If you’re like most creative entrepreneurs, you know how to come up with ideas, and you have more inspiration than you know what to do with. Sometimes though, that’s exactly what happens: You don’t know what to do with the influx of ideas, so you don’t do anything. Several culprits keep you stuck in this holding pattern:
1 . Not knowing where to start, you may take a stab at a task having just been inspired by a random blog post, book, podcast, someone’s suggestion. That particular task is a one off, and not one that you repeat consistently. It has minimal impact on your business.
2. You burn through all of your available creative energy on a given day, jumping around social platforms looking at what everyone else is doing, and then give up, confused by too much information, and/ or discouraged by the comparisons you made. You’ve distracted yourself because you don’t have a roadmap, and you’re searching for ideas and next steps.
There are so many ways we can get in our own way, and of course, the more imaginative you are, the more elaborate the detours from the goal will be.
As a creative, I’ve definitely fallen prey to all of these issues, and have wound up jogging in circles on many unproductive hamster wheels.
Recently, having just run in circles, bingeing on too much stimulation, I realized what was keeping me from actually being productive in my business:
Not taking the time to get clear, strategize, and put effective systems in place.
That sounds dauntingly serious, and the antithesis of fun, right ? Fear not, it really can be fun to watch yourself progress in one linear direction.
Ironically, I’ve been working with my coaching clients since 2004, most recently in highly creative organizations like Google, Dropbox, and Facebook, helping my clients do what I haven’t been doing for myself. I coach them to organize their thoughts, distill the information in their brains down to themes, then task it out.
Aha ! why not apply some of that clear sightedness to my own goals ?
I’ve set out to do just that here, starting with the illustration above. I printed it and posted it to my fridge, (where I’m often found lurking when procrastinating). Feel free to do the same.
Before I jump in with some tips, indulge me just a moment while I mention my unique competitive edge – forgive the term, I just listened to a podcast about it and figured I’d throw it out there.
I’m in the 40 + creative entrepreneur category, and have been around the block a few times as an entrepreneur, marching to the tune of my own drum on two continents, for decades. The reason I mention that, truly, beyond trying to sound trendy, is that I know what does and doesn’t work for me.
And that’s what I encourage you to do too. Turn down some of the noise, so you can listen to yourself, set goals, choose systems and processes that work for you. That includes being realistic about where you are now, and what your output can look like.
Start by getting above the chatter to craft a high level view:
Try answering these questions in whatever order works
What am I trying to do ?
Why is it important for me to do it now ?
How long have I been trying ?
What’s working and what’s not ?
What am I willing to both let go of, and start doing, to make it work now ?
Pull yourself out of the self-defeating, but oh so intoxicating weeds, and:
Journal, sit and contemplate, incubate on it, do whatever works for you, but get clear on the what , the why and the why now.
Next: Find Systems to organize your creative thoughts
If you’re into informative podcasts, blog posts, instagram images, pinterest boards, what do you do with the learning and the inspiration that comes from each new thing ?
No matter how you get inspired, you need to be able to get those ideas out of you, so your brain can process them.
This is where systems to capture ideas, organize ideas, create projects for ideas, then task out the ideas strategically becomes essential. These are age old creativity strategies, nothing new here. They’re made even more relevant today when so much information is available.
Some things you might like to try:
Sounds so simple, and yet so easy to forget, or ignore in those euphoric moments of over stimulation. So many of us have love affairs with our phones, let’s make them work for us, not against us. If you’re listening to a great podcast or book with wonderful ideas, you’re at an exhibit, whatever, use the Voice Memo function on your phone to record all the ideas that come up.
Mind Maps Stop and consolidate your thoughts. Resist the urge to jump in and do one random thing for your business, hoping for a quick win. Instead map it out, and get a holistic view of where you are and what you’re doing.
Mind maps are fun, and creative. I personally LOVE pen and paper. I use my colored pencils and favorite pens, and let rip, working quickly. I keep all the mind maps in a sketch book so I don’t lose them.
Exobrain is easy to use mind mapping software. I’ve been playing around with that one lately, so I can keep going back to it and add more ideas.
Next you’ll want to :
Organize ideas and task them out
Now that you’ve captured your thoughts, it’s time to organize them. There’s lots of software out there for this, and I encourage taking the time to learn and use one. I like this tool, called To Doist. It lets you break tasks down into projects, then timed to do’s. It’ll work across all your devices. So let’s say you’re bored in line at the supermarket, checking, for messages, texts, facebook, or anything else on your phone, you can do a quick check in on your plan instead. It’ll keep you focused.
Make strategic decisions as you look at whatever idea capture method you use, and break it down into a, or multiple projects.
Before jumping in to do something, ask yourself how what you’ve chosen will move the needle towards your larger goal – then take small, consistent steps, and reward yourself when you do it.
Avoid the temptation to pop back up into ideas land when you get into the work that requires concentrated effort.
Summing up: to reach that coveted and sometimes elusive creative goal, reign yourself in and get organized. Use the analytical part of your brain to support your creative brilliance.
- Get really clear on what it is you’re driving towards.
- Set up processes and systems that will help you capture your great ideas.
- Project manage the heck out of them !
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what works for you.