Sigh...another unsettled day.
It started with a bang but ended with a thud. A quick glance at my days todo list reads: design home page, email Sara regarding the upcoming event, brain storm new project ideas, get client web host quotes, draft Tuesday's meeting agenda, buy milk, review sight words with son, and on and on and on.
This used to be the shape of my daily plan. I’d list all the urgent items and try to get them done. All in one day. The list, usually much longer then the sample above, proved to be a recipe for failure. I felt defeated and inefficient daily. Just a simple glance of my old list induced a tea kettle-like sigh. This wasn’t just stuck in a rut, it felt more like buried alive, under a bounce house, with a small army of toddlers jumping on top.
A, B, C, Not As Easy As 1, 2, 3
I’ve tried the A, B, C type methods (A=critical tasks, B=important but can wait, C=not important and can wait) with mild success. However, over time, I’ve found most things begged to be on the A list. This made the list too much to grasp in a single day and was rarely completed. In short, if a task wasn’t an A list item, it had absolutely no shot at getting done. This then made the B and C lists a constant, growing reminder of what I was not doing. Not the most accomplished way to view your day.
I have since devised a different method. I still create my lists of prioritized A (must actions) and B (niceties or maybes) list tasks but I have since dropped the C list. I then try to focus on one to three A list (must) tasks per day, no more. I still keep my grand list of things I want done, but my daily list is much cleaner with only three major tasks listed to get done.
What warrants an A list item?
I would say anything critical to your business, finances or relationships such as deadline driven tasks and assignments (the project launch, exhibit due date, bills, etc.). Include anything that will get you fired, divorced, in hot water, incur a financial lose or other high stakes.
However, I also include things that are important, but not deadline driven, such as business or personal development, future thinking, relationship building, networking, and so on. Think goal setting, designing your new products, lattes with a lost contact or writing an industry blog post.
Keep One For You
I try to save one of my three tasks for one thing that is for me. This can be a hobby, passion or simply something that makes me tick and energizes me. For instance, I have a few passions outside design such as teaching, fitness, reading, music and sports. So, I try to schedule one thing like: a visit to the gym during lunch, soccer with my son after school, or reading my favorite “how to” book before giving up the ghost. These are small items that make the difference between a regular ole day and a truly rocking day.
I can hear you saying: “not possible Eric, I just have way too many things going on to narrow down to three!” I find myself saying the same thing. I remind myself that most things we try to do in a day are not major tasks. A and B list items should never include reoccurring things such as regular meetings and email. Items like those are simply scheduled in windows around my A list times. Never let email, Facebook or the smart phone rule your day again.
Focusing on three major wins a day not only increased my ability to focus but it dramatically helped me feel more accomplished at the end of the day. If you ask me, feeling good at the end of the day is quantum leaps more important than winning a productivity award. Even just 30 minutes on one task just for you, could change your outlook and make the day feel a bit more interesting. A couple days like this in a row make for an interesting week. A couple of interesting weeks, could eventually add up to an interesting life. :)
Worth a try?
With a whiteboard full of world beating ideas, we run back to our dwellings high on the rush of accomplishing something bigger than ourselves (or at least bigger than we previously thought doable). However, that delightful buzz seems to putter into a sandpaper-like drag after a few days or weeks.
This happens for a variety of reason. Often, it’s life's commitments such as deadlines, the boss’s agenda or kids figuring back into the picture. However, the main reason I see the lose of excitement lead to an aborted project is the lack of breaking big ideas into smaller, easily digested pieces. Most great ideas worth chasing can appear too grand to act upon. They can cause us to get lost in “where do I startland” or “what to do nextville”. The smaller and more granular one can get with these big ideas and tasks, the easier it is to stay committed to their path. Moreover, the more likely the original idea will be realized.
Let me explain further.
Let’s say while looking at the white board of new potential projects, you’ve determined the one that reads: “Become an Interactive Designer” is the idea that sparks the most excitement. Before skipping off to check the Facebook feed, while the excitement is still with you, take that goal and break it into smaller actionable tasks.
It could look like this:
Become an Interactive Designer
Take a user experience design course
Revise portfolio to feature more interactive projects
Learn HTML & CSS
Volunteer to design a non-profits web site
Continue on until you run out of ideas or actions. However, don’t stop there. Again, while you’ve got momentum on your side, take that new list of actions and prioritize them in an order you feel best accomplishes the end goal.
Example numero dos:
Become an Interactive Designer
1. Volunteer to design a non-profits web site
2. Learn HTML & CSS
3. Revise portfolio to showcase more “interactive” work
4. Take User Experience Design courses
Now, here is key. Take those priorities and get granular with them.
Example numero tres:
1. Volunteer to Design Non-Profits website
Granular (child) tasks:
a. Research local arts-based non-profits in my area
b. Make list of 5 contacts
c. Contact 2 non-profits a day to inquire about donating my services
d. Email Jennifer to inquire about the non-profit she works with
2. Learn HTML and CSS
Granular (child) tasks:
a. Research 5 html/css books on Amazon
c. Buy one book or service by Friday.
List as many as you feel accomplishes the action or task. It should be items and actions one could accomplish in a day or an hour if possible. The smaller, the better. Remember, these big ideas are usually projects that need to fit into an already full schedule, so it is critical that they squeak in the few small cracks of free time we have. It may feel small at first but if done each day, you will begin to build momentum.
Lastly, try to be very specific with these granular tasks. Instead of saying “research books”, it says “research 5 html and css books on Amazon”. Get specific with the time of day to complete the task if you like. Apply some pressure in the form of a deadline while giving yourself a clear map to victory can be a potent mix.
Conquering Mount Everest-like plans always seem to set off a round of high fives in the office and a celebratory round of high balls at the pub. However, it’s at your own peril if you adjourn to happy hour before you break your big goals into small granular bits that can be acted upon and achieved on a daily basis. So, sharpen the saw and start chopping up them goals up.
I pranced in here with a purpose but somewhere between the coffee press and my desk, my mind raced about the upcoming conference call, the cancelled dentist appointment, the 2 p.m. new client meeting and by the time I reached the my desk (7 seconds later)—I’ve forgotten what I originally walked in for. With my purpose now buried, I move on to checking email and further burying any other inspired thoughts.
Sadly, this actually happened. However, this could be why: I own a design business, lead a non profit, sit on a city commission, coach youth soccer and basketball, teach design at night, produce arts events all while staying focused on my family and their needs. While I tend to lean on the overactive side, I think many of us find ourselves in situations where our mental hard drives exceed their capacity and start giving us error messages.
Make A List=Stop Losing Sleep
There are a couple of remedies to this. One, is to simply reign in the activities (which I do). However, there are times when normally manageable commitments seem to cross paths and vomit their needs all at the same time (can you say...holidays). When this happens, one thing that has helped me to get a grip on it all and stop walking up at night, is to make a huge, grand list of everything I need to do.
This grand list includes everything I have on my mind. Yes, everything, from work tasks and volunteer obligations to home repairs and what I need to get from my next visit to Target. It’s one giant mental download of everything in my head. Not only is it a great mental relief but it can be quite fun as I usually find some idea or exciting project that got buried underneath all of my mental clutter.
Like other tips listed here, this task is hilariously easy to implement and gives back a huge payoff of clarity and good ole fashioned piece o’ mind. I started with a couple pages on a note pad. I just listed everything I could think of as they came to mind. I found I enjoyed seeing the contents of my entire head on a piece of paper. I lived with just paper lists for a few weeks but quickly graduated to digital documents. While paper is always accessible, it tends to look like a 3 year old art project after a few days. Digital allows for a quick and clean copy-paste for prioritization and elimination.
My current method is a hybrid of sorts. Every 3 to 4 months I create a grand list digitally. Then, I take the list and put each task or item on its own sticky note. Then, I prioritize them on a white board under the categories: today, this week, this month and this fall (or whatever season is currently underway).
I then focus my week by taking just that weeks priorities and placing them back on a single sheet of paper or digital to do list. I simply move one or three items up daily and focus on only those.
“It’s no wonder you can’t sleep”, my wife often states after I list everything I have on my mind. While making a grand list isn’t a cure all, it has given me relief every time I take 30 minutes or so to list everything crammed in my dome. I try to make a new list at the first sign of a forgotten task, no matter how small the task is (like forgetting to turn on the dish washer). I take it as my mind giving me a subtle warning it’s reaching capacity.
However, don’t wait for a break down. Also, don’t let the complexity of what I do stop you as I just strongly suggest simply emptying your mind and making a grand list. Then, try to prioritize it and see if you can see a game plan emerge. At the very least, it will act as a mental release valve of sorts. So, clear your head and forget about being forgetful—for a little while.
Actions For You:
1// Make a grand list on paper. Take a week and write down everything single “todo” action you may have in your head.
2// Prioritize them by this month, this week and today (feel free to add whatever time frame that suits you).
3// List this weeks top priorities on a new document and focus on only 3 a week (sound familiar?).
Bonus: Resource to Check Out
My preferred digital tool for my grand lists and weekly to do’s is Evernote. This handy app has been a godsend as it allows me to create lists on my laptop or mobile device and sync nicely to all my devices via the cloud. It has “todo” check list capabilities, organizes all my lists (or notes) in order of most recently updated and many more features I have yet to use.
This book by Stephen R. Covey has some very powerful methods and tools to help you prioritize your roles and tasks. It bases your actions and decisions by what you value most. Franklin Covey also have very handy paper based planners. I’ve used them in the past and found them very effective indeed. It’s a must for new comers to organization or those who are extremely frazzled.
This book, by David Allen, seems to be for the more seasoned planner or organizer, in my opinion. It has some very helpful methods for filling and sorting your mental, digital and paper-based inbox’s. This book also advocates the use of a master todo list and provides some excellent questions to help trigger any forgotten tasks that may still be causing your mind to worry about unconsciously.
It was for a research assignment for a user experience course. The task was to pick an activity we did regularly, track it and record the changes, if any, it had on our behavior. So, I tracked every bite of food that went into my mouth for seven days. By the end of the week, not only did my food choices clean up but my weight went down by four pounds.
Prior to the assignment, I had already begun to rethink my relationship with food. However, the act of writing down every piece of food I consumed, seeing the macronutrient total and the ability to get into my pants with out a large inhale, transformed fleeting thoughts into lasting behavioral changes. I had suspected my diet choices could use some tweaking but now I had proof on paper (and on the belt loops).
Seeing=Believing + Sharing=Caring
As cliche as the title above sounds, the potent combination of seeing every food choice listed each day paired with the knowledge that I would have to share them to a group of classmates, made me clean up my act. Monday, I passed on the coffee creamer. On Tuesday, I had one less piece of toast. By Wednesday, I skipped the morning toast completely. Day by the day, seeing the small drop in my weight made a believer out of me. While the idea of having to share my entire weekly food intake made me care about it all the more. I didn’t want to look like Boss Hog, literally and figuratively (pun intended).
Food, Quickbooks, Exercise, or Facebook.
Almost anything task or activity can be tracked and transformed. I have also done this with my work day, tracking every task I did during business hours. I listed everything from actual work, to reading industry blogs, reacting to email, responding to call/texts, Facebook, Quickbooks, trips to the water closet, everything!
The results were a swift punch square in the nose. I discovered how much time was allocated to email, calls and other so called “work tasks” such as keeping up with industry news and connecting on social networks. It showed me where most of my time went and gave me a good visual guide to what tasks I was most productive and what times this seemed to happen.
In addition to tracking specific actions, like the food experiment, I’ve also tracked general behaviors such as all of my work day actions. I’ve tracked general behaviors these two ways.
One with a piece of paper divided into three categories: bad, good and better. I then recorded each action and intuitively categorized them by how it made me feel when writing it down.
I have also tried a Covey-esque four quadrant matrix on a piece of paper. I divided it by tasks that were important and urgent (deadlines and bills), urgent not important (many emails and reoccurring meetings), important not urgent (marketing, new product development and business strategy), and not urgent and not important (some emails, mosts chats, and 99% of everything Facebook).
I find both methods are effective but it’s the two simple actions of recording each behavior and making a note of how they made you feel being the most important. So whatever you do, just try to track those two at a minimum.
The first few days of work behavior tracking were rough as it showed me all my work day warts. However, like the food experiment, by day four my behavior began to change and my time choices improved. Gone was the ichat and email was regulated to only specific times of the day. Again, every small change and better choice made each day a bit more productive. Thus, more productive days add up to a more fulfilling week.
Tracking behaviors is a very simple method that anyone can implement immediately. It can promote change or simply discover the how, what or why behind a behavior . All you need is a clean sheet of paper, a competent writing tool and a chosen behavior or action to track. So, track the coffee habit you’d like to change or find out if Instagram is snapping up your free time. You can also have fun with it. Listen to jazz during the morning commute or actually take a lunch break away from the desk for a week straight. Each day, just track the action and how it make you feel. Whatever you chose, if done with regularity, you will see results and the results will make you believe—things can change.
Pick one specific behavior you’d like to change or at least find some insights behind it.
Track every time you preform that behavior. You can include the time and place if you’d like. Do it for at least a week.
Compare and contrast any changes such as frequency, elevated mood or shift in behavior performance (these will obviously vary depending on what’s being tracked)
Have fun with it. Pick something you’d be excited to change or learn more about.
You’ve given yourself permission to be amazing again, your up earlier than usual but now you are wondering how to get this boat off the beach.
You know they’re in there. They want to come out. All those clever ideas, witty lines and Steve Job-esque innovations that seem to come to mind at the least opportune moments.
Like during the morning freeway crawl, a visit to the water closet or in the midst of some golden slumber at 3:00 AM. Like playful toddlers, these promising ideas tend to act up when you are crazy busy yet seem to run off and hide the moment you try to reign them in to do a little work.
Instead of having a demoralizing face off with a blank sheet of paper or digital equivalent, I found there are ways of getting these fickle ideas to come out of hiding and eventually get to work. Instead of strong-arming them to obey your command, you need to play around, just like them, and slowly draw them out (sometimes, literally).
The solution is simply this: writing, sketching or brainstorming on paper, done at the start of your day, for a minimum of two pages. If you are an artist, designer or illustrator looking for new visual ideas, start with a sketchbook and just doodle and doodle and doodle away. Don’t worry if it looks good. Allow yourself to draw poorly at first. Sketch as much as you like but set a hard limit of 2 pages.
If you are a writer or someone who has thoughts you want to get out of your dome, buy a blank note pad and just write. Even if you don’t know what to say, just keep the pen to the pad or the fingers to the keys and keep writing. Like sales, creativity can be a numbers game where you need to crank out a few bad pages to eventually get to something fresh, exciting and new.
This process was first introduced to me through a painting teacher who noticed I had a habit of working my paintings for too long. He encouraged me to “get in and get out” and produce a larger body of work rather than trying all semester to make a one or two masterpieces. The results of this prolific, sprint-like process produced dramatically better work (and more of it).
Later, it was reintroduced to me in the timeless classic The Artist Way. Author Julia Cameron uses a process she calls morning pages to help writers produce new ideas, crack the dreaded writers blocks or find their unique voice. She suggests to get three pages done, first thing in the morning. I’ve found this works for any discipline, not just writers, but I prefer two pages if it’s sketching or anything not free form writing. It’s just a more reachable goal that helps me feel accomplished.
Being the curious artist I am, I tend to mix it up to include sketches and/or mind-mapping brainstorms in addition to writing. I tend to pick one and do it for long stretches of a few weeks as this has shown to produce the best results without burnout. So mix and match the focus of your pages all you want however, a huge key is to consistently show up, around the same time each if possible.
Which method to try?
I use the three different methods (sketching, writing, brainstorming) to induce different results or growth.
I use the writing to help me process thoughts, empty my mind or generate writing ideas. I then take these writings and massage them into blog articles and newsletters. However, writing has also helped me tremendously in interpersonal conversations with clients, colleagues, friends and family.
Sketches help break me out of creative plateaus where I find myself gravitating to the same visual or familiar design solutions. Sketching for long stretches helps me explore new techniques and form new styles. Before long, I have a mountain of sketches that helps fuel both my client and personal work.
Brainstorming simply helps me generate a slew of topics and concepts. I tend to do this when the other two options stagnate or when I’m looking take an idea further. I sometimes double down and explore my brainstorming results deeper in writing or sketches. Again, the mixture of the three tools (sketching, writing or brainstorming) is where some real creative fireworks can happen. It’s not a science, but at times, it’s feels like one.
Yes, sometimes great ideas are like toddlers, you need to reach them through play and routine. If I routinely show up in the morning and allow myself to play in the process above. My ideas tend to show at that time as well.
While this may sound like a preference to quantity over quality, it’s really an acknowledgement that sometimes it takes quantity to get to quality. Proof—that creativity is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.
Actions For You:
1// Pick one method (sketching, writing or brainstorming) and commit to that one method for a few weeks to start before mixing.
2// Buy the tools you feel you need. Two to three blank sheets of paper and a sharp pencil is all you need. A new journal or sketchbook, dedicated to this process only is best (try to stay analog if possible).
3// Designate a place to do this work (preferably away from the usual desk). I use my kitchen table and leave my tools out the night before (my time is 5:30 am).
4// Schedule it and stick to it.
"Be prepared to reinvent yourself. Be prepared to go out on a limb occasionally. And be prepared to do things that you feel strongly about."
It never fails. Whenever you start to move towards something exciting, thats when everything in the world seems to sneak up and slip a mickey in your drink. You can count on it. I'm not sure what it is, but you can be sure "it" will happen.
So last week I took a long hard look at everything I am currently involved in. In the end I decided to give myself permission to have fun with my business again. To get back to the reasons I excited to start it in the first place. That turned into a a list of goals that I was to begin with.
So this week, I decided to begin to focus my website to showcase more digital and motion/video projects. I have always been passion about theses types of projects but always held onto my past. While I have always been willing to reinvent myself, (from a music industry print designer to motion graphics designer to a video director to a brand strategist to a ux-savvy interactive designer) I have never really stopped being my former selves either. Well, perhaps it's time.
Today, I stumbled upon the video self portrait of the late Hillman Curtis. He starts off by declaring: "my name is Hillman Curtis, I'm a filmmaker." There is no mention of his former titles. I mention this because I recall, when I was still relatively new to the design industry, I was consciously trying to move away from being a music industry print designer. I was focusing on non-print projects such as film direction, motion design and interactive/ web design. Anything non-print would do.
The studio I was working for at the time was pitching a movie website to a potential new client. The client was impressed with our work and samples and we were selected as one of the top tow candidates to win the bid. We inquired who the other candidate was and the client got a big, bright smile and said: "Hillman". He seems to glow after saying it. Long story short, we did not win the bid.
I followed Hillman Curtis from that point on. I was immediately attracted to his work since he seemed to be living in the same digital spaces I was trying to move to. The web work was fantastic but I really was intrigued by the few video projects he seemed to be exploring with. Over time, I'd return to find more film/video delights. Then one day, the web projects were in the bottom shelf and he declared himself as a filmmaker.
It was no accident that I stumbled upon this video today. So tomorrow, I'll take this lesson and try again, to beat the sun up and begin to move towards the future while enjoying the present.
I’m tip toeing through the house using my phone as a flashlight. The creaking floor boards sound like atomic bombs during the wee hours of the morning.
Then, my bare foot steps on a transformer action figure that was left out from the prior evenings play session. It feels like the plastic robotic hand has hit bone on my foot. I bite my tongue and press my lips together with pit bull-like pressure to hold back my squeals of pain. This is how my day begins, it’s 5:12 A.M. and I am terribly behind schedule.
You see, I’m a morning person and this is my prime time. It’s my secret weapon against all the things that pull for my attention and threaten to turn my day upside down. It’s my trump card to take back my most precious asset—my time. After years of struggling against the forces of lost time, I’ve found the best solution is to beat them up. Beat them up out of bed, not with fists of course.
At this point, the former me of a few short years ago would be thinking: “Morning person!?! Not gonna happen amigo.”
I know, this is a tough one right out of the gate but stay with me. There is something about being up and getting stuff done knowing that the vast majority of people (in your time zone) are still asleep. There is no better time of day to do the hardest thing my brain does—thinking. The mind is at it’s freshest, like a sluggish computer that just got a new system reboot. I am able to focus and do my best creative work and not dwell on the mountain of items in my inbox.
I know I’m not alone in this claim. I’ve read it in books and articles, heard creative geniuses like Stefan Sagmeister talk about it and have had more than a few mentors pass on the tip of making the most out the morning hours.
I’m sure you have seen it too. You know the coworker that seems to get everything done early, the buddy that’s always ahead of the pack or the entrepreneur you constantly read about that makes you wonder: “how in Hades do they do all that stuff!” I’m willing to bet, they know and use this secret weapon.
Before I was a morning person, my creativity seemed stuck in the mud. I kept trying the same ideas, just dressed in new clothes. Today, I have over half-dozen notebooks full of stories, articles and writing ideas. I have an equal amount of sketch books full of characters, products and other visual delights. Where once, my biggest problem was trying to kick start a stagnant creativity, now my problem is deciding what ideas to execute. I don’t know about you, but I prefer the problem of having too many ideas than having my creative bank account overdrawn.
Also, the phone doesn’t ring and I absolutely do not waste any of those precious moments checking email (really, the emails can wait). It’s a bit like a mini vacation where you find yourself free of the daily obligations.
I know, despite all this, you may still not be budging. Here’s how I tricked myself into it. I use incentives to get me excited and drive me out of bed. For me, I take three of my loves and have them ready and waiting—my coffee, music and sketchbook. I make sure they are out and ready to go on the kitchen table before giving up the ghost the night before.
I just get up, French press some coffee, log on Soma FM and start putting graphite to paper. My ideal schedule is 5:00 AM to 6:45 AM but that’s extreme due to the fact I’m a dad and need to beat the school rush shenanigans. Maybe 7:00 AM is for you. Heck, maybe 10:00 AM is early for some freelancers. Either way, give it a month but I’m sure you’ll see results in a week. Just get up already.
Actions For You:
:: Shoot to get up one hour earlier than you normally do (half an hour at least).
:: Give yourself incentives like great coffee, tea, music, or just a predawn walk to help drive you out of bed.
:: Decide the night before on a passion project of interest, a new skill to learn, book to read or just a general game plan of what you aim to do with your morning (no email or web surfing).
:: Or if projects don’t get you excited, go for a walk, hit the gym or visit the growing number of morning hour meet up like: Creative Mornings.
So this week was all about giving yourself permission to do things differently. With only a day between last Wednesday post and today to get results, I crammed and came out unscathed.
Every few months, I make a grand list of all the things I need or want to do with my business and life in general. So, bright and early before the end of the day I made my large list. As usual the list began with many needs. However, needs tend to lean on the side of dull. So, after listing all the nagging items that can be a drag, I began to focus on wants. Wants tend to be things that get me excited, drive me out of bed and sometimes, make me a bit uneasy.
In the end, I realized that I had been excercising an altered version of the famed 80/20% rule. However, 90% of my time was filled with needs and obligations while the 10% was filled with things that get me excited. It is apparent that needs to change. I had a list of business and life goals that got me excited. Of them all, the one thing that stood out was….have fun with my business again.
So here is my top 5 permissions for the end of year:
1. To Have Fun with My Business Again
2. Write and Design That Book I've Been Thinking About
3. Make A New Motion/Video Demo Reel
4. Experiment with Sound (sound design and electronic music)
5. Begin to Restore My Home
During a recent assignment I gave my advanced design students, I instructed them to take a tired and dull existing brand identity and help move it into a new marketplace.
In a nutshell, they were to be innovative and bold as I gave them acres of space to stretch their creative legs. Things kicked off very lively and looked promising early. However, as the week went on, I began to see the fun and vibrant early designs quickly plateau and actually start to drift back to the safe, dull aesthetics of the existing brand.
Concerned, I asked a few students what the reasoning was for their return to the safe arms of the existing brand look. To my surprise, I heard responses like: “well, this company never does this” and “I’ve never seen this brand be this creative, so I went with a safer solution”. When I addressed my concerns with the group as a whole, I was again surprised to find that despite my encouragement to break norms and run the existing brand look over with a cement truck, some actually dug their heels further in the sand and resisted my pleas. My students seemed to have subconsciously signed an agreement with this brand that was keeping them in line. Worse, it was stopping them from doing anything different, let alone anything great.
There is always a reason, isn’t there. There is always a rule here or a policy there, that gets in our way. I realize that many serve a good purpose, keep our world relatively safe and ensure my coffee beans are packed with love and kindness. What I’m taking about are the unseen obligations, rules and agreements that we hold in our minds and hearts that stop us from doing something great or innovative.
These hidden agreements come in a variety of flavors and are tied to a range of origins. We inherit them from family members, bosses, supervisors, coaches, teachers and society in general. They say things like: I will promise to play by the rules, do what’s asked and not rock the boat, unless rocking this ship is what’s asked. Others say: get a platinum credit card, raise my fico score, diversify my portfolio, etc. Organizations sign them with their board members, angry customers or simply the legacy of “what we’ve always done”. There really is no end to these agreements that bind us.
While getting to the bottom of these unconscious agreements is worth digging into, that is for a bigger series of articles left to someone better suited to deal with this. However, what we simply can do right now is give ourselves permission to do things a little differently. Permission to try a new path in life. Permission to take a new approach to our projects or to look at our organization with kids eyes, instead of that suspicious, sideways squint. For the last dozen weeks left in the year, give yourself and/or your organization permission to be different. Permission to throw out whatever agreement you signed with the past. You may end up a bit more interesting or may find your organization a bit less stale.
As for my design class, I was determined to liberate my students creativity. I explained to them that they weren’t hired to do whats been done before, they were hired to do something new. I reminded them they had the brands permission as well as my permission to throw the safety net out the window and be bold and do the unexpected. I then proceeded to write the word permission on the whiteboard to remind them. Initially resistant, I began to see that many were catching my drift. It actually seemed to set many of them free as their creativity caught a second wind and I began to see some more creative results again. Sure, this is one small design project but I can only hope they can carry this lesson into the biggest design project of all—the design of the rest of their lives.
If you need someone to do this for you, let me put you on notice. However, you don’t need me. Don’t wait for anyone else to do it, give yourself permission, today.