I come from what I consider to be a traditional agency background. Creatives gathered under one roof from 9am to 5pm every day and worked together to deliver meaningful products and services to our clients and users. Whatever work we did was done during those hours. Sometimes things went smoothly, but I recall more readily the days when it was all I could do in eight hours to sketch a single wireframe or decide which color scheme to use.

I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that most people don’t like waking up early in the morning to battle rush hour traffic and slink into their chair at the office, dreary-eyed. I’ve always felt unsatisfied with this traditional style of working, even beyond that moment when I realized I just hit the snooze button for the fifth time and have no choice but to get out of bed.

Square Pegs Don’t Fit in Round Holes

The concept of forcing creativity to happen within a predefined eight hours each day has always felt wrong. Creatives are a fickle bunch prone to random moments of inspiration, late night epiphanies, and a general disposition to be easily distracted by shiny things as we pass by. With that set of character traits, how could a 9-5 job ever make sense?

And then along came The Phuse, a very shiny opportunity indeed. I quit my agency job, overjoyed at the idea of never having to battle rush hour traffic or fight with the snooze button again, and took a job working for a different type of creative agency.

Work / Distance = A Great Team

The first radical adjustment I faced working at The Phuse was the simple matter of location. Each of our team members lives in a different state, half of them in a different country. It was immediately apparent that we wouldn’t be gathering under one roof each day to tackle the world’s web design problems. This means that we get to keep our own schedule, and that we have to communicate our needs and opinions more clearly to each other if we wish to be understood the first time around.

Fortunately, it also means that I get to work day in and day out with a great group of folks, each with their own national and international flavor, whom I would have otherwise never even met. To say the least, it’s been nothing short of a pleasure to tease James about being Canadian every day.

Do the Schedule Shuffle

The second big change was being given the freedom to work how and when I wanted. I’m no longer having to force creativity to happen between that same set window of hours every day. If inspiration strikes at 4am, I can jump right on it. If I feel like powering through a serious block of coding in the middle of the night, that choice is mine to make. I cannot overstate how empowering this has been.

To quote Spiderman’s Uncle Ben “with great power comes great responsibility.” While this became apparent right away, the empowerment to direct my own creative life that The Phuse has given me has in turn led me to value the weight of accountability. I might not have to be in my office chair every morning at 9am, but its still up to me to meet my deadlines and that clients are given what they expect.

My Advice to Those Stuck in the Creative Mousetrap

Somehow I manage to be on time every time, and to continually exceed our client’s expectations. I’ve heard more praise from clients in the first three months at this job than I heard in the past three years at my traditional agency. They really love working with us as much as we love doing what we do.

Trying to be creative while working at a traditional 9-5 job is like being stuck in a mousetrap. Creative people are, by nature, antsy, impulsive, mobile, and don’t respond well to being stuck in any one place. And many of us don’t even realize this if all we’ve ever known is a 9-5 job.

So for those of you still stuck there, or those of you wishing to expand your creative powers, here are a few of the things that I’ve discovered while working at The Phuse that have helped expand my creative powers and continue to love my job every day.

1. Choose your own hours

Work when you are at the peak of your powers. Don’t get to work until you are well rested, and physically and mentally fit for the job. If you work for a company with nine to five hours, try to make a work-from-home deal with your boss. Explain how handling your own hours will benefit both yourself and the company. If you can’t get your hours adjusted, something as simple as taking small breaks throughout the day can do wonders to re-energize and refocus you. Go for a short walk. Do situps. Stretch. Step outside and bask in the sunlight. Don’t try to muscle through eight hours of creative work without a breather. Your brain needs a chance to rest and re-energize.

2. Take responsibility for your own deadlines and expectations

Choosing your own hours doesn’t mean you get to slack off. Hold yourself to those deadlines like they’re the last train home. Or have someone else hold you to them.

3. Give in to inspiration

Whatever time, whatever place, just give in. Inspiration is a finicky goddess. She comes when she pleases and sometimes she doesn’t come for days. So whether you are at a restaurant, on the treadmill, chasing your tail in circles, or trying to fall asleep, drop what you’re doing and listen with all your senses while she graces you with her divine presence.

4. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike

Contrary to the last piece of advice, inspiration is a double edged sword. Sometimes she doesn’t come for days. Even when the goddess is not gracing you with her presence, you still have to get down to work. If you’re lucky, she’ll show up just because you had the cojones to stick with it.

  • Ben

    Great stuff. I totally feel that, the 9-5 can really be anti-creativity at times, especially when you’re in a bummer of an environment and can’t get in the groove. Good post!

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