On the importance of taking time out.
An artist, trapped in a cardboard box for their entire life, could only make art that reflected their experience inside the box; repeating the same boring brown lines and forms again and again and again…FOREVER. (And when you forget to feed them, the box starts to smell weird.)
What we mean is; if you’re on the inside of anything all the time, be it a production company, an agency or a box, there is very little diversity of experience to be drawn from. It’s hard to bring something new to the table when you’re all sat around the same table, day in, day out, repeating the same patterns like sad wind-up dolls. Quite simply, bored people make boring work.
We’ve spoken before about how important it is to have a variety of people from different backgrounds making creative work, but what about those individuals getting a variety of experience themselves?
We’ve heralded 2017 as the year of the new, a time to gather a range of experience and jump off the treadmill for a moment. And we’re not CRAZY; we’re not doing this for no reason. There is actual bona fide research done by adults with mortgages and gym memberships that corroborates this theory. According to one study, “a total of 61% of employees viewed time off as improving physical health, while 55% said it improves mental health.”
But obviously we’re not interested in our workers’ health and well being…it’s what it can do for their creativity and productivity that gets our juices flowing. As the Harvard Business review states, “Studies have shown that the wandering mind is more likely to have a “Eureka!” moment of clarity and creativity.” People don’t have amazing creative ideas in meetings; they have them in the shower, on a run or simply staring into space. Extend this meditative time into a proper, focused and conscious unplugging and the benefits expand.
We work in jobs where there is always a pressure to be “on”, available and ready; answering emails, texting back and returning phone calls. The idea of temporarily packing it all in and toddling off to chase whatever colourful butterfly catches your fancy seems almost sacrilege. However, all research done on the subject suggests that this is exactly what we must do in order to flourish. Forbes sites a study in which it was found that when on a creative sabbatical, it was only those “who fully detached themselves — who gained the most from the experience.”
To feel the benefits of a creative sabbatical you must fully unplug. Our pal Sam Jones from Tunafish media corroborates this theory. As well as his award winning media company he also runs “Not Just Soup” a homeless street kitchen. He says, “I struggle to switch off from work and being involved with the charity stuff helps me do that.” You’d have thought that adding more to your plate would be counter-intuitive, however it is having a diversity of experiences that allows a lot of us to focus and then let go from task to task.
James Hillhouse, co-founder of Commercial Break, can vouch for that. Commercial Break are an agency that transform young people’s lives by creating job opportunities in the advertising and PR industries. James and his colleagues are all active in the industry but for 3 months of the year they shift focus and devote their times to their interns as they learn on the job. Splitting his time between Commercial Break and the day job doesn’t leave James feeling drained, just better about it all; “I suppose Commercial Break represents my balance. It’s certainly the most rewarding thing I do.”
A creative sabbatical was the idea behind our Co-founder Nick’s trip to Burma. Yup. Burma. He went to re-charge his creative juices, shoot photographs and make a documentary about his experience. It’s the opposite of South Manchester, and he went there in order to immerse himself in something that’s not an office for a while. It’s like a gap year, but way classier. He said, “Having a creative sabbatical gave me some time to look around and listen better. I think being a stranger in a foreign place means you naturally try to find out about it; you become more open and curious. Being reminded of that mindset was important.” This again comes back to personal as well as professional development, as Nick said, “Working without any external pressure from clients allows you time to develop, to take risks and try new things. It feels more like play, in fact I found that I was feeling my way along much more than thinking about it.”
Similarly one of our directors, Amy Watson agrees. “It’s amazing to step off the conveyer belt and allow yourself to make a completely different kind of work to what you’re known for, add another string to your bow.” She has taken a few months off to go and make a self-funded documentary on the underground Vogue dance scene in Manchester. Hopefully she’ll come back enriched with new experiences…and some better moves.
Then there is Thea our MD, who is doing a slightly different form of creative sabbatical, in that she’s taking a few months out to create a life, in the form of a little boy. What could be more life enriching really?
So there you have it; Maker’s season of growth. We’re going out there, acquiring new skills and experiences, and like a cat with a mouth full of mouse intestines, coming back and proudly dumping them on the rug. We’d love to hear from others who have taken a similar temporary step out of the office and into pastures new, so hit us up with your sabbatical story! We’re finding that, counter to everything we ever got taught in school, working less and having a more life-friendly approach actually helps the work we do in the long run. Although if you’re Nick you might catch malaria.