Deliberately Creative: A Summer of a Few Fridays Off – Part 2

Hope you enjoyed reading Part 1 of my Deliberately Creative experiment from 2017 where I talked about what the experiment was, my motivation behind it, and what different creative activities I accomplished. Here, in Part 2, I am covering how I did the planning and what opportunities I see through this kind of exploration. I am also finishing this post with answers to a few questions my friends asked me at the time.

What did planning look like?

Here are a few things I did leading up to my experiment:

  1. I planned almost a month or two in advance and thought of what I wanted to do and how I would manage this.
  2. I created a “plan” document in which I wrote down in clear terms my rationale for this (see part 1) and what my main areas of creative exploration would be.
  3. Initially, I had many areas and activities that I was thinking of. I trimmed those to something that I thought would be manageable and would still give me satisfaction of spending the time.
  4. I made sure I added activities that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to fit in a full, regular routine. I threw in some domestic and professional items that were pending for a while. This allowed me to declutter and gave the project a much needed foundation.
  5. I researched and shortlisted courses and activities (both online and local), and kept them ready.
  6. I updated the plan to essentially list my ‘deliverables’ I might have at the end of 10 weeks. Yep, it was no less than running an Agile project!
  7. I kept a task list that I updated every so often and I also created a calendar to track events. I maintained all documents online so I could access them easily and edit often.
  8. I spoke with my manager at work to get them onboard. I set out-of-office for Fridays and kept my Friday involvement to only high-priority people management items.
  9. Despite all this, I was ready for a scenario that none of my plans would work out as I had hoped or that I would have to adjust as I go.
  10. I talked to a couple of close friends and also shared updates on social media throughout to get some social boost. 

What helped?

The planning, tracking and sharing helped! It was also good that I was doing this in summer, which meant longer days with more sunlight and my son’s routine was less rigorous. It was certainly helpful that work kept happening at its regular pace and there were no major spikes of hectic activity. Finally, what I really did it was my persistence and my inner voice that kept pushing me.

What opportunities do I see?

As I look at this in year 2021 and in a post-pandemic world, there has been much talk around what the future of work would look like. There are trends that show that a four-day workweek is potentially gaining traction (Forbes, Bloomberg).

Now, I am by no means suggesting that the additional day needs to be spent in creative pursuits. I have simply laid out the premise for how I did it and more importantly, what the outcomes and positive ripple effects were for me (see Part 1). I see huge opportunities in finding that mix of pursuits that provides one with a deeper sense of joy and security at the individual level.

At an organization level, there are significant implications of this from the point of view of employee satisfaction, talent development (which should include personal pursuits as you bring your whole self to work) and productivity. See Microsoft Japan’s case study.

At a community level, the implications are fairly obvious and some communities around the world do this very well. A community that engages in joyful pursuits together in their own unique way is bound to have an enhanced level of sharing, compassion and overall well-being. When more and more communities around the world do this, it is just a beautiful world, in my opinion. Yes, I am a dreamer. Plus if we can’t pull this off now, as we try to restore and heal a post-pandemic world, then when?

I am glad that I found the time to pen down my thoughts on this summer weekend. I hope that this helps someone who is on a journey of exploration and then wants to go ahead and make it happen. I am closing this with a short Q&A below. Again, if you want to know what I did and why I did it, head to Part 1. It’s a wrap, folks!

Q&A with Friends

1. I was surprised at how organized your approach was especially for something like creativity, which I assumed to be fluid. But upon reading your approach, it makes sense to approach it systematically. Thoughts?

Honestly, I did the planning because I did not want to ‘waste’ my precious time. Post hoc, I think it made sense to do it this way, otherwise it would have just introduced more chaotic thought and actions into my daily routine. It also truly made me realize that just because you are structuring the framework for creativity in a methodical way, it does not hamper your creative process. In fact, taking an intentional approach to create mental space is so important. 

2. Did you identify any metrics? What was success?

Yes, I had identified ‘deliverables’ :) I ended up adjusting a few. For example, I wanted to attend some meetups but there weren’t any interesting ones at the time so that part didn’t happen. I hadn’t planned on starting a course on Climate Action but I just couldn’t wait to start it. So some additions, some subtractions and I think it netted out fine. More importantly, this experiment was one of those things I wanted to try out. I also did not want to regret not trying it.

3. Did you identify approaches to sustain this after the 10-week Program? 

Yes, I tried to. I ended up identifying a 12-point plan to sustain this with the understanding that it is an evolving thought process. That’s perhaps a separate post in itself.

4. I am curious about how you got the buy-in from work? Is there a benefit that you identified that was applicable to your work because of this time off?

Well, when I started explaining, my manager did ask if this ‘course’ was something relevant that the company could pay for and I had to politely tell them that I didn’t think the company would pay for my dance and writing classes :-) Honestly, if you think about it, this was just 8 days off; it’s just that I distributed it over 10 weeks. We end up taking that much vacation time anyway. It was great to see that my manager was supportive.

5. Did you identify the root cause of why you weren’t able to do some of the things in your normal routine? I wanted to do many things but I never wrote down exactly what. Your organized approach is very inspiring and has given me ideas to incorporate.

I don’t have a good answer for this. Some things like dance choreography, writing needed longer chunks of time and more importantly a mind that was rested to an extent, which doesn’t happen in the daily routine. This is why, I think planning helped me a lot, so did tracking, journaling and celebrating this different zone that I was in. I do wish the structures around us allowed us to integrate these pursuits more easily and naturally without this having to be a full-blown experiment and a project.

Author: Prachi Sukhatankar

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