First Things First: The Matrix
Many people are always doing urgent tasks they put off too long. This is no way to nurture creativity or success. Success guru Stephen Covey developed this time-management matrix. Lesson: Always try to be doing important/non-urgent tasks.
"Brilliant work is no accident." So writes Todd Henry, author of the inspiring book "Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant On a Moment's Notice" (Portfolio, 2012, $25.95), podcast and website (accidentalcreative.com). Henry doesn't sugarcoat what successful creatives already know: "structure and practice" are essential. And time scheduled for it.
Consider Ernest Hemingway's rigid schedule of getting up early, writing until mid-afternoon and then heading to the bars. He might have been a drunk, but only after the writing got done. This type of scheduling is evident in creative after creative.
So how to convince your right-brain, distinguished self to plan and get organized? You need to learn basic principles and then practice until it becomes second nature.
- Break big projects down into small. Then schedule the steps and have fun!
- Keep appointments with yourself.
- Stop obsessing. Schedule and think about something else until it's time to work.
- Write everything down, whether in a Moleskine, hipster PDA or in your smartphone.
- Don't drown your potential with a bunch of trivia filling your head. Weed it out.
- Keep notes in one place instead of scattered all over your desk.
- "Process" all your notes, papers and ideas once a week or so. Figure out what actions to take and schedule them, even if it's just buying paintbrushes or making an outline.
- Take time to get organized between more creative steps. Draft like mad; edit; repeat.
- If it can be done in less than two minutes, do it right now. If not, schedule it.
- Don't think your work is supposed to be perfect, or even good, the first time. Decide to do what writer Anne Lamott calls "sh*tty first drafts." You can, and should, edit it later.
- Just promise yourself you'll work for five minutes. That'll usually pull you in if you focus.
- Don't just put out fires; be proactive. Frazzled does not equal creative. In fact, it prevents it.
- Push yourself to finish every task and every project. Don't just do 90 percent and give up like so many people do. Go the distance.
Creative ideas are everywhere! Don't be too frazzled to notice them.