Tag: creativity

Creating Lasting Change: How the End of the One-Week Challenge Became the Beginning of a New Outlook

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I have often heard that what you focus on becomes your reality and that if you believe things to be a certain way you are undoubtedly provided with evidence that supports that belief.  Well, I am living proof that both of those statements are true and I am happy to say that so are many other visitors to this blog series.

This past week, our challenge was to focus on having tremendous confidence in ourselves and our abilities.  Even when we started to have doubts or negative self-chatter, we brought ourselves back to that single focus.  The results were astounding!

For myself, the Universe consistently provided me with supporting evidence that I am confident in my abilities – I am smart enough to figure things out, realistic enough to know what I don’t know and how to find the right resources, and talented enough to continuously provide great writing and guidance to my clients.  The end result was that last week was one of my most creative and productive weeks of 2009.

I never heard the chatter of “you can’t do that”, or “it won’t be very good”.  In the past, it never mattered that I had proven my inner chatter wrong thousands of times with quality work and great connections for my clients.  This time I reminded myself that success leaves wonderful clues if you listen and look for them. Every day, even every hour I was accomplishing things that I might have otherwise procrastinated out of fear or initially fumbled through due to a lack of focus.  I always delivered quality content and ahead of schedule, but sometimes the inner chatter made the process of getting to the outcome much longer and more tedious.  This last week I was accomplishing great results in less time and with more concentrated efforts.  For a productivity geek like me who never wants the tasks to compromise the creative process, that is huge!

For the visitors of this blog series I raise my glass to your success!  Congratulations for allowing your focus on self-confidence to empower you to be more creative and more productive. For some of you I was ecstatic to hear how you were able to establish very reasonable boundaries with colleagues, clients and loved ones that made for much more fulfilling relationships.  It is amazing how feeling great about yourself and your skills helps you to speak your mind in a constructive way.  (This will come in handy during the upcoming holidays!)  Some of you shared your newly found entrepreneurial spirit. Confidence definitely helps you take more risks and with that receive bigger rewards.  Onward and upward!

Cheers to all of you who committed to staying focused.  Your confidence was likely contagious, as I am sure others picked up on your great energy and were drawn to you.  Great Mojo – keep it working for you!

How to Create Fabulous Results: Checking in on the Confidence Challenge

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WOW!!!  What a great few days it has been since the One Thing for One Week Challenge started.  Here are just some of the comments and successes that have been shared by those of us committing to focus on our confidence for 7 days.

“I can’t believe how much better I have slept.  I have spent all day feeling confident about my talents that I keep making progress on projects that I used to procrastinate and by the end of the day I feel so great that I sleep straight through the night.  I thank you and my wife thanks you.”

“I am feeling more comfortable asking for meetings with people I normally would not have the guts to approach.  I can’t believe I am going to have coffee with someone I consider a leader in her industry for a possible collaborative project. Yippee!”

“The last couple of days when I sat down to the computer to make my 1,000-word write goal like I do every morning I did not stress out about not knowing where to start or if it was going to be any good.  I just wrote and wrote and it is really good stuff, if I do say so myself.  What a difference, and what a week I am going to have, my agent won’t believe my progress!”

“I was able to make calls to former clients and ask for new business and referrals based solely on my own self-confidence about the type of work I had performed for them in the past.  Hey, if you don’t ask and don’t stay top-of-mind with people, they can’t say ‘yes’ as easily.  Four out of six had either a direct job for me or were able to give me potential referrals.”

“There were a couple of times when I fell back into my old routine of feeling overwhelmed and nervous.  When I reminded myself of this challenge, along with recognizing all of my past wins, I could shift my focus back to the value I continue to add to my clients.  I stayed much more productive than I have been in months.  Thank you.”

Celebrate:  Day 4

It is now Day 4 for some of us and as was suggested by a colleague, business strategist and all around expert in all things brain-brilliant, AmyK Hutchens at  www.amyk.com,  it is now time to celebrate our wins thus far.  AmyK wrote in…

“I would also suggest to your readers/followers that you break the week into two sets: “4 days” and “3 days.”  The brain is more successful with smaller chunks and turtle steps. After 4 days of focusing on your confidence and actively choosing to spend a few minutes developing your confidence, reward yourself! Celebrate your progress.”

So tonight is the end of the 4 days…what are you planning to do to celebrate?  For me, I see a nice meal and a glass of red wine and freshly baked cookies in my future (not necessarily in that order!)

Congratulations and keep up the great work!

Share the Challenge: One Thing for One Week

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If you could change only one thing about yourself that would make the most significant difference in your life, what would it be?  Before you answer, remember that the question is something about yourself, not about your life. Would you answer…..smarter, thinner, funnier, richer….more attractive, disciplined, patient, creative, productive, more connected to a higher power…?

What if there was one thing that could make all of that possible?  What if you could change your level of confidence; wouldn’t all of the others change as well – either literally or figuratively?  What if you worked on your confidence and shushed your inner chatter?

If you had complete confidence in yourself and your abilities, would you…

  • Feel great when you woke up to start your day
  • Be excited to start that new chapter or edit yesterday’s writing
  • Spend more time following your passion
  • Not be able to stop coming up with great ideas for your next blog, article, book, etc.
  • Make the call or send the email to those people you want to work with, or work for
  • Know the success or failure of those around you does not define your own identity
  • Put your running shoes on and head out the door
  • Send the query letters to agents
  • Fit the yoga class into your schedule
  • Be able to get back to sleep in the middle of the night
  • Create the mind map or project plan for that big idea you have been putting off
  • Call the friend or family member with whom you had a disagreement
  • Write that brilliant cover letter or specialized resume for your dream job – and send it!
  • Ask an influencer or thought leader to be your mentor
  • Speak up for yourself and set boundaries to improve relationships
  • Eat healthier foods, one meal at a time, because you know you can consistently make good choices
  • Approach that woman or man you are attracted to and introduce yourself

This list could go on and on, but you get the general idea.  Anything and everything you first listed as something you would like to change becomes a reality when you have authentic confidence in yourself and your abilities.

The Challenge:  One Thing for One Week

Please join me in a challenge to be, to feel and to live with complete, authentic confidence for one week.  Shift your inner chatter and hear yourself saying “Yes, I can”, “I will”, and “I am.”  No matter what happens you know that you can do it, handle it, and make it better.  Regardless of the day of the week, just start today in this hour and for 7 days see what you have accomplished and what comes into your life.  When you believe anything to be true or right, you see and experience things that support that belief.  Please share your progress.  Your comments will serve as inspiration to others (and to me).  Ready?  Go!

Please send this to your friends, colleagues and family members so that you can support each other in the challenge.

Does your big idea bring you even bigger stress? Productivity Tool, Part 3

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When it comes to accomplishing big tasks or completing a goal, feeling inadequate and overwhelmed can be paralyzing.  The excitement of an idea combined with the adrenaline of wanting it done yesterday and the stress of not knowing how it will happen can lead you to feeling like you are going to jump out of your skin.  I am speaking from past and very present experience.

Practice what I preach: I love combining my writing talent with my skills for creating infrastructure and processes to empower my clients to realize their dreams on paper and on stage.  My clients’ feelings of overwhelm and anxiety are reduced because they are able to collaborate and sort through their concepts with an objective resource.  When it comes to doing that for my own dreams, I have to remind myself to go through my own processes to achieve my goals.

Recognize your wins: Keep a running list of the projects you have completed and the challenges you have overcome.   When a new one comes along, you can reduce fear and procrastination by remembering that you were never an expert in the mechanics of how it all happened, but you did find a way through the maze and it felt fantastic once it was finished.

Get it out of your head: Jumping from one step to the other in your head trying to make sense of it all tends to jumble everything together and results in many hours of lost sleep and unproductive work time.  Just start writing or typing out a list of every piece of the puzzle as it enters your head.  Don’t try to organize or sort it yet, just download your thoughts.

Chunk it: After reviewing your list you will start to see patterns of how the steps are linked together and their natural progression towards your goal.  By sorting your list into categories you will get a better sense of how the puzzle will come together.  Leave plenty of space in each category so that you can jot down additional pieces as they come to you or as you discover it along the way.

Tag line items: Next to each task that you do not know how to or want to do yourself, write down the name of the person or resource that might be able to help.  Some items may have a question mark next to them and as you move through the process of discovery, you can ask others for suggestions.  By tagging your line items you will be more organized and thorough when you sit down to do your own research or brainstorm with a colleague.

Reach out: You will not know how to accomplish everything on your list but you have ways of making it happen.  You can reach out to the internet (search engines, Twitter and Facebook communities) and ask for help and resource options.  Just knowing that people have the expertise that you do not and are willing to send you in the right direction for more information, helps decrease the anxiety that you need to know and do everything yourself.  It is okay to admit you don’t know everything.  The important thing is to reach out.  You may find a partner or affiliate relationship that will benefit you now or in the future.  In addition, what you learn in your own research will inevitably add more value to your client.

Knock it off: Now commit to knocking off at least 5 items on your project plan every day.  Try to tackle some of the big ugly monsters first in the process, and first in the morning.  Once they are out of the way, the rest is easy!

I am excited to get started with my new goal and look forward to sharing my progress and small wins with you in the hopes it can be a catalyst for your own big dreams.

Productivity Tools for the Creative Soul, Part 2

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Thank you all for contacting me with your success stories from using the first Productivity Tool in my previous posting.  Time Stamping is a great way to make better use of your time as well as alleviate your anxiety about feeling overwhelmed.

As promised, it is time to really look at the overall puzzle that is your day and your week.  Lists are fine for keeping track of what tasks need to be accomplished, but in order to improve upon my productivity I prefer to supplement my list with a more visual approach.  Our creative brains tend to want to think in shapes and colors and I hope this technique will help you not only accomplish more but also plan your days to maximize efficiency and balance your lifestyle.

Color Blocking: Identifying and distinguishing activities by colors on an hourly or 30-minute block system.

It doesn’t matter whether you use a formal project planning system, ACT!, Outlook Calendar or Day Planner system, my Color Blocking technique will work for you.   I print out my Outlook Calendar and keep it on my desk and I use colored pencils or pens to outline or color in the hours or 30-minute blocks based on how I have used that time.  You can also do this electronically using many different calendar programs, but I tend to have a need for the physical activity of coloring – if only it was practical to use crayons….but I digress (or regress).

The majority of your activities will fall into about 6-8 major categories and by assigning colors to those categories, you will create a daily/weekly vision of how you are spending your time.  It also helps you to determine what adjustments you would like to make to improve on the next day or following week.  This does not require you to make huge changes, just small shifts from hour to hour or day to day that will have a measurable impact on your life.

Here is how I code my activities:

  • Income Generating – Green
  • Business Development – Blue
  • Research/Networking online – yellow
  • Social online – Black
  • Exercise – Red
  • Family and Friends – Purple
  • Errands/dining/commuting/Misc. – Grey

I like the fact that at the end of the day or week I can assess the productivity and balance of my life by quickly seeing how many blocks of green or blue there are compared to the other categories.

Do this for at least one full day/week and then ask yourself:

  • Is there too much of one color?
  • How come I was so busy but yet there is not one block of green in my day?
  • Am I waiting until things slow down before I do more business development?
  • Have I committed enough time to exercise or friends/family?
  • Did I really spend that much time online without any purpose?
  • If I pre-color blocks of time for tomorrow, will that keep me more focused?
  • There is way too much time spent on errands and miscellaneous, what resources do I have that can help me?  Can I delegate or eliminate any of them?
  • If I color in the block for exercise ahead of time, will it make me more committed to keep that promise to myself?
  • What would my ideal week look like if it were represented in colors?  That is my goal and I can get there by just being conscious of my colors.

It is truly amazing how being able to see the completed puzzle can help you readjust the pieces to better fit your lifestyle objectives.  Start Color Blocking today and see your own brilliance.  Please share your feedback.  I would love to hear about your progress.

Productivity Tools for the Creative Soul, Part 1

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“Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage.”  - Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

When we are stressed or fear that we don’t know how to accomplish something, instead of taking action, we stop in our tracks and put off the process because we believe we need this big elaborate plan before anything can happen.  This provides us with a sense of security as well as allowing us an opportunity to procrastinate the project. This dilemma is commonly referred to as Analysis Paralysis:  The belief that we need to chunk it, prioritize it, mind-map it, or project plan it before we can even think about getting anything done.

Therefore, for Part 1 of this series I am not going to discuss any elaborate plan but instead I will present a simple approach to putting the “process” back into the creative process.

Time Stamping: Next to each of the items you have listed on your white board, to-do list or project plan, write down the estimated time you think it will take to accomplish each activity.  For instance, a portion of your day’s list may look like this:

  • Write blog (1 hour)
  • Research statistics for chapter 2 (1 hour)
  • Follow up with editor regarding Forward (15 min)
  • Write Introduction for e-book (1.5 hrs)
  • E-mail 5 potential new network connections/clients (15 min each – 1 hr 15 min total)
  • Exercise – yoga, treadmill, Pilates, run, gym.  (1.5 hrs)
  • Review Facebook posts (30 min)
  • Post to Twitter in a.m. (30 min)
  • Post to Twitter in p.m. (30 min)
  • Comment on relevant blogs and create link-backs (30 min)

This is a quick way of putting realistic time allotments to each piece of your puzzle.  The benefits of this easy step are:

  • Each time you have only 30-45 minutes before your next meeting, conference call, etc. you can quickly scan your list and see what items you can fit into that time slot and make the most of that short block of time.  You will begin to feel more productive and this will reduce your stress and help you to be more relaxed and creative.
  • You will be less likely to postpone a project when you realize it will only take you an hour or so from start to finish.  Consider how much better you will feel taking action rather than spending hours being anxious and trying to avoid it.
  • You can add up the total times you have allocated and realize that what originally looked like an overwhelming mountain of work is only 6 hours of that day or 35 hours for the week.  This will give you a sense of relief in knowing it is manageable and doable.
  • You may realize in totaling up your hours that you have overestimated your ability to handle every activity on your own.  Although this may be a little depressing at first, it is a perfect time to reassess your list and see what is not critical or what can be delegated or eliminated.

Try Time Stamping your activities for a day or week starting today and watch what happens.  I would love to hear comments on how it worked for you.

The next installment of this series will address the concept of creating a visual representation of how you spend your time.  It is amazing how being able to see the completed puzzle can help you readjust the pieces to better fit your lifestyle objectives.

Writing Tag Lines with Both Sides of the Brain

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So often we label ourselves as predominantly left- or right-brain thinkers and shy away from those situations that are outside of our comfort zone.  That’s the restraint of a label, it keeps us living in that box and functioning as if we were not capable of expanding past its limits.

When I was asked by a client to write query letters to a potential target market I thought, “Sure, I can do that”.  When he also asked me to create a slogan, tag line or advertising concept for his brand, I thought, “Can I do that?”

In previous leadership roles I had often espoused the benefits of committing to stretch goals that exceeded any self-imposed labels.  I believed it, I lived it and once again it was time to test it.

Try these strategies demonstrated in my example to conquer your next challenging creative project.

Client Mission: Introduce Scootarian© as a brand name for motor scooters and apparel to the existing scooter market.

The Creative Process: (a whole-brain approach)

Step 1: Look for Similarities and Inspiration

I researched words that rhymed with Scootarian believing that I would find a common theme in their definitions or perhaps a concept that might spark an idea.  What I found were words such as Humanitarian, Civil Libertarian, Utilitarian, etc.

What I noticed they all had in common were the concepts of being advocates for or promoting a certain belief or lifestyle. Then it came to me, “That’s it, define the brand like the dictionary would, incorporating similar language along with the idea of being environmentally conscious.”

Step 2: Step into that world

It was time to start the free-association process of listing words that were related to motor scooters and the people who loved them.

Step 3:  Mix and Match

With my list in front of me, I played with different words, in different orders to find the right match for my definition.

Step 4:  Create the Flow

I created tag lines that embodied the spirit of the scooter enthusiast as well as the interests of the environmentally conscious consumer.

Scootarian: (scoot•tar•i•an – noun) an advocate for improving the lives of all creatures, two wheels at a time.™

Scootarian: (scoot•tar•i•an – noun)  creatures of mobility changing the planet two wheels at a time.™

Results: The client established the copyright and sole ownership of the tag lines to produce a national brand campaign.

Note to Self: The creative process is different for all of us as it can be intuitive and subjective (Right Brain) and it is also logical and analytical (Left Brain).  Stretch yourself to use it all.  You, and your clients, will be happy with the results.

What Billy Elliott Taught Me About the Writing Process

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I could not always describe the energy that the writing process gave me until I watched the movie, Billy Elliott.

Billy was an 11 year old boy who knew he was a dancer: he knew he was good at it and that he loved it. These facts did not alter the reality of having to audition to be accepted into the dance program. During that audition he did not restrict himself to any one formal technique instead he displayed his talents in tap, contemporary and ballet. Watching him dance you could see and feel his passion for his gift. At the end of the audition, one of the judges asked him, “What does it feel like when you’re dancing?” His response could not have been more authentic.

Don’t know. Sort of feels good. It’s sort of stiff and that, but once I get going then I, like forget everything and sort of disappear. Like I feel a change in my whole body. Like there’s a fire in me body. I’m just there, flying, like a bird. Like electricity. Yeah, like electricity.”

There is tremendous energy in the writing process for me. Every project I take on is an audition. It is an opportunity to show my clients what I love to do and how I can help. Like Elliott, when I am writing I feel a change, like there is a fire, a drive to let the ideas flow, to use all of my talents to create a piece that has passion, a piece that communicates, engages and inspires.

Allow the electricity that sparks my creativity ignite your mission.