As I open up my editor in full-screen mode to fill the white space with words, I am suddenly reminded of a little girl who was my classmate in second grade. The teacher had just handed out these huge paper sheets with the objective to draw an “exciting winter scene.” “Show us an activity you like to do in winter.”
Not even thirty seconds later the girl had signed the white paper on the back and handed it to the befuddled teacher with the words: “My favorite activity in winter is to look out my window in the morning when all is white, and no one has made any prints on it yet.”
And that is exactly where we stand. We always have the choice to leave everything as it is, which looking back at all the things we messed up, may not be the worst choice. However, that is not who we are as humans or as individuals. We cannot just do nothing. We act, we build, we fiddle; we create stuff. Hence, there is no way an empty screen will keep me happy for too long. You may be at a different place right now. You may just want to consume and contemplate. That is okay. But trust me it will change.
Step One: Decide if you rather create or consume.
Don’t get me wrong. You can, of course, create and consume, but you can consume – or enjoy may be a better word – without wanting to create. You can enjoy books, movies, your car, nature, etc. without wanting to create anything. That is a great state to be in. Pure enjoyment. It is great when you do it consciously.
But as soon as you decide that you want to make something, this is what you should do.
Step Two: Ideas, Ideas, Ideas
Ideas are worth nothing without action. But an action without direction also doesn’t lead anywhere, right? That is why you need to have ideas that are worth your time pursuing them. How to come up with a good idea? Come up with a lot of bad ones. I don’t know how many ideas it takes to have a really really good one. But chances are your average idea is not that great. Mine are not. Most of my good ones don’t hold up for long, either.
Based on this observation James Altucher describes a method for “learning” to come up with better ideas in his book “Choose Yourself!“. He recommends making it a daily practice to jot down at least ten ideas per day. Those ideas don’t have to be focused on an area. They can be anything. Just whatever comes to your mind. But you have to do it daily. As he writes, that makes a minimum of 3,650 ideas a year just through this exercise. By doing so, you train your brain to come up with ideas, a lot of ideas.
Step Three: Let Go and Relax
It is known that our unconscious mind can do a lot of heavy lifting when we let it. Being confronted with a problem it can be beneficial to take a break and do something else to let our brain deal with it in the background, while we do other stuff. The best ideas don’t happen in meeting rooms; they happen under the shower, in the gym, while walking the dog, etc.
You cannot force ideas as you cannot squeeze water out of a stone. So don’t do it. Try to get a lot of different impressions, experience new stuff. Be open. Give your thoughts some air to come out.
What I do right now (and this can change as always): I have two times a day where I spend about 10-15 minutes coming up with my ten ideas, first thing in the morning and right before I go to bed. Right now I collect these in Trello, but a small notebook, or index cards would also work for me, I guess. Trello is nice, because it allows me via the iPhone app to jot down all ideas I have during the day.
Once a week I sift through all the ideas and consider which ones I’d like to work on (as you may guess, not too many). I sort these into two lists for short term and long term goals. Again, good about Trello is that I can place them around as I want, with one idea each on top of each list. Those are the ones that I am working on right now.
So decide if you want to get creative and put your stuff out into the world, commit to it and let the creative juices flow!
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Btw, I can only recommend reading “Choose Yourself!” by James Altucher. I found it very entertaining.
This is Quick Tip No 52! Let’s celebrate one year of things that work for me.
photo credit: classic_film