The Checklist, Please

You are being bombarded with all sorts of things that have little direct relationship to your Creative life, right? You really get knocked off your path when things come along.  Sound familiar?

We previously defined some of these forces as distractions, dips, and dives. Today we go beyond definitions to actual practices for bouncing back and getting down to creative work.

Bounce Back Fact of Life: When you get knocked off your path it is not long before you forget almost everything about your path. You forget much of what you had painstakingly built:  how to get down to work; how to sustain focus; your work schedule; your resolve to follow through; your insights for the next step in your work; etc. Your memory will get fainter each day off the path. Even three days off you will be thinking: “What was I doing? Why that way? What the heck is this? Where do I start?”

Bounce Back Practice #1 – Make notes to your future you.  If you expect you are going to be away from your work for awhile, make some notes on what you need to remember when you come back. If you have ideas for the next step, write them down. If you have some unfinished business, write it down. If you have any special knowledge you are sure you don’t want to lose, write it down. Don’t hold back on your notes. Help the older you understand how to pick up the pieces.

If you are knocked off your path unexpectedly, make notes just as soon as you can. They don’t have to be long, just enough to help your future self bounce back fast.

Bounce Back Practice #2 – Record your mental game in the best of times. What I mean is capture on paper what works for you to make a creative session now before you are knocked off the path. For instance, if after much trial-and-error you find: a cup of earl grey, your cat on your lap, and sunlight hitting the far wall is your key to highly productive creative sessions, write it down in checklist form. If three CDs of your favorite music really make a difference, add the titles to your checklist. What you want to develop refined over time is your mental game plan for work.

Pro athletes have highly detailed mental game plans for what they do. They may seem to just walk out and do their thing without any special fanfare, but that observation is dead wrong. Top pro athletes use sports psychologists to help them hone their mental game. Everything is detailed, refined, rehearsed, and perfected.

What is your best mental game plan for your creative work?  If you don’t have one, create one. Get it down now before a distraction, dip, or dive hits you. If you don’t, your best moves will disappear during the week, month, or year away from your creative life.

Bounce Back Practice #3 – Pick a day when you think you can get back to work and put it on your calendar. Add a reminder of where you are storing your bounce back notes and your mental game checklist (you might forget that too). Watch your calendar. When that bounce back day comes decide if you can begin. If not, pick another date and get that one on the calendar. Keep this up until you are truly back on your creative path. You already know what the early steps will be on that day: read your notes and follow your checklist.

Goal: Be bounce back ready.

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One thought on “The Checklist, Please

  1. Man, did I need this!!! This is right where I am. I had to leave town for an emergency, and I haven’t gotten back to writing yet. I’ve been home for several days. I’ve completely lost track of the next step in my writing. ALL of this advice is awesome, and perfect for me RIGHT NOW, let alone the future. I am copying this and putting it a “Stuck Creative” folder I’m putting together ASAP. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!

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