You really need to take a break from the web

Status QuoThe Chief Executive of Brighton Council, John Barradell, has been in hot water this week after a little bit of creativity went too far. The Council was looking for “strategy directors” and wanted people who were keen to consider change, people who did not want to accept things the way they were, who were open to new ideas. So, the job advert was headlined “Status Quo Fans Need Not Apply”. Clever eh? Indeed, the Council even set up a complete website called “Say No To Status Quo”. Brilliant eh? Well perhaps not.

Mr Barradell has been forced to apologise after his wife suggested that Status Quo fans might be upset. So, he has written to the official fan club to explain the play on words and published a letter of apology himself. Now, you might be cynical and use the words “stunt” and “publicity” in the same sentence; after all, no-one it seems has actually complained about the advert yet. True, the Unison trade union is angry about the costs involved and the high salaries for the jobs, but as yet Rick Parfitt or Francis Rossi haven’t thrown their guitars down in anger. Let’s hope they sort it all out before December – they are playing Brighton Pavilion for two nights then…!

Perhaps Mr Barradell has been under a bit of stress as a result of this possible mix up. Perhaps too his advertising team and recruitment advisers have been biting their nails to the quick. And that would not be surprising. New research from the University of Toronto has linked creativity to high levels of stress. The research shows that creative activities are associated with higher stress levels than more mundane things we need to do during the office day.

The creativity itself is something we enjoy, but it leads to additional stress it seems. Creative work is also something we can’t “leave” in the office. We “carry it around” with us, often thinking about it frequently, leading to additional stress, this study shows.

For anyone working with online tools, such as Web 2.0 technologies, this study is important. Running a business online these days requires a great deal of creativity. You might need to come up with ideas for new content, you might need to consider different ways of advertising and marketing, or you may need to produce a brilliant idea for a domain name. Whichever way you look at it, running an online business demands high levels of creativity from you.

Which means we are probably all more stressed these days than we ever were before Web 2.0 came along. Up until that point, when everything was static online, all you needed was a page or two of material and you were home and dry. Not any more. Now you need to be constantly producing blog posts, videos, podcasts, tweets – you name it, you need it. And that all requires creative thought. Which means more stress for you and your team.

So, what can you do about it?

  • Firstly – plan more. Still, plenty of people I meet are in “headless chicken” mode online. Doing a blog here, a video there, a tweet every now and then. They have no plan, no strategy, no direction. The result is stress and worry.
  • Secondly – take breaks. Work for only 45 minutes in every hour. Not only will moving away from your computer do your eyes good and improve you physically, your brain also gets a while to recharge itself, which helps eliminate stress.

This simple combination of more structure and better planning, together with regular breaks throughout the day, will provide you with a much less stressful creative experience.

And don’t forget, you may well find yourself even less stressed if you plan to listen to some music during those 15 minute breaks every hour. Perhaps some Status Quo…?

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