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The Value of Intangibles


While I usually love brunch with friends, today I nearly canceled. I am overwhelmed by a lack of sleep and a bulging inbox. I wondered if I could, or even should, relax with so much to do. The plan, brunch and a trip the Renegade Craft Fair. Why not tuck into a decadent meal, devour intellectually tasty conversations and then scoop up crafty, geeky treasures?

Alas, brunch was missing the lazy ease one may consider Sunday’s raison d’etre. Later at the Renegade Craft Fair, we split up to enjoy the wares at our own pace. I wandered upstairs to a DIY booth and paid five dollars to get crafty.

It was not until someone mentioned the time that I realized I was in what we often call “the zone” for hours. Not a zone with visible output to show my productivity, but a zone where time past without recognition, and I forgot about anything other than the objects in my hand. I quietly punched grommets, cut pieces of wire and glued chunks of cardboard to a pile of puzzle pieces and computer keys. My phone died, and I almost fell asleep on the way home. I relaxed, and now I feel oddly restored.

We often consider “the zone” a period during which our mastery of skills and narrow focus result in boundless productivity. I don’t have much to show for my afternoon except a funny looking art project, and my laundry basket is still overflowing. Was I productive?

Maybe there’s another kind of “zone” unmarked by obvious productivity, but equally valuable to our well being?

Must productivity be measured by output?

How do you measure the intangibles, like an improved state of mind or the fresh outlook and determination that results from setting aside a seemingly impossible problem for just a few hours?

We often dismiss what we can’t measure, but I believe that the value of intangibles is more than a rounding error. Dismiss the intangibles at your own risk. I don’t dare.

  1. Rich Pearson
    August 2, 2010 at 12:57 am
  2. grmeyer
    August 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Stepping away yields great ideas — keep seeking “flow” and you’ll like the results

  3. Liza Sperling
    August 11, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I don’t think I knew I was seeking flow, but somehow it found me.

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