We took some time. Now it’s ours forever.

June 3, 2009

By Michael Mark, creative director/ceo @NYCA 

In the middle of this recession, in the middle of being too busy launching two global websites, in the middle of strategic planning for three full-out 2010 media campaigns, in the middle of applying all we learned from our research, and Tweeting, Facebooking, IMing and blogging, we stopped. And painted vases. 

We did what seems impossible these days – we took some time.  

Time is a gift often seen as a foe: we race the clock, we are up against a deadline, we push the meeting, we run behind.  And the way we try to compete is by splitting ourselves up into pieces, to do more tasks in the same second. 

How often have we said we need to clone ourselves?  And in the attempt we become fractured.  We say that media is fractured, but it’s not true. There are just more complete communication channels each going on simultaneously, multiplying by the instant it seems.  However there’s only one of us. And it is us — our attention, actually — being shattered into pieces. Tough to be centered and focused in such a state. 

That’s why yesterday some of us took time and danced in the middle of the corridor by the creative area.



In this week’s “New York” magazine article, In Defense of Distraction http://nymag.com/news/features/56793/,  author Sam Anderson interviewed David Meyer, an expert on multitasking & cognition.

 In Defense of Distraction



Illustration by Glen Cummings/MTWTF  

He describes distraction “as a full-blown epidemic—a cognitive plague that has the potential to wipe out an entire generation of focused and productive thought.” Because of the way we use the ever-multiplying communication channels, he says, it is tough to get things done, adding “..even ten years ago…it was a lot calmer. There was a lot of opportunity for getting steady work done.”

True.  And we have proof.  In NYCA’s production area there’s an LED clockthat stares, red-eyed, at everyone passing, as it winds down from the moment the client approves the brief to when we have to have the work out there. Heartlessly, it heads to 0:0:0:0:0 from month to week to day to hour to minute to the final second. It started as a joke. It became a nervous-laugh producing – and, some say, an effective — monster. Every time we walked by, we were reminded we had to do three other things by this time.  Clock_Nina 004

And while it blinked away precious seconds, we painted away in Fargo – one of our conference rooms between the NY and CA rooms. We casually dipped into each other’s color wells, sharing brushes, and stories and time.  

 Here’s what we got out of the time we took: 

We got to create in a new way.

We got to catch up with ourselves and others.

We got to start again on projects with new energy (ok, perhaps fueled by anxiety of losing 40 minutes).

We got 40 minutes that we will always own.

We got something new to tweet, IM, blog, talk about.

We got vases that will sit on our desks and hold flowers that are given out twice a month as a thank you for being an NYCAer.


Oh, and Sandy in admin sent out an email later in the day telling everyone how to mark that vase painting time on our time management program. So all in the world is at peace — or at least accounted for. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Now go back to work.

Look away to find your best work

May 11, 2009

Written by: Michael Mark creative director/ceo on Creating a grow! culture and grow! ideas.

Hard as you try, sometimes you can’t get a good idea.

Deadlines acartoon%20eyesre fire-breathing dragons and as they approach two things happen: you work harder at it, struggle, and you tighten up. Sometimes the harder work gets you there. Lots of times the fear ignites an idea; other times only a case of the hives.

You can’t always hunt down a grow! idea.

You can’t demand a solution of immense focus and power appear.

And yet that’s what you’re paid for. So when you’ve tried everything else, here’s another way.

Let the idea come to you.

You have to trick the idea out of hiding in your subconscious.

This requires an act of trust.

Because to do your work you have to do other work.

Doesn’t matter what – as long as you do it with full purpose.

You can’t fake it. The idea won’t come if you are looking for it with even a nano-tenth of your concentration. It will know, clever bugger.

You have to be totally committed to the excellence of this new act. It has to become your primary mission in order for your subconscious to relax enough to release the idea you were originally so desirous of.

Yeah, and all the while, the dragon’s breath begins to singe your last paycheck.

Trust isn’t worth much unless it’s challenged.

I find at these time it’s best to do something physical, something with movement, that has intricacies which demand focus. Keeps the dragons out of mind. 

For me, it’s gardening but it could be another assignment you have, golf, walking, praying, dancing, cooking, sex, house cleaning. (Convincing your boss you’re working at these times is another problem but if you come back with great work she’ll understand.)

Again, you gotta do this with the same energy as you applied earlier to getting that idea.

You have to trick yourself into forgetting you are looking for the idea.

Your subconscious will be all over that. You have to know that when the idea presents itself you will be there to admire it, cajole it over and nail the sucker.

In truth, the idea was always right there. You just couldn’t see it.

By looking away I have found it will become obvious.

And the dragon –– well it’s not so scary any more.