Recently, I have been reading Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields (see my highlights here). The book is about converting the fear, doubt, and hardship of creating into something helpful. In Fields’ words:
One of the single greatest determinants of high-level success as an innovator or creator in any realm is the ability to manage and at times even seek out sustained high levels of uncertainty, bundled lovingly with risk of loss and exposure to criticism.
Fields notes that many of us have strong reactions of fear in the face of uncertainty— even to the point of emotional suffering. Not only that, but much of the suffering may not be circumstantial— it may be induced by ourselves.
…what so many creators experience as a withering ability to handle the anxiety, doubt, and uncertainty as a project nears completion may actually be self-induced rather than process-induced suffering.
If this fear-management problem is our very own self-made dilemma, what practices and self-leadership habits can help?
One of Fields suggestions that has resonated with me is called certainty rituals. These rituals will vary greatly from person to person, but the common theme is giving yourself elements in your creation time and your day that you can count on— especially when you are working to create something from nothing.
Below are the certainty rituals that I am going to start working into my life this week. I plan to check in with posts about how the integration is progressing.
- My schedule. I realized that the way my day is structured provides a huge certainty boost. Some pieces of my schedule (like random meetings) can not be helped. However, I had flexibility in other areas. Starting this week I am going to start making my schedule more consistent.
- Relationships. Todd Henry has talked about this for years on Accidental Creative. The trick for me is to be mindful of a relationship cycle in my life. If and when good friends become partners in my work, I need to add time with other people who are not involved directly in my work. This has been one of the hardest things for me to be consistent in while working in the nonprofit sector.
- Focus blocks. In Be Excellent at Anything, Tony Schwartz suggests blocking at least one 45-90 minute section of your schedule each day for focused, uninterrupted work. (FYI - interruptions include email, text messages, and the like.) I have been experimenting with these in my schedule for two months now and have started to find some helpful patterns.
- My diet. I realized I was spending a lot of energy thinking about what to eat and when to eat it. My hypothesis is that much of that energy can be conserved if I plan my meals weekly. For me this includes breakfast and lunches. Preparing food actually energizes me— I like to cook— but thinking about what to cook is a time suck. My friend Josh Dix has started to blog about his recent diet at Healthy Leadership Habits, and I am contemplating following suit.
- Spending money. This is still a very raw idea: I wonder if it is possible to decide what I spend money (and do not spend money) on before I start my day or my week. That way, I am saving my energy for solving other (real) problems. Some people call this a budget. My goal is to try and think about a budget in a way that is inline with how I use other planning tools and metrics (which I enjoy) so it is a helpful tool, not a burden.