That flash of inspiration vs. your steady calendar

Hi there, 

Naval Ravikant is an entrepreneur and investor. You might know him from his one-liners on Twitter, which always get me fired up. I just finished reading his Navalmanack, where Ravikant gives his tweets more context. 

One of the lines from the book that’s stuck with me: “Inspiration is perishable – act on it immediately.” As you know, I’m a big proponent of using your calendar to structure your working hours. That doesn’t exactly line up with how Naval organizes his life. He says, for instance: 

It’s actually really important to have empty space. If you don’t have a day or two every week in your calendar where you’re not always in meetings and you’re not always busy, then you’re not going to be able to think.

I generally encourage you to fill your calendar and to make plans for your week. But Naval’s “inspiration is perishable” argument got me thinking: 

Make inspiration a priority

Once you realize you’ve hit a flow, it’s a shame to stop. That’s why meetings in the middle of your morning or evening are so irritating. Even if you’re super disciplined, finding your focus again after an interruption isn’t easy.

Have respect for inspiration when it shows up. Clear your schedule if you can. That’s also a reason to use a calendar, because you’ll now know precisely what you won’t be doing the rest of the afternoon. So you won’t lose sight of any deadlines.

Is stopping unavoidable? If you didn’t see the interruption coming, don’t try to get to a stopping point first, but just stop right in the middle of things. That makes it easier to start back up again.  

Know that sudden inspiration can be something else entirely

But I don’t think you should follow that feeling of inspiration blindly. Especially when you suddenly get excited about something totally different than what you know you have to do. When you’re working on a tough job, OF COURSE your brain keeps trying to go down the path of least resistance. It takes less energy. Sometimes inspiration is just procrastination dressed up in shiny new clothes. Working on something challenging and fun is just easier than wrapping up that complicated, but dull, project. And yet the positive effects of all that hard work can be huge in the long run.

Do the annoying stuff first

There’s a simple way to let inspiration guide your day. You move the annoying things up – earlier in your day, earlier in your week. Skip your mailbox and your phone in the morning, and start your day with that complicated task. Straightaway. Once that’s behind you, you’ve got all the room you need to chase what inspires you. 

It works the other way around, too. Want to wrap up that dull job faster and with greater focus? Promise yourself that as soon as it’s finished, you can follow your inspiration the rest of the day. It can be a powerful way to find the drive you need for jobs you’re less-than-excited about.

And lastly: even unexpected inspiration is still pretty predictable. If you find you tend to have good ideas at the start of your week, see if you can set up your schedule so you won’t have long meetings on Mondays or Tuesdays.

Have a good week!