Lars Karbo
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Helication - Doing Nothing as a Productivity Strategy

by Lars Karbo • 16th Jan 2022

After finishing 12 startups in 12 months, I was struck by one big question: "what the heck should I do now?" Choose one of the projects and go all-in? Find a company or startup to work for? As I was sitting nervously on my couch thinking about this newfound problem, I had a realization. The best thing might be to do nothing.

Well, I don't mean doing nothing like just staring at the wall. Forever. But at least for this in-between period I should do as little as possible. Some activities just take away too much of your grand-perspective, horizon, opportunity-seeking abilities. Some activities need to be forcibly shut down in a period like this.

Helication to the Rescue

Work is like being in the trenches. Nowhere to hide, nowhere to relax. Always things to do, always problems to fix. The only way to get out is to be rescued by a helicopter.

A creative remix of Andrew Howat’s The Trenches.

As you hang on to the rope on your way up, you will see more and more of the landscape around you. You will see how different the landscape, different objects, and movements connect and interact. Maybe you’ll see some things burning, and get an urge to jump down and fix it. Like an itch you shouldn’t scratch. Even further up you might see a great opportunity somewhere. The urge to jump down and start the new project is even stronger. But you need to hold on to the rope all the way up.

Taking a helication means properly retreating, regrouping and completely reassessing possible next steps in the periods between jobs. If you fail to take a proper break, there is a chance you never got out of your rabbit hole, and could therefore not see the opportunities you had.

A Focused Mind don’t see Opportunities

Sometime, the only way to solve a problem is to get out and do something else. Your brain works differently when it is focused on something and when its not. This is why you so often get good ideas in the shower.

A Black Hawk with a shower inside. Is this the perfect setup for a Helication?

Working on details will give you tunnel vision. You should give your intuition the best chance possible to see the next opportunities.

Stay in the helicopter for some time. Your brain needs time to readjust and let go.

What to do During Helication

I have a serious problem of always wanting to working on a bunch of small projects. Having multiple balls in the air has become my default.

During my Helication, I have had to accept to see things burn. There are applications with bugs, client websites with flaws, and people desperately needing my help to fix “small problems”. A strict “no” is the only thing that works here.

For me, coding can be an extremely mind focusing activity. Especially if I get frustrated when solving a problem. Before I know it, my head is buried deep into a problem space and I’m not able to be present and see external opportunities.

I have found interacting with people to be the ultimate horizon widening and opportunity generating mechanism. Ping your network, hang out with different people, talk to friends, host dinners. Interacting with people is a great way to discover different opportunities and feed your intuition with all kinds of new ideas and ways to look at things.

Conclusion

It sounds weird, but sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing. In periods of life when you are assessing your next opportunities, step away from things that keep you busy.

Take a virtual helicopter out of the trenches, and you will see opportunities, roads and possibillities you never knew existed.