In a recent interview, Steven Spielberg, the famous Hollywood film director of hit films, Jaws, E.T. and The Color Purple, admitted to a strange habit. He said he liked to seek out distractions while working on a film.
“I’m more lucid about my own work if I have got something to distract me” said Spielberg of his peculiar practice. “I can be making a movie and then I can go off that movie for a half an hour while they are lighting the set and I can be looking at the script and making changes with the writer on my next movie.”
To most people Spielberg’s appetite for distractions is a little puzzling. To them it sounds counter intuitive at best and downright destructive at worst. After all, why would somebody purposely seek out interruptions while working on a project?
Spielberg’s Subjectivity Problem
The answer comes down to what Spielberg calls the subjectivity problem. When you are working on a piece – be it an article, a music track or a film scene – you get too involved and lost in your work. You lose perspective of how a first time viewer would see the work. In Spielberg’s words, you lose your objectivity, which he defines as “losing sight of what you are doing and not being able to see it from the 15th row back, where the audience lives.”
The only remedy for this problem is time away from the work at hand. You have to take a step back from that piece in order to gain a fresh perspective. But spending time away from work is counterproductive as it wastes time. It slows down the rate at which you can create content.
This is where the Spielberg method comes into play. Rather than working on one project at a time, he works on multiple projects. That way the time away from one film is time spent on another. That is, the down time of one project becomes the up time of another project — allowing Spielberg to complete more projects in less time without sacrificing quality.
How to Turn Downtime into Work time
If you want to write more quality blog posts in less time, then consider the Spielberg method. Rather than working on one post and seeing it through till the end, work on multiple posts at a time.
When you start feeling stale and lost in one, switch to the next and work on that. Similarly, when you have run out of ideas or lost your train of thought on the second post, jump to the next one or go back to your first post and continue working.
Like Spielberg, you too will find that you return to your blog posts with greater clarity and direction than when you left them.
Sydney @ Social Dynamics says
I actually work better when I’m distracted. When I’m too focused on one particular task, then I lose it completely. I will keep thinking about doing other things while writing, so it’s best if I venture into other things while working.
Aman Basanti | Age of Marketing says
Thanks for commenting and adding to the conversation. Sorry I did not get to participate as much as I would have liked but stuff came up.
Anyway, sounds like I’ve struck a chord with the work on multiple posts at a time. It’s good to know what works for many of us also works for one of the greatest movie directors of all time.
I have heard people say on multiple occasions that it is important to only focus on one piece, or one post, at a time before starting on the next one. Personally, that does not work for me. I prefer working on multiple articles as opposed to one at a time. Like you said, it allows “you to return to my posts with greater clarity and direction than when I left them”.
Working on multiple article at a time is a good idea. However it may affect the quality and authority of the blog.
Spielberg’s Subjectivity Problem is good analogy. Nice post.
I find distractions helpful. Last week I was stuck on writing a blog post, and ended up scrapping it completely. I decided edit some posts around the blog and improve the overall quality, and an old post gave me a new perspective to write a brand new one. It didn’t take long to write and it’s beginning to top my weekly favorite posts on he blog.
I also can’t work on a series of posts because I get really bored and the inspiration runs dry. However, I forced myself to do this once for a small eBook, but ended up posting the content on the blog to earn revenues from the adsense. The readers liked the free give away and I shot up in subscribers and traffic.
I remember a famous writer in a television interview saying he would get up early in the morning work for two hours, take a break for two hours, and work for two hours, and would repeat this cycle everyday. I would imagine it is best to leave the project at hand, and come back refreshed with a new perspective. Some people prefer to work straight through until the project is completed. I guess it depends on your personality type and how flexible you are.
I find this style of blogging works for me, there’s nothing worse than sitting stuck on one post for hours. I usually have 3 or 4 on the go at the same time.
I have found this to be useful at times. I think that it is a great way to branch ideas from post to the another.
So glad I wread this because I’ve been feeling a little stale in one of my projects and have stepped back for a bit. But Now I know to keep busy with my business and the project will fire back up with fresh ideas.
From my point of view when you diverge your mind to two different aspect you tend to produce more ideas. Maybe you might not realize about different facts when you’re solely concentrating in one aspect.
Ron Borg says
Ahhh yes…. working on 3 – 4 projects at a time. Sounds like a wonderful prescription for us ADD sufferers!
Floricel @ Online Business Design Blog says
Hmm! Love it! Now I know what it is called. Thanks Aman I got the right and perfect idea about it. Plus the name of course. I really didn’t what name to call this method.
I should say that this is some sort of “taking your time of break WISELY”. 🙂
Slice of Life says
Can’t argue with this logic! Reminds me of House M.D, who kept playing gba games in the early seasons, saying it would “help him think better”.
Kelly|product reviews says
An Awesome Method! This sounds great because sometimes when I’m working on one post, I get frustrated or tired and I stop.
Working on several posts is what I’ll do from now on, Thanks for sharing!
Amol Wagh says
Turns out that I got a name for the process I got used to with from long time. I directly swipe through my multiple careers as well as blogs.
I spend time learning animation when I don’t want to write on blogs and Vice versa. And sometime to more other productive works.
Love what I do though !!
Destination Infinity says
Interesting perspective. I never considered working on two posts simultaneously unless they are for two different blogs. But this is a good idea for people who get struck up in a post.
That’s so true, very much why I love having more than one project available to work on at a time. I’ll focus on one at a time when I’m actually writing, but if the ideas aren’t there for one, they may be in easy reach for another.
That doesn’t mean overdo it, or you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to keep up with your ideas. You need to have enough projects to change your focus here and there, but not so many that you can’t work on each one regularly.
Treathyl FOX says
Yeah UM … I just wanted to say to Mr. Spielberg – true dat!
Great idea, i always overwhelmed by my jobs. Gotta love Steven Spielberg to share this !
I agree with Aman. I try to do the same. I write one content and when I get stuck for ideas, I leave and save it as draft and write another article and do the same. Then next day I open up both and find my typos myself as well as add more to my drafted articles. In fact, I change certain words which looked appropriate last night but don’t look good today. It works. So, mix up you work. Invest in multiple yet similar projects but don’t loose focus else, you will lose the project altogether.
Good heads up Aman. Nice post.
Hey Aman, great post. It’s nice to know distractions can be beneficial – as long as you distract yourself with other productive work =)