When it all clicks into place, and you finally start seeing the highway to getting things done opening up before you, what should you do? You jam your foot down on the accelerator and motor into action with every ounce of drive, skill and enthusiasm you have.
I’ve written about the slumps. I’ve written about getting back on the horse. This is about taking advantage when you feel that creative energy bubbling to the surface. Time’s too precious to waste it.
I hope you like the shark-inspired title by the way. Today’s doodle inspired me.
1) Prioritise and execute
Don’t spring into work immediately. Abe Lincoln said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” So, take out a piece of paper, and write down exactly what you’ve got to do – be specific. Make the tasks small enough to be achievable, but not so small they’re not worth ticking off on their own (use your judgement).
2) Keep the momentum going
Start working. Do it right now – don’t go and make a cup of tea, or reorganise your shoes into alphabetical order. Get going on that first item. Work until it’s done. Tick it off.
Jerry Seinfeld once spoke about his creative process (great article on another Seinfeld quote here, by Jacob Ruiz).
It’s pretty simple. Every day he writes material, he marks a big, red X on his calendar. He goes on:
“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
Now, considering his standing in the comedy world, and a net worth higher than most Fortune 500 CEOs, he’s obviously doing something right – critically and commerically.
Take a leaf out of his book. Tick those items off your list, build speed and momentum, relishing each completed task as you go.
3) Focus on right now
One of my biggest challenges is staying focussed on the task at hand. I go off on tangents, often thinking about potential future projects and ideas. Not wanting to lose them, I scribble them down. This inevitably leads to drawing, definitely some wild Googling and perhaps a quick flick through my bookshelf. That’s a no no for getting stuff done (although it is fun, and definitely has a time and a place).
Meditation has been of massive help to me in learning to stay in the moment. You’ll do your best work if you can stop being buffeted around by a constant tide of unwanted thoughts. I’d recommend downloading Headspace.
In a pinch, here’s a useful way to reset (I use it myself) when distraction calls:
- Breathe in through your nose, as deeply as you can.
- Hold it for a few seconds.
- Release slowly through your mouth.
- Throughout, focus on how the breath feels; the heat around your nostrils, your chest expanding and contracting, the air rushing into your lungs. If you start thinking, come back to the breath.
- Repeat 10 times.
Now get back to work with renewed focus and vigour.
Are you on a hot streak at the moment? How do you manage your creative process? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.