You probably know the feeling. You’ve been slogging away and reached a point in the project where you feel like you can take a breather before the next push. But some look like they’re not relaxing. They’re still apparently working at it.

So what’s going on? Are they just being busy for the sake of it? Could be. Presentism is still a thing, even in agencyland.

If not, and you’re one of the ones still busy pedalling, then maybe the answer is you can recognise a false flat for what it is – a point in the journey that might look like a break, but isn’t a pause. It’s actually the really important place where you have the chance to look up at where you thought you were headed – and make sure where you (the team. The client) still need to be.

I think about false flats (“a low-gradient climb, usually occurring partway up a steeper climb. So-called because while it may look deceptively flat and easy – especially after the steep climb preceding it – it is still a climb”) a fair bit. Quite literally, as my cycle home features a lung-busting (for a puffed out old man anyway) slog up one of the Chiltern Hill’s delightful climbs. Ok, it’s certainly no Alpe ‘d Huez but as you can see from the gradient, it’s a classic ‘phew, we’re there. Ah. No we’re not.”

So the point where many will be glad for the break is where the more restless among us will be taking the moment of (deceptive) respite to have a good think about ‘what’s next’?

And as a kind of P.S. to the restless spirit the passing of the theatre director Peter Brooke at the weekend was a good time to remember what it effects.

Brooke was “restlessly creative” and his legacy in theatre deserves be more widely known outside of the singular art-form of ‘the stage’. From appreciative audiences to critics alike, all agreed on a “piercing ability to bring clarity” and a vividness with maximum economy and effect.

“I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage… (someone) walks across the empty space whilst someone else is watching… and this is all that’s needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.”

Peter Brooke

Apparently his restlessness wasn’t bullish busy-ness – “A few soft words of advice and he’d be gone.”

Not the all-the-time-annoying-questioning for the sake of it -ness.

It’s about looking for an economy of means (or effort) for maximum effect by questioning what’s needed for the end result at the point where you aren’t at the top just yet.

Every project has its false flats. Time then is to ask ‘if we’re going up there, lets make sure it’s worth it.’

Oh, and to nod to Brooke again: “Don’t take anything for granted. Go and see for yourself.” Especially when it comes to heeding my advice about how to tackle that next hill.

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About Richard Hill

Creative director, writer, designer, illustrator based in the UK with global project experience and consulting skills across sectors.

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