According to Todd Henry (The Accidental Creative) we live in a “create-on-demand” world. We are required to react quickly and called on to produce solutions as rapidly and efficiently as possible. And not just for one project or problem at a time. Needless to say, this is not always easy. Many of us find ourselves juggling problems, bouncing from one to the other, but not fully solving any of them. We feel like our work lacks quality and focus. And we get discouraged.
Do you find yourself in this situation? Do you struggle to maintain focus in an environment of ever shifting priorities and demands? If so, Henry suggests three methods to help you zero in on what’s critical.
Define the problem.
It’s important to establish direction and clarity at the beginning of each project. You want to define the main problem as well as the related subproblems, and then come up with clearly stated objectives for each. If this is not done at the outset of the project, you’ll waste time and energy later reevaluating information and redirecting your efforts.
Use pointed questions to help you formulate your objectives. Such as, “What would make product ‘X’ appealing to twentysomethings?” Answering these kinds of questions will help you develop concrete objectives. It will also help you steer clear of vague goals like “increase market share.” Having clear, written objectives that you review regularly allows you to focus on what’s important at every stage of the project.
Once you’ve established your objectives, select the three problems that need the bulk of your attention. These are the three areas where your creative energy needs to focus, where you’re looking for solutions. Write these down, and keep this list visible where you can review it often. In essence, you’re letting your mind simmer on these things even while you work on other projects. This keeps your mind open to connections and possibilities you might have overlooked otherwise. But remember this list is not your project list or to-do list; your focus is not on mere task completion. The idea is to be mentally attuned to the problems so that your mind is prepared to receive insights.
Cluster similar tasks.
Chunking similar tasks into the same block of time allows you to work more efficiently. Also, separating your conceptual/creative time from your task time will help you stay focused longer. You won’t waste as much time shifting gears from one type of work to the other. Plus, grouping similar work increases your chances of finding connections and patterns. An idea you reject for one project may be the answer to another. Something you might not have noticed if you kept everything separate.
For more tips on creating an environment that invites great ideas, check out Todd Henry’s book The Accidental Creative.
What methods do you use to stay focused on a project?
* Photo Credit: Michael Dales (Creative Commons)