We often do our best creative work within clearly defined structures, like containers, that hold what we are doing, measure what we are doing, and give us clear feedback as to how we are progressing. Yes, there are times when we come up with that amazing idea when in the shower or on a run, but these are often seeds of ideas and to grow them into something mature and useful requires work. Work that is best done in a framework that will maximise our time and energy.
So let’s look at what cleaver little containers we can create to develop a good idea into a fully-fledged useful thing!
I read a lot of books, listen to podcasts, have past experience in business, and coach people in entrepreneurship. I have this brilliant idea that all this knowledge and experience should be put into a book, or a course, or blogs, or all of the above. So I have a good idea. So what. I need some sort of structure to turn that good idea into the book, course, blog, whatever. So here’s what I do (and full credits to Dr. Jason Fox and his book The Game Changer for really clarifying this process for me).
1. Define what I’m aiming for: This needs to be very specific. So in the example we are talking about, my defining statement is “I am writing a short 50,000 word book for entrepreneurs that distills all I have learnt up to this point that I have always wanted to give to my clients as a go-to resource.” There it is. Specific and succinct.
2. Put a time limit on it: You want to give yourself a start and end date to whatever it is you are doing. Using time as a container is powerful. We are wired for seasons, so keep that in mind too—maybe a summer project, or a winter one. For my example it is over a year: “I will write 1,000 words every Wednesday morning between 5-6am for 1 year.” It’s scheduled in my diary and at 5am on a Wednesday morning this is the priority.
3. Make it visible: You want to have good feedback about how you are going. I’m writing this book using software called Scrivener and it tracks the project goals as I write. I can see the overall target for the project (50,000 words), the session target (right now 908 words for today) and deadline. Progress bars give me visual feedback about how I’m going and as I get near the end of the hour and see that I’ve only done 400 words, I either need to increase my concentration and speed or know that next Wednesday morning I need to write a bit more to catch up. If it’s exercise or food you might be using charts, or an accountability partner, or even your friends on Facebook to keep your progress visible. When the visibility isn’t matching what you want to achieve in the time-frame you have something motivating you to change up a gear.
4. Make the feedback immediate: It’s no good if I have a big goal of writing 50,000 words in a year but don’t know what that breaks down to for every writing session and what I’m actually doing every session. I need immediate feedback during and at the end of every writing session to know where I’m up to in terms of word count. If you were to “read a book every fortnight” you need to know how many pages you need to read each day (and if that’s practical for you), for each book you pick up, and what you are actually achieving during your reading sessions. Whatever it is you are aiming for within a defined time period, make check lists, graph it, measure it however you can as you go—as you see the progress you will be more motivated to continue.