One of the big challenges in innovation is clearing out your head (and your schedule) enough to put in the effort to think creatively. The posts that caught my attention this week are organised around this theme – perhaps because that has been my big struggle this week!
One of the issues that I know a lot of us have to deal with is stress. Abby Kerr talks about one important aspect of stress in How to Not Feel Overwhelmed in Business & Life. Her recommendations include making sure that you take time for yourself each day, and this:
If you could only work two hours a day, what would be the essentials you’d need to get done? Do those things first every day and let the rest take their place somewhere else in the day or week, when inspiration is flowing.
Stew Friedman also talks about stress in Reduce Stress by Pursuing Four-Way Wins, part of a series that he’s writing on dealing with stress. He talks about the four important domains in life – work, home, community and personal. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, it won’t surprise you to discover that I like his experimental approach to attacking stress:
Start by taking a minute to explore your personal four-way view — what’s important to you, where you focus your attention (your most precious asset as a leader), and how things are going in each of the four domains of your life. (You can use this free assessment tool and guide for help in doing so.) Then begin generating ideas for experiments you can try to better align what matters to you with what you actually do.
Design an experiment in which you are deliberately aiming to improve your performance and results in each of the four domains — not to trade them off or to balance one against the other, but to enhance all of them. If you’re stuck, think a bit harder: I have coached and taught thousands of people to do this, and I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t come up with one such experiment about which they were very excited.
And, as with all experimental approaches, the focus is on action, measurement, and learning.
An important part of dealing with stress is identifying what’s important to you. That is what Frank Chimero talks about in the sad, but wise post This One’s For Me. Chimero talks about losing both of his parents, and the impact that has had on his life and work. A summary won’t do it justice – you should definitely go read it yourself.
Another important part of your personal innovation strategy is to take the power to do things. Experiments are one good way to do this. In their talk at SxSW, Nilofer Merchant and Rachel Sklar discussed another way, hacking privilege and power. This excellent sketchnote by Heidi Forbes Oste summarises the main points:
Ok, so you have dealt with stress, identified your priorities, and grabbed power. Now what?
First off, you need to deal with the flow of incoming ideas, because this is what will help you create interesting new ideas yourself. Two of my favourite online people teamed up to discuss the issue of personal knowledge management. Sacha Chua’s take on her discussion with Harold Jarche is here, and Harold’s is here.
Sacha and Harold both do a lot of great thinking on this topic, and both of them should be in your RSS feed, your twitter stream, or whatever else constitutes your personal information flow.
After all of that, the last step is to start creating. Of course, the big gap is not between people doing lousy work and those doing great work – the biggest gap is between those doing nothing and those doing something. To help you make that jump, James Altucher has written The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Dealing With Excuses. He says:
There’s always a gap between “what I have now” and “what I would like.”
The gap is all of your excuses. All it takes to close the gap is to be creative and work your way through the excuses. I repeat: this is ALL IT TAKES.
Altucher then goes on to identify most of the excuses we use to avoid doing the work, and tells you how to deal with each of them. It’s great stuff.
Creating space in your head for creativity is an important part of innovation – I hope that these resources will help you clear that space, and do great work!