“Change is good,” Rafiki assures us in the Lion King, and he’s right. If we know how to recognise it, embrace it and use it to our advantage.
We all change physically and mentally as we get older and life happens to us. Internal changes beyond our control happen alongside those wrought by external influences.
Meeting new people, learning new skills and facing new challenges can all change us. But sometimes we don’t give a lot of thought to those changes, or to how they might affect our productivity and career.
Identifying the effects that these changes exert upon us can be instrumental in using them to our advantage. After all, the benefit of wisdom and experience is impaired if we always react with the same habitual reaction!
How have you changed?
- When did you last think about how you’ve changed? Now’s the time.
- When do you feel most productive these days—and when does it feel like pulling teeth?
- Is your usual work still fulfilling, or are you gravitating towards certain types of task or client—or craving different or more diverse projects?
- Have you learned new skills or made new contacts that you’re not putting to use?
- Can you still get away with slouching on the couch? Or is your back starting to complain about the lack of proper chair and desk at suitable heights? Or is your back starting to tell you that you need to put in most of your hours while sitting?
- Are you still happy with your working environment, or do you need to change rooms or locations?
Changing it up
Some changes happen regardless of us recognising or wanting them. Others should be ones we chose to make, because the fact is: Brains Get Bored.
The Novelty Effect is a recognised psychological phenomenon, and it has both bad news and good news for us.
The bad news is that what feels fascinating and fresh now, won’t be anywhere near as fun two years down the line. It’s just the way we’re built.
Anthropology experts posit that this need for change, along with a willingness to take risks, is what made Homo sapiens the only hominid species to emigrate all over the world.
Meanwhile, research at UCL found that the area of our brain responsible for regulating motivation and reward-processing, responds better to novelty than to the familiar.
This system also regulates levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, and could aid learning—so novelty could be good for us, stimulating us to learn and remember new things!
Make a change, however small
Exactly what you can change, and to what extent, will depend on the type of work you do. If you make bespoke wooden chairs, for instance, then working in the library one day a week won’t be practical (unless that’s the day you give over to research and designing).
- Learn a new skill, acquire new knowledge or gain a new interest. Between them, FutureLearn and OpenLearn offer thousands of free short courses on everything you can think of. Some offer the option of payment for assessment and certification, sometimes with the chance to use them as building blocks for a degree or other qualification
- Take on a new type of task or look for more of the work you enjoy; don’t put up with boring work unless it’s a necessity!
- Try to find a new source for clients and projects: magazines, directories, freelancing platforms, advertising on social media, business networks, revamping your website… whatever methods you haven’t tried before or have ignored for a long time, give them a go!
- Work somewhere different now and then: the garden, a different room in your house, a co-working space, a library, a friend’s house, a café or a pub. If you’ve got the space and cash to burn, you could even build a garden office!
- Change up your daily routine and see if rescheduling your working hours boosts your productivity
- Try a new productivity app, calendar or time management method
By recognising how you’ve changed, you may be able to adapt your working day — rather than put up with working patterns and project choices that don’t suit you anymore. Matching your freelancing work to your body clock and interests could make your working day much happier!