Everyone’s Complaint Department: Focus

The ‘Everyone’s Complaint Department’ series of comic strips began as random doodles and reflection pieces of Alvin Teoh, ECD of Naga DDB Tribal.

These little stories featured in MARKETING magazine were originally posted on Facebook and are an ongoing tribute to life in Adland. The comic depicts Alvin’s early days in the advertising industry and words from the Executive Creative Director (ECD) himself.

One of my favourite books about this industry is ‘Up The Agency: The Funny Business Of Advertising’ by Peter Mayle. He started as a writer, spent 13 years in Madison Avenue and eventually became CD and retired in Provence. In his book, there’s an entire chapter dedicated to the creative process of brainstorming where he compares it to people waiting for a bus to arrive – they’re just sitting there staring into space, to the annoyance of account managers going ape shit because it’s the minute after the last minute before a presentation!

Well, we don’t actually have that luxury anymore, because these days everything seems more complex, more urgent, more threatening. Everything seems more, except the budget.

And so we become busy from being busy and quite often, we miss the chance of coming up with better insights, better solutions, better ideas, better whatever. We used to joke, work is getting in the way of work.

I think, what is needed more than ever is some serious active procrastination. (not to be confused with passive procrastination, which basically means you’re a lazy ass.) Active procrastination is actually a form of thinking. Ideas need an incubation period. I’m unsure of how the brain works, but I think our subconscious mind is actually doing some hard work connecting the dots, navigating through a series of doors that unlock stored lessons and tapping into the power of imagination. And when the time is right, which can be loosely translated as being ‘the last minute’, something magical happens – you have a vision, a narrative, a compelling message, an image, an idea. Sometimes it takes a few seconds. Other times, a few days, a few weeks and even a few years.

Ideas are somewhat like meat. It can be fast food, it can be steak, or it can be stew. There’s a time and place for everything for sure, but the best tasting ones need some simmering time.

So, while we are juggling a ton of stuff on a daily basis, do make time for active procrastination.

It actually takes a lot of focus and self-discipline to be a procrastinator. But the results would be worth it.

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