How hurry kills creativity and what to do about it

creative practice Apr 05, 2023

When I first heard the title of the book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, it immediately resonated with me. Perhaps it has already captivated you as well. This year I feel that I am moving a little too fast. How can it be April already? So much has happened so far this year and everyone I speak to seems to be operating like a person with their clothes on fire.

I think this gif captures the mood of the year so far very well.

A potential client said recently: "We just don’t have time to be creative."

I thought: "You don’t have time not to!"

Hurrying is a state of mind. It is that foreboding sense that your huge to-do list is towering over you, casting a cartoonish monster shadow over your day. Everything must be done quick, quick, quick. Even as you are doing a task, you are thinking about the next task to be done. As a big-city dweller, I pick up this same sense of urgency from the people around me. I imagine it is the same in most big cities.

Signs to look out for

How do you know you are stuck in a ‘hurry’ mindset?

  • You ask people how they are but get dismayed if they answer using more than two words.
  • You eat standing up whilst doing something else.
  • You can’t remember when you last went to the cinema, called a friend just to chat, or even had a proper tea/coffee break without being on a call.
  • You are constantly rushing your kids.
  • The traffic is always too slow.
  • You start tasks without thinking through why or how you are going to complete them.
  • You fill every spare moment with a task, a podcast, a work call, an email or checking your phone.
  • Your mind struggles to switch off at night and, though you are tired, you lie awake worrying about everything you need to get done.
  • Your to-do list never gets shorter but only longer the harder you work.
  • Regardless of how much you rush, you always seem to be on the back foot, catching up and somewhat overwhelmed.
  • You would wonder what it feels like to be “on top of things’, but you are too busy to think about that.
  • When people ask you how you are, your standard response is: “Crazy busy.”


Are you so distracted, rushed or pre-occupied that you have settled for a mediocre version of your life?

10 symptoms of hurry

  1. Irritability
  2. Hypersensitivity
  3. Restlessness
  4. Workaholism
  5. Emotional numbness
  6. Out-of-order priorities
  7. Lack of care for your body
  8. Escapist behaviours
  9. Slippage of spiritual disciplines
  10. Isolation


Something I learned in the pool

I had an epiphany in the pool during a training session one day. Our coach, Anne Jones, was timing us doing 100m freestyle sprints (4 lengths of a 25m pool.) For the first sprint, my mind was leaning in to go-go-go. I kicked hard, thrashed my arms overhead as fast as I could, and put everything into moving as fast as possible. My lungs burned, my legs ached, and at the end of the 100m, I was exhausted.

After a short rest, my coach advised me to take the next 100m easy. “Go out long and strong,” she said. Ah – that sounded good. No rush, no stress. Just long, strong strokes. My body relaxed, I breathed into the swim and swam the next 100m smoothly but with purpose. When I finished the four lengths and coach told me my time, I could not believe my ears. It was only one second slower than my ‘fast sprint!’ How was this possible? By setting a steady and calm pace in my first length, I was able to maintain strength and speed through all four lengths. Even though I felt as though I was going much slower, I was not.

This lesson has stuck with me in my business life. Some days I feel like I am thrashing around, making a huge splash like an overly energetic swimming sprint. I end the day physically and mentally exhausted, yet often disappointed by how little I’ve achieved. As an antidote, I’ve started repeating my swimming mantra in my head:

“Long and strong. Long and strong.”

These four steps help me put the “long and strong” swimming thinking into action in my daily life. Amazingly, on these days, I usually achieve so much more and end the day with some energy to spare.

Four ways to cut out hurry from your life and be more creative

Adapted from The Ruthless Elimination of hurry by John Mark Comer.

1.    Silence and Solitude

Do you have any true silence and solitude in your day? Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, we all need silence and solitude to process our thoughts and connect with our inner wisdom. When you are not working, do you fill every moment of your day with phone calls, podcasts, TV, radio or social media? Even if you are alone with your phone, you are not necessarily alone with your thoughts. 

The start of your day is a good place for adding some quiet. Why not wake up a little earlier, write your Morning Pages, and take time by yourself to think before the rest of the household is up and your day ramps up to crazy-busy status once again. 

Solitude is not the same as isolation. Being on your own does not equate to loneliness. If you are constantly connected to others via your phone, you are stopping yourself from getting the benefits of regular solitude. Instead of picking up your phone and checking your messages, email or schedule for the day, start the day on your terms. Neuroscientists suggest that we should not look at our phones for the first 30 minutes of the day. Could you manage that? By starting the day with our phone in our hand, we inadvertently invite the world into our bedroom and our bathroom, making their questions, requests or issues, our priority first thing in the day. 

2.    Slow down and create white space

When I succeed at building little moments of white space into my day – such as a quiet coffee in the garden for five minutes with no distractions or calls, this helps me to calmly execute on one thing at a time. White space is the little pauses and moments of calm in amongst the business. It is easy to underestimate the value of white space. Justlookatwhatitdoesinasentence. Youknowwhatthesentencemeansbutitisexhaustingtoread. 

Linda Steve, executive for Apple and researcher at Microsoft, coined an important phrase which describes our state when hurry too much: CPA = Continuous Partial Attention.

An important place to add white space is between meetings or events.  

Schedule at least five minutes between meetings, ten if you can, to note down your thoughts and actions and to prepare for the next meeting. Rushing into meetings without even recalling who you are supposed to meeting, or what the meeting is about, does no favours to anyone.  Give yourself some breathing room. Talk to your team about establishing a new policy of making meetings 25 minutes rather than 30 minutes, or 50 minutes rather than an hour, in order to improve your mental consolidation and preparation between meetings. 

According to Juliet Funt, founder of the consulting firm, White Space: "Creating white space is an act of resistance. It is rebellion against our culture of insatiability, our culture where nothing is ever enough. Creating white space is rebellion against all the things which enslave us."

3.    Simplify

We actually need very few things to make us happy. More and more stuff can add to our anxiety and our to-do list. Minimalism is not about modern design, rather it is about purging and organising your stuff. Have you ever cleaned out a cupboard or pared back your wardrobe and felt that wonderful feeling of release and rejuvenation? I love that feeling. 

"Simplifying your life is about the intentional promotion of the things you most value and the removal of everything that distracts you from them." Joshua Beeder

How might you simplify your life this month? Here are some suggestions:

  • prepare your meals in advance
  • clearn out a drawer or cupboard every weekend (just one at a time!)
  • practice saying no more often
  • give away clothes that you no longer wear or that don't spark joy for you
  • if you are a parent, team up with other parents to do lifts together
  • simplify your mornings, establish a morning routine

What is your priority for simplification in your life?

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. 

It's up to you to take charge of each day and cut out the hurry. Slow down, spend time in silence and solitude, add white space and simplify. You will reap the benefits!







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