provided a 3-hour long overview on online learning (including “what’s next in online learning”), a team-mate provided PowerPoint training in a computer lab, and next week we have a team-mate providing a “conducting webinars” workshop.

    So, when budgets are too tight for conferences and workloads are heavy we are still able to continue our development.


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