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a blog by Chris Barrow

On releasing your muse

As a verb, to muse is to consider something thoughtfully. As a noun, it means a person — especially a woman — who is a source of artistic inspiration. In mythology, the Muses were nine goddesses who symbolised the arts and sciences. Today, a muse is a person who serves as an artist’s inspiration. Often filmmakers talk about a certain actor being a muse — meaning the actor inspired a movie. Writers, painters, musicians, and other artists have muses. Muse can also refer to thinking deeply. If you muse about something, you’re giving it serious thought. You can’t muse in five seconds. People muse on certain ideas for years.

So much of what we do nowadays is a reaction to situations around us, rather than a response.

Whether “incoming” is from the internet or from the physical world, we are constantly buffeted by the impact of life.

This week I’ve been based at home, meeting with Phillippa and Rachel on Monday to thoughtfully discuss our plans for 2020, preparing for and delivering the live “Get Your Year in Gear” webinar on Tuesday evening, keeping the day job going with clients calls/emails and feeling overwhelmed as I look at my task list for the rest of the week.

Our challenge is to create the time in which we can muse – to be inspired and to consider things carefully.

When I read the definition of muse above, it occurs to me that, when I do have the opportunity to give matters serious thought (alone or with family, friends and colleagues) – I come up with ideas or realisations that give rise to infographics, PDFs, spreadsheets, templates, presentations and articles.

I’m able to suggest wicked solutions to my clients’ problems.

I innovate in my own business.

In our fast-paced world of interruption, when do we have time to muse?

For me:

  1. The 05:00 am Club – rising early every weekday morning gives me the peace and solitude to reflect on the lessons of the previous day and plan the day ahead;

  2. Most of my life I’ve been an early morning runner – after a year of injury I’m making my way back and even the 5k’s I’ve been gingerly attempting this last 2 weeks have altered my psyche – I run to think (and never listen to music);

  3. The mind-saver during my injury has been my Watt Bike and I find that cycling (either indoors or out) allows me to muse;

  4. Trains – I’ve never regretted for a moment the decision to retire from driving at age 60. I do work on trains – but at the end of the day I’ll switch the internet off and settle into a good novel – somehow, when I’m reading I can think as well (and be inspired by literature);

  5. Walking the dogs – when I’m home, no matter how busy I’ll always make the effort to join Annie for the regulation 45-minutes at the start and the end of the day. The pace is walking – and that creates a matching mental pace and, frankly, some of our best conversations;

  6. Sitting in a noisy coffee shop surrounded by strangers. Funny how that doesn’t bother me – in fact I quite like to watch the ebb and flow of people without having to engage with them. I find this especially useful when I’m writing business articles – hustle and bustle helps me to write.

On reflection – it’s the absence of that “incoming” that features throughout these scenarios.

Most of our time is just a rush to Get Things Done.

To muse, we have to pause GTD.

So here’s a thought – if you want to do your most creative work – and if you want your managers to do the same – you have to create places and times in which you/they can think.

If you can identify the environments in which you can muse (be inspired) and release your muse (consider things carefully) then you can make your biggest difference in the world.

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