Skip to content

Why Taking Time to Do Nothing Can Be Productive [The Weekly Wrap]

Listen to the Weekly Wrap here or subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. If you enjoy the show, please take a moment to rate it or post a review.

And that’s a wrap of the week ending April 10, 2020

This week I’ll explain why making time to do nothing is one of the most productive choices you can make. I talk about how this time of quarantine has some companies re-examining the quantity vs. quality content strategy (and why that might not be the best idea). I talk with CMI Creative Director Joseph “JK” Kalinowski about taking time for creativity. And I point you to an interview with that master (and scholar) of creativity, John Cleese.

Listen to the Weekly Wrap

Our theme this week is creativity. As the saying goes, creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

Let’s wrap it up.

One deep thought: The trap of optimizing every minute (3:23)

How do you carve up your days?

There are moments when a crisis disrupts the patterns of how we choose to spend our time. The crisis might be as small as missing a flight, forcing us to spend the day reconfiguring travel arrangements or as big as the global pandemic that’s forcing us to reconfigure our time to do, well, nothing. A crisis of nothing has wiped out our proverbial schedules.

But how will you choose to spend this unallocated time? The answer will depend on your unique situation.

There’s an internet meme that says some variation of this thought: “If you don’t come out of this quarantine with a new skill, your side hustle started, or more knowledge, you didn’t lack time, you lacked discipline.”

Don’t buy into that. It’s not true that this crisis is giving everyone extra time. Even if you do find you have unexpected moments of “nothing” on your schedule, it’s a trap to believe you must optimize every minute of your day.

It’s not true that this crisis is giving everyone extra time, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Share on X

It’s simply a myth that any time we’re not working, we should be doing something else productive – become better educated, shop for food, sanitize the house, build our business plan.

The truth is, we need time (take a breath) to be creative. I talk about what John Cleese – one of my all-time favorite interviews – said about what it takes to be creative. (Spoiler: It has nothing to do with hustle.)

The truth is, we need time (take a breath) to be creative, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Share on X

A fresh take on content quantity (11:52)

This new article in Digiday caught my eye this week because it speaks to what many of us in content marketing are noticing: With Ad Prices Declining, Creators Increase Their Production Volume.

Author Tim Peterson describes the “mixed bag” the coronavirus outbreak wrought for video content: “View counts and watch time for their videos have increased as people stay in their homes. But with many advertisers pulling back budgets, those viewership increases have primarily served to offset declines in branded content deals and platform ad prices.”

In response, “(C)reators are using this time to post more videos, including live videos on YouTube and Instagram, to attract new viewers in hopes that they will stick around after the pandemic is over and marketing dollars return.”

The article goes on to describe the effect on nine YouTube channels operated by digital studio TBNR. Viewership has nearly doubled since quarantines took effect in mid-March, but ad revenue declined by 50% to 70% in the same period. Still, merchandise sales tripled during that time.

As I read this, I wondered whether it’s a sensible strategy for media companies to flood the market with more content to make up for lost sponsorship or advertising revenue? In other words, if revenue from widgets drops from $10 to $1 each, does it make sense to start producing 10 times as many?

That feels like an approach that can’t last in the long term.

A somewhat related story, on CNBC, discusses how streaming and video consumption is up 38% in the short term. In the story, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said if stay-at-home orders last more than a few months, more of the new content will come from people and not from studios.

I talk about the options for media companies and content marketers:

  • Produce more – Take advantage of the moment that people are home and the time they theoretically have to spend consuming content.
  • Keep the cadence the same ­– Create levels of scarcity while increasing promotion of what we have, creating a more valuable content product.

I can’t promise I have all the answers. But I am sure of one thing: Assuming you can make it up in volume is a surefire way to lose the long game, especially if you’re producing more of an inferior product.

Assuming you can make up losses by producing more #content is a surefire way to lose the long game, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Share on X

This week’s person making a difference in content: Joseph ‘JK’ Kalinowski (18:49)

My guest this week is Joseph Kalinowski (known as JK to most), who has served as the Content Marketing Institute’s creative director since the organization’s beginning. He oversees the creative and art direction for all CMI, Content Marketing World, and ContentTECH projects. He’s been an art director for 18 years and a student of creativity at least that long.

JK and I talked about the challenges of creativity in a time a crisis – and the new creativity track at Content Marketing World 2020.

One story JK told me explored how a simple sidewalk art project he’s doing with his daughters during the shutdown is refueling his creative fire – and how he expects he’s not the only content creator feeling this way.

Here’s a snippet from our talk (and a picture of the artist at work):

To get back to the basics of drawing, of just creating something – sitting down in front of an empty canvas or just allowing yourself time to think about a project instead of just hopping into a project … Imagine all the stuff we’re going to see in the next year or two that’s all spurred from people just sitting around.

Imagine all the creative projects in 1-2 years that’s spurred from people just sitting around, says @jkkalinowski via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Share on X

Listen in to our conversation, then get more from JK:

One content marketing idea you can use (34:25)

The article I’d love for you to take another look at is John Cleese on Creativity. This fantastic article by Clare McDermott stems from her interview with the actor, comedian, and creativity scholar when he gave the closing keynote presentation at Content Marketing World 2015.

As I mention earlier, the time I got to spend with John might have been the most enjoyable few hours of my career. I’d love for you to enjoy a few moments with him as well. Don’t miss the video highlights of his presentation.

Love for our sponsor: Content Marketing University

The all-new 2020 curriculum features six courses from Robert Rose and 50-plus hours of ancillary content from top industry leaders diving deep into the topics you care about.

It’s perfect for enterprise brands and entire departments looking to hone their skills together and individual professionals wanting to advance their own practice of content marketing.

Use the discount code FRIEND200 for a $200 discount on access to the courses for an entire year when you register by April 30.

The wrap-up

Join us again next week for all the dad jokes. We’ll ask, “Can February March?” (No, but April May.) I’ll point out one news item that lost its entire left side – but don’t worry, it’s all right now. I’ll offer a content marketing tip that’ll tell you how the sausage is made. It’s the wurst. And, with all the statistics flying around lately, I’m reminded how much I hate negative numbers. I’ll stop at nothing to avoid them. And it’ll all be delivered in a little less time than it takes to decide on a new Zoom background.

If you have ideas for what you’d like to hear more of on our weekly play on words, let us know in the comments. And if you love the show, we’d sure love for you to review it or share it. Hashtag us up on Twitter: #WeeklyWrap.

To listen to past Weekly Wrap shows, go to the main Weekly Wrap page.

How to subscribe

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute