The Trash Can Is Your Friend

“The waste paper basket is your friend,” according to The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood. She told Adam Grant (Work Life Podcast, “The Reason You Procrastinate”) this relationship is how she deals with procrastination and getting creative. Before we have good ideas, we have to have ideas. The process of getting thoughts on the table happens first, and judgment of their goodness or badness happens second. Our friend the trash can is there to graciously accept the bad ones after we’ve created them.

Befriending the trash can is a simple strategy we can use for ourselves and when untangling the (sometimes confuses) logic of clients. the exercise of fully forming the idea, or even just saying them out loud, can help us reach a point of judgment. Usually, the quality of the idea boils down to its underlying assumptions. ”Oh, you think this and that are related? Let me explain,” is far better than silently wondering “how on earth are they arriving at that conclusion?”

It’s a lot easier to just avoid producing the ideas in the first place. it’s a lot easier to just assume we, or someone else is, is just crazy. That’s why procrastination is so convenient and creativity can feel blocked. Professionally, it’s just as important. Avoidance is not a strategy for any relationship business. Before we can start judging ideas, they have to be on the table. We’ve got a lot of questioning and listening to do before we start talking, explaining, or judging with clients.

The trash can is our friend. The habit of creating ideas comes before the process of judging them. When we stumble upon brilliance, we get to keep it. When we fall into idiocy, our friend is there to take it off of our hands.

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