When it comes to productivity tips for writers and creatives, most of them come down to removing distractions. Turn off your notifications, close your extra browser tabs, prioritize you to-do list to the three most important things to do today are the rules we live by.
Sometimes, breaking rules can lead to breakthroughs.
Recently, I asked my readers to complete a quick survey and I some great ideas for future content and events. But I was most fascinated by the response to the first question.
I asked how they were feeling about the coming year, and the top two answers, by a very wide margin, were “excited” and “curious”. Oh my people! After all we have been through this year, if you can say you are excited about what may come next, you’ve fully bought in to the ideas of resilience and flexibility. “Curious” was the one that surprised me. It made me think of this verse I recently found in Proverbs:
It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2 (ESV)
At first, I wondered why God would conceal things, especially things he wants us to know. Probably because if we knew everything at once, we’d be overwhelmed and paralyzed into inaction.
And if we knew everything that was coming in the future, we’d be consumed with either dread or anticipation and totally lose connection with the opporutunities happening right now.
But I think the real reason lies in the second half of the verse. It is the glory of kings (and daughters of the King) to search things out. If you’ve ever been thrift shopping, you know this feeling.
After digging through shelves piled high with meaningless and worthless (to you!) stuff, you find just the perfect treasure you were looking for! The thing means all the more to you because you worked hard to find it.
The same thing happens as we study Scripture, chasing rabbit trails through God’s Word. Or when we are hot on the trail of the resources we need to implement a new idea. Our curiosity leads us to the treasure God has for us.
So go ahead and chase that rabbit trail. I know that flies in the face of every bit of productivity advice you’ve ever heard. Sometimes, the best thing to do is let your curiosity guide you to the solution.
Just keep it in the proper context. How do you know when is the right time to chase rabbits? Here are three tips:
When you are researching a difficult problem
How do you do research? Does it look like this?
- Google the problem
- Skip the ads that are the first search results
- Go to the first organic search result. If it addresses the problem, stop. It must be the best solution because it is the most popular.
That method may get you the most popular solution, but it’s not necessarily the best for you. Chase the rabbit through three or four other search results. Ask others who may have faced the same problem how they solved it. And even more fun, find someone who has obviously solved it and observe what they have done that worked for them.
You’ll pick up all kinds of other important information along the way, and you’ll likely take a bit of information from that top Google result, along with the advice of a friend, and observation you’ve made to create a solution that is uniquely yours.
When you are studying Scripture
This is one of my favorite times to chase rabbits. I’m a bit of a word nerd and love chasing the trail of words from one passage to another. It always deepens my understanding of God’s Word and usually leads to a personal word from the Lord just for me.
When you are looking for inspiration
Whether you need inspiration for a blog post, a quote to illustrate a point, or fresh ideas for social media, poking around the internet at related sites is a great way to get past writer’s block.
I keep email newsletters from people in similar spaces as me and when I need new content ideas, I just go read the subject lines. Sometimes I open the emails, click the links, look at other recommended posts on their sites, or read their social media. This helps me keep up to speed on what is happening in my niche and gives me topics where I can apply my unique spin.
When you plan to do it
In general, you should have a specific list of things to do when you sit down to work. So if you have three or four important things to do, that’s not the time for rabbit trails.
But if you have a difficult problem to solve, or you need to research for inspiration, put a “rabbit trail” session on your weekly plan and follow that rabbit until you find what you are looking for. You’ll get the benefit of the information you find, plus the thrill of the chase, without the guilt of feeling like you should be doing something else.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it inspired the rabbit. Follow that rabbit and see how curiosity leads you to unique solutions and inspired creativity.
How do you feel about chasing rabbit trails? Have they been helpful to you or just distractions?