I started noticing the seasons.

After a couple of years working for myself I was noticing the seasons more. When I worked full time in a hospital or later in an office, all I’d notice was whether it was light or day when I entered or left the building.

For most of our human evolution, we’ve worked seasonally. Since the industrial revolution, electricity and factory lines meant we could work around the clock.

Now with computers, phones and mobile gadgets (company iPad anyone?) you can be connected to something constantly…

Something that never sleeps…

Information never sleeps

We have access to a constant stream of information.

And it’s free…

For very little effort, you can have your mind and body stimulated. A dopamine fix here, an adrenaline rush there and before you know it, you’re hooked to the tech.

Over the industrial revolution we transitioned from exploiting human physical labour to human cognitive labour. Instead of mining ores, we mine data.

But solving complex 21st century problems requires that we drop unrealistic expectations of machine-like productivity and enable the rhythms of genius-like creativity.

But while machines can process continuously given the power supply, humans need time and space to think their best thoughts.

It’s usually during rest, play or time in nature that the genius idea comes through, not while you’re hyper-focused on information.

Genius is nurtured in cycles (and work toxicity kills it)

Genius is messy. And it happens in cycles (even your brainwaves change when you have a genius flash of insight).

A common problem faced in modern life is that people can get stuck by misidentifying which part of the cycle they’re in. They want immediate answers and skip the incubation period needed for ideas and solutions to come through.

Toxic work cultures are excellent at creating a sense of pressure and urgency (a genius-killer).

Not only to these toxic work environments blur the distinction between phases of natural cycles of human activity, they ignore these cycles altogether! This is to the great detriment of healthy human functioning.

Toxic work cultures create a sense of having to be constantly switched on and ready to deliver. No time for rest or play while at work.

One part of the cycle I often guide my clients to work with is the last part: receiving. It gets skipped so often in order to jump straight into a new project. But it deprives you of true gold.

Reactivating your natural genius by learning to receive

[Read on or watch the video]

Receiving as an activity was an important part of our social rituals in the past. Celebrations around the summer harvest were all about that.

The end of a project or job is the modern version of the harvest. It’s a time to receive.

Here are a few activities you can practise in the receiving stage of a work cycle:

  • Being patient: it can take time for action to bear fruit after you’ve completed something. Don’t jump straight into the next thing. The ability to sit in the unknown while sensing for the next possibility is a forgotten art. It takes time and it’s key to genius.
  • Celebrating: it’s important to feel joy and gratitude for what has already been accomplished and how far you’ve come, no matter where you’ve arrived.
  • Letting go/grieving: whenever a cycle is complete, some things will be gone – resources used, opportunities, relationships that formed for the duration of the project, hopes that weren’t fulfilled. It’s OK. Give the process space.
  • Integrating lessons learned: whatever happened, you’ll have learned something and gained new insights from any mistakes and successes. That’s gold.

Don’t be a machine. Be a genius

In the end, it’s not really technology or even the constant availability of information that’s at fault. You just have to remember to work with natural human rhythms to enable your spark of genius and boost productivity without the burnout.

I believe that’s why transformational (rather than goal-focused) coaching works.

It treats you like a human being.