Creative professionals, entrepreneurs, and anyone else trying to make a name for him or herself has likely spent not insignificant amounts of time repeatedly checking their website's analytics, googling their name, perusing email alerts and Twitter search results, or reviewing bank account balance and sales data. Admit it, you know you check some of this stuff a little too often.
While all of this information is arguably important, none of it requires such constant review. In fact, much of this information could be revisited every few days or even weekly. Nevertheless, we have the tendency to revisit this data constantly. Why? After multiple conversations about this phenomenon (and some introspection), I have come to realize that a very human sense of insecurity is at the core of this behavior.
Quite simply, I have come to define "Insecurity Work" as stuff that we do that (1) has no intended outcome, (2) does not move the ball forward in any way, and (3) is quick enough that you can do it multiple times a day without realizing it. For some reason, checking on things helps put us at ease.
While I am sure that there has always been a temptation for people to spend their time on insecurity work, new technology and ubiquitous online access have made it easier than ever before to indulge in such activities. Data that could make you feel more at ease is now always at your fingertips. Like a drug that promises instant gratification, we always have a desire to access it - again and again. Why? Because, deep down inside, we are always wondering what we are missing. We want to feel safe.
To cure ourselves of the addiction of insecurity work, we must employ a combination of awareness, self-discipline, and delegation tactics.
1. The first step is to recognize what you do in your everyday life that is, in fact, insecurity work. Whether it is googling the same search terms again and again or constantly checking your email inbox as if it were a boiling pot of water, develop a sense of self-awareness.
2. The second step is to establish some guidelines and rituals for yourself. Allow yourself a 30-minute period at the end of every day (or, if you dare, every week) where you can go through the list of things you're curious about. Perhaps make all of these things bookmarks in a browser that you don't normally use - and only open it when allowed!
3. The third step, if applicable to you, is to delegate the task of checking on this data to a less insecure colleague who can review the data in moderation. The colleague should be told to review the data daily and - only when necessary - tell you when something is wrong.
The purpose of reducing your amount of insecurity work is to free up your mind, energy, and time for generating and taking action on ideas. Insecurity work threatens to weigh us down and prevent us from escaping the never-ending ticker of what the world thinks. To envision what will be, you must remove yourself from the constant concern of what already is.
***This article is adapted from the research and writing of Scott Belsky and the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the Action Method project management application, the Creative Jobs List, and develops knowledge, products, and services that help creative professionals make ideas happen.