Dear friends, colleagues and fellow digital nomads, this one is for us.
For us who live both the bright and dark side of being our own boss, who can arrange our work the way we like (well, the way we can)…but then, we have to be able to follow through.
Today, I’ll try to answer a million-dollar question:
how to keep track of our thousand ideas?
How to keep up the enthusiasm when we have to turn ideas into practice?
How to move from the idea to a project without losing one’s way?
It’s not just a problem for creative freelancers, like graphic designers, photographers, bloggers.
Coming up with an idea for a promotion, development, contest or project all of a sudden or while chatting with a friend and drinking a glass of wine is something that happens to everybody (at least, I hope it’s the same for you).
After taking a note by scribbling on a pub napkin (bad choice) or on the agenda we always bring along with us (good), we set out to fulfil our idea and put it into practice but then…
Then, we have our planned deliveries to take into account.
Then, the unexpected deliveries.
Then, there’s our personal life that we can’t neglect.
Then, there come Easter, Christmas and all the bank holidays.
And then Saturday and Sunday, that are sacred.
So, the idea stays in the agenda (good) or on the napkin that will end up in the garbage when you next empty your bag, among used tissues, receipts and blank cheques (too bad).
How to avoid all this? How to practically treasure those moments of altered clarity of mind that are the continuous creative processes?
Let’s examine a few tricks.
1 – Where to write down your idea
Ok, we got that the napkin or table mat in the pub is not good even if it has a romantic touch. It’s definitely not practical.
Some people take notes on their phone and it’s not a bad idea at all because our mobiles are by now part of ourselves, or else black boxes in the true and proper sense.
Yet, I hardly get back to the notes taken on my mobile, so I’d rather use my pocketbook. I actually like pocketbooks, I love to flip through the pages and write in italics, using different colours. I get inspired from doing this (somehow, I’ve never reached the age turning point and still feel like I’m eight years old).
The point is, take a note on a medium you generally check and use, where it’s difficult to note something down and then forget about it.
It’s not just that: write a note on a medium that you love to hold in your hands and that you usually go back to, read or look at. I know a business analyst would think this makes no sense, but the aesthetic and emotional aspect is more important than a potential money gratification for those who daily have to manage the traffic of their own motivation interspersed with discouragement.
2 – From draft to STEPS. And the idea becomes a project.
Whether the idea can take just an evening to come up, it takes time and different steps to fulfil it. To be fulfilled, the idea has to become a project.
Note down the steps you have to follow in a bulleted list (to be modified and updated) if you want to make your project come true.
3 – Don’t do everything all at once
Don’t get carried away and don’t try to do everything at once! I know you might be thinking that it’s better to take advantage of one’s enthusiasm while it’s there but I’m afraid to tell you that by acting like this, always fussing around, you’ll end up wearing it down.
Take it easy.
Write a date of the week next to every step in your bulleted list. If possible, choose a day when you’re not going to be overburdened with other things to do.
Set the alarm clock on your phone and learn how to prioritize that note.
If you noted down that next Saturday you’ll put step two of your project into practice (for instance, if it’s about an event, start getting in touch with or looking for collaborators), consider it a commitment and don’t get busy with other things.
This way, you’ll start dealing with your idea as a work commitment.
4 – Empty your (damned) desk.
Please forgive my vehemence and assertiveness but I’ve been caring very much about this topic lately.
Never neglect to empty your desk of useless things; it’s actually a very important thing to do to make room for useful things, first of all AN EMPTY SPACE.
It’s not just a trick, it’s actually cognitive psychology. Cleanliness and empty spaces are essential elements to put a project into practice, not just for the creative processes but also for the most practical parts.
The desk is like life (especially for a freelancer): you need to get rid of old things to make room for new ones. Including ideas.
5 – Share your idea with someone but not everyone.
I’ve personally learned how to be discriminating when sharing my ideas. I only share them with people who have a genuinely positive attitude, who see the solution before the problem, who start by saying “I like it” and then move on to a detailed analysis of the risks of failure.
I know this does not comply with company policies about the SWOT analysis… but who cares, end of the day you’re a #digitalnomad and you know that the company functional algorithms don’t work that good in your field; yours is actually a way of working that needs to be totally revised.
And the revision doesn’t start from a manual, oftentimes it comes from a napkin in a pub.
Considering I’m currently having some great ideas that are turning into projects, whoever can give further suggestions for me to avoid getting lost, please write them in the comments below.