What two things help me with my job? | Matt Holt

27 Jan 2020

THE BRIEF

What 2 things help you most with your job? They could be a tip or a tool; an approach or a philosophy. You need to headline it, explain it and describe why it's useful to you.

 

THE RESPONSE

There’s all manner of strategic tools, techniques, mantras, frameworks (and self-help manuals!) I use on a daily basis. But there are two approaches that transcend all of these because they focus on the actual process of deliberating and solving problems.

 

The first approach I use is the overnight test. For years I thought it was either a cliché or a convenient way to procrastinate and put off decisions. That was until I read A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young. It honestly was life changing because it helped me to understand how to solve problems and produce ideas - both in my professional and personal lives. It’s the tiniest book I’ve ever read but one which has made the biggest impact on me. The basic premise is that to come up with ideas, you need to read stimulus and think intensively for a short space of time and then go away and do something else to let it percolate and get the subconscious working. Then you come back to it and ideas, solutions and ways forward will come to you. it’s devilishly simple and sounds too good to be true but it works for me.

 

The second approach is something physical that actually helps me enormously mentally –exercise. Whether that’s walking meetings (do it, you won’t look back), or running 10K, I find the act of exercise incredibly calming and allows me to put life in perspective. Beyond that I find my brain moves into an active state where it’s processing and connecting the dots. I find clarity. As a result I solve a lot of problems on the road, rather than the shower. It feels counterintuitive, but if I am faced with a particularly knotty problem, the answer lies in my body, not just my brain.

 

Often, I use the two approaches in tandem. I’ll read a client brief. Digest a load of stimulus. Then just at the moment I think I should be doing more, I go and do something else. I go home and sleep on it. I wake up, I go for a run and from there my brain starts connecting the dots.

 

(Read. Sleep. Run. Repeat.)

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