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Many people I know run at about a mile a minute. They juggle work responsibilities, family, household chores, friendships, cooking, car repairs, and about a million other little things. When they do finally find a moment to themselves, they often spend it in front of the TV, or maybe listening to music, a podcast, or an audiobook.

Amid all the action and noise, where is the silence?

Silence is important because it allows us the time and space we need to just think and be present. When we go on a quiet walk or take a shower or drive the car with the radio turned off, we give our minds a much-needed break. These quiet moments allow ideas to germinate and come to life. They are essential to the creative process.

Think about it. How much creativity can you really have during a Zoom meeting? Or when you’re helping out with homework? Or scrambling to put together dinner?

There’s a reason why the advertising agents in the show Mad Men have all their best ideas during “downtime.” When your brain is allowed some peace and quiet, it has the freedom to stretch and travel to places it might not usually go. Entrepreneur Jason Hennessey sets aside an entire day (what he calls “Creative Wednesdays”) for idea generation and creative endeavors. He admits that the idea of devoting a whole day to creativity was daunting at first. He feared that he wouldn’t get all his work done and that deadlines wouldn’t be met. However, he found that his Creative Wednesdays actually made him more productive during the other four days of his workweek. He had more energy and enthusiasm, and he found himself looking forward to his mid-week creative time.

Get Started

You don’t have to dedicate an entire day to quiet, creative time (it’s simply not feasible for many people). However, you can start somewhere. Begin by setting aside fifteen minutes or half an hour every day for quiet journaling, mind mapping, or free writing. If you have a family or housemates, let them know what you’re up to, so they respect your space. Then, find a quiet a room or go for a walk and let the ideas flow!

This may not come naturally at first, but take heart. You’ll soon become accustomed to your designated quiet time. To help ease into this time, you may want to practice free writing. Pick a topic and write whatever comes to mind. Let your thoughts flow in a stream of consciousness. Don’t worry about grammar or complete sentences—just write. You may be surprised by what comes out!

We all need a little more silence in our lives. Try fostering quiet creative time in your life, and see what comes of it.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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When things are tough, it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself. That’s a perfectly normal and natural reaction. However, problems ensue when that “woe is me” mentality becomes long-term and begins to affect other areas of your life. You might start to blame other people or circumstances for your problems while, at the same time, doing nothing to fix them.

How can you escape a “woe is me” mentality? Try the following 4 suggestions:

1. Take Ownership

Nobody likes failures, but it doesn’t do a lick of good to blame others. Take ownership for your role in the failure, even if others did contribute to it. This helps shift you from pointing fingers to problem solving.

2. Recognize That Pity Parties are Unproductive

Feeling sorry for yourself might feel good for a while (no harm in eating a few scoops of ice cream and watching a movie while you pout!), but it is ultimately unproductive. Recognize that what you’re feeling can and should be a non-permanent state. Allow yourself to experience those feelings of sadness or disappointment, and then resolve to move on.

3. Move Into Problem-Solving Mode

Though it can be tempting to wallow at times, remind yourself that you’re stronger than that. The next time you feel entrenched in sadness, challenge yourself to problem solve. This could be as simple as journaling about your situation, or as involved as creating a mind map or bringing together your team to brainstorm some solutions.

4. Focus on Your Wins

When you’re feeling down about a failure, attempt to focus on the positive. No matter how bad things get, there is always a bright side. Think about the things that have gone well recently, and how to replicate them. Remind yourself that you do experience little victories in life (landing a certain job, getting a positive annual review, earning a bonus, nailing a certain project, coming up with a creative solution, etc., etc.). Focus on those wins and use that energy to propel you forward. 

Failure isn’t forever. If you’re upset about a recent obstacle or pitfall, that’s okay. Allow yourself to feel that way for a time, and then move on. Get yourself into a problem-solving mentality and leave your failure in the dust.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Original article published March 11, 2015

Are you stir crazy? Ready for spring? Ready to walk around in sandals and shorts again? You’re not alone! This time of year tends to make people antsy and irritable, and that kind of attitude can cross over into the workplace.

How can you fight the late-winter agitation? How can you possibly be productive when you’re feeling so tense?

One solution is to spend a few minutes each day in your “inner garden.”

By now, most people accept that meditation is a great way to calm the mind, release stress, and get focused for the rest of the day, but many of us think we’re too busy for such “fluff” like meditation. We’re Americans! We’re trained to soldier through the work day without pausing to think about ourselves or our mental well-being.

I encourage you to pause.

When you’re feeling wound-up or things aren’t quite going your way, dedicate a few minutes to yourself. Find a quiet space in your workplace, close the door, and picture yourself sitting in a beautiful garden. A warm breeze is playing on your cheeks; you’re surrounded by fragrant blooms of red and purple and yellow. Just let yourself sit and be restful—do NOT allow your mind to drift to work or the troubles you’ve had that day, and if your mind does wander, gently bring it back to the garden.

If you’re having trouble picturing your “inner garden,” hop online for a few minutes and search for images of “beautiful gardens” or “peaceful gardens.” Then, use one of those images as your focal point as you allow your mind to drift to your garden.

Try building up to ten minutes of meditation time. If that seems like too much at first, start with five minutes. Even though this may not seem like a significant chunk of time, you’ll be amazed at how relaxed and refreshed you’ll feel at the end of it.

I challenge you to visit your inner garden every day this week and see how it helps your attitude and productivity. Until the flowers ACTUALLY bloom again, I hope this technique will help you relax and rejuvenate so you can take on any challenge the day might offer.

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