Ahh, Spring at last! The clocks here have sprung forward and the sun is shining - sometimes. Now is a great time to take stock, clear out what we don't need anymore, and use the energizing power of the season to get started on some new creative projects.
1: A simple way to improve your to-do list
Have two columns on your to-do list. One lists urgent tasks that will create problems if you don't do them soon (for instance, filing your VAT returns). The other column contains tasks that are important but may not seem urgent, such as testing some online marketing methods. The urgent tasks usually displace the important ones - until the latter turn into crises.
ACTION: Every day, for each two you do from the Urgent list, do at least one from the Important list. Over time you'll have fewer and fewer crises.
2: To Tweet or Not to Tweet?
I featured this item on my writing blog and it has received a lot of attention. I thought you might find it useful, too:
A writer emailed me the other day asking whether she should use Twitter.
I said that depends. What did she want to accomplish?
She responded that she really wasn't sure, but it seems like lots of writers are using it and she doesn't want to miss out.
This is one of the great dangers of new technology (I speak from experience). Some hot new thing comes out and we want to be among the first to use it. What we forget to ask sometimes is why. What is the outcome we want? Will this new thing really help us achieve it, or will it just be a distraction?
ACTION: Apply the usefulness test rather than the novelty test to every new tool that comes out. Don't be afraid to be contrarian.
3: This is the big question
Bill Watterson is the artist who wrote and drew the brilliant "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip. Here's what he said about success in creative endeavors:
"It's worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success… To endure five years of rejection to get a job requires either a faith in oneself that borders on delusion, or a love of the work. I loved the work."
That's true whether you're writing a book, starting a new business, or anything else. With luck, you'll win the world over. Without luck, you'll still have had a good time.
ACTION: Do you love the work? If not, what work would you love? What's the first step toward doing that work instead?
4: Be glad you weren't a prodigy
In the book "Sparks of Genius," the authors point out that most child prodigies never fulfill their promise. Because adoration and success come easily to them, they are not prepared for the time when their talent is less rare for their age. What are they missing?
Perseverance. The willingness to put in the hours of practice, being told they can do better, facing the fact that they are not the best.
The good news is that most of us were not child prodigies, and perseverance is a quality anybody can have.
ACTION: Is there something you wish you'd been good at as a child? Maybe music, or art, or sports? There's still time. You may not be the most talented but now you can gain that skill and enjoy it without the pressure of having to be the best.
5: 60-Second Book Review: CHASING THE MONSTER IDEA, Stefan Mumaw, John Wiley & Sons, 2011
The Concept: You can apply seven questions to tell whether your idea is a "monster" rather than just good (or bad).
The Content: Here are the 7 questions:
- Does it evoke an emotional response?
- Does it create an experience?
- Does it entertain?
- Is it novel?
- Is it authentic?
- Does it tell a story?
- Does it scare you?
Memorable tidbit: He learned by having a truly bad idea, putting ads for a pest control service on pizza cartons. Well, it fits point seven…
Style: Sometimes annoyingly informal, but basically enjoyable and a fast read.
ACTION: Try applying the seven questions to your current or next project. Is it a monster?
And a quote to consider:
"The wisest men follow their own directions." – Euripedes