Disappearing Ideas: Capture your creative bursts

English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco...

English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you noticed that when you are thinking about moving, all the ideas about decorating your new place flow, but when you move, you forget everything?  The same thing happens in the car and in the shower.  It seems to happen everywhere and at random moments except at the exact moment you need it.  This is a real big deal for writers.  Whether you are writing a personal development blog or the next big blockbuster screen play, ideas are the life blood of creative thinking.  The “bad timing” of ideas may be a matter of mental flow and outside influences.  For example, I get a lot of my ideas while running.  Usually I’m listing to podcasts or audiobooks and focused on nothing but running and listening.  My brain is flooded with positive brain stimulating endorphins at the same time I’m being influenced by motivational and idea filled TED talks and podcasts.  The shower is another unique place in our daily life where our mental focus changes from what’s being “thrown” at us to slowing down and not thinking much at all.  Most of us have showered thousands of times and don’t need any mental energy or focus whatsoever to complete this task.  Driving to work and often even grocery shopping is similar in this effect.  Although the level of mental focus needed for these simple, mundane tasks varies per person and task, these are opportunities for your mind to tap deeper “creative” sources in short bursts.  This is different from a “flow” state in which you are building upon one of these ideas such as hours of easy creative writing.  I am talking specifically about ideas coming at you in bunches.

Good ideas are gifts from God not to be wasted or filed away for safekeeping.

     What do you do with these ideas? Anytime the “idea gods” throw their wisdom your way, capture, capture, capture.  I utilize square space notes (attached to my Evernote account) on my iPhone for quick idea capture on the go.  Notepad, or good old-fashioned paper works as well.  Do not wait any longer than it take to safely stop and capture the idea.  It will disappear quicker than it appeared.  The beauty of capturing the idea for future use is that it frees up your mental RAM energy to dig around for more ideas.  If you find yourself coming up with ideas in a certain setting, take advantage of it.  Repeat as necessary. Of course, these ideas are useless unless you intentionally create time to do something with them.  Bad timing, as I wrote earlier, is better than “no timing” or no ideas.  Write, build, create and inspire with your ideas. 

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Doing Nothing is Productive: My 4 step system to productive relaxation

Sitting on the couch the other day, I had a sinking feeling that I was wasting time.  With so much to do, to hit maximum achievement in life, how can I sit on my couch and do nothing for over 3 hours? After a couple of minutes of stressing,

I realized that doing nothing was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

Singing in the rain

Singing in the rain (Photo credit: John Fera)

I had given myself permission to relax. I had confidence that the work that needed to be done to achieve everything I had going was tucked neatly into my system.  I had built in a rest period.  It wasn’t a “cushion” in case I fell behind on work.  It was necessary in order to recharge the batteries.  I resisted the urge the to go into my office and write during this “free” time.  I had to remind myself that this wasn’t “free time”, it was, in fact, scheduled “chill-axing”.  I have a system to manage the balance of my day-to-day and big picture plan.   It works to  accomplish almost anything I want. Here is my 4 step system.

1. Have a place to “minddump”.  David Allen in Getting things Done still carries a little yellow notebook to write things down that “pop up” in his mind.  I carry a  Moleskin notebook and manage my mind dump on a weekly basis. .  From mowing the lawn to doing my taxes, the mind dump is the primary entrance into my system.  This is where I capture things as they come up. I intentionally schedule time to review my big picture plans (usually once a week and during my planning session) and add action items to this list. I’ll show you what to do with this information shortly.
2.Inbox. It’s so valuable to have a physical inbox that gives me assurance items will be managed.  I can’t tell you why, but I still put items such as bills, and kids school stuff on my mind dump to assure it will get completed.  This is a great example of tailoring YOUR system to what works.  My inbox assures that I won’t lose things and  assures they will get done.  Above all else, YOU must have confidence in your system.
3. Weekly planning: Choose a day that works best for  your season of life.  For me, Monday mornings at 5:15 am works for now.  This is a MUST!  Have all inbox sources open and available.  This is where you utilize the valuable minddump. Review each item and figure out what to do with it.  Typically I start with many of the same things, i.e., “write 2 posts per week”, “Run 3 times per week”.  These get fit in easily as these are recurring tasks.  Other items such as “review freelance opportunities”, “develop training class”, and “Schedule physical” must be fit in knowing my calendar weak spots for the week. Everything must be assigned to the calendar or trashed and crossed off the list.  Remember to plan everything including spontaneous acts.  For me, these things clog my creative pipes if they are sitting in the RAM memory of my mind.  From writing poetry for Jamie, to telling my kids I love them, there’s a place for all this in my system.  I find that the security of having the minimum safe and secure in my system opens my mind up for more “real” spontaneity. Know thyself and don’t over book your calendar.  You will quickly lose trust in your system of you do.  We will discuss how to develop long-term plans to pull from in a later post.
4. Weekly Review: Choose a day that works best for your season of life.  Friday afternoons before I go into weekend mode works well for me.  This doesn’t take long as this usually bridges over to my Monday morning planning session.  I review my calendar to make sure I haven’t missed anything. Any items that where left incomplete (things DO happen) are put back into the system for Monday morning’s planning session. I’ll close any loops such as emails or returned calls (if possible) so they don’t loom over the weekend. I will be implementing a quarterly review this month to help better manage big picture stuff.
When done correctly, a system clears your mind for better focus, clarity, and enjoyment.  The power of knowing you don’t have looming tasks and projects running out the back door is intoxicating.  Find a system and mold it to you.  If it works, it’s perfect! In my experience, most systems work if you are intentional and you periodically review the system (once or twice a year) for flaws based on your season in life.

When was the last time you did NOTHING?  Schedule some time for yourself, you’ll thank me later.

Rocco De Leo

I don’t care what you think, but I care what you think

I was driving my kids to school and going through the usual “pre-flight” checklist (lunch money, karate clothes, teeth brushed, trumpet, etc), I discovered and opportunity for personal growth and a great blog topic. I always, always, yes, 3 always, forget what days Rocco Jr. has band, soccer, karate, and minimum days. I had an inclination that it was a band day (although as I write this on a Monday, I couldn’t tell you if today is band). He, in his 9 year old, coming of age wisdom, feared being laughed for carrying his trumpet to school if the teacher was out. He wasn’t sure if the teacher, Mr Boyer, was going to be on campus. There was a 99% chance, Mr Boyer would be at work. But the 1% had Rocco Jr. concerned. Rocco Jr. feared that he would be the only band student carrying his instrument to class and being ridiculed. As his wise old father, I told him not to care what other people think. My 8 year old Angelina questioned my insitence on her clothes matching, or at least coming close to matching, if we don’t care about what other people think.
How do you find the balance between being self concious and simply not caring and being out of tune? This is a challenge. The objective is to be successful, authentic, and a good person. Simple enough? Many people find success in one or two of these areas, but finding people checking all 3 boxes (and deserving so) is not always easy. Here is a list of 4 must haves in order to consider yourself for the trifecta of personal growth achievement.
1. Self awareness: Daniel Goleman‘s landmark Emotional Intelligence turned the world upside down on the idea that how you know is at least if not more important than what you know when it comes to finding success. Finding self awareness may not be all that easy. There are thousands of Self-Help books, counselors, and You-Tube videos addressing this. Perhaps the bigget step has already been taken if you are asking how to become more self aware.
2. Intentions: What are your motives behind why you care what others think? Caring about impressing a potenital client, or a job interview is healthy. This is a means to an end. It says “care about my work” not “care about me”. If you are hoping to gain acceptance for a acceptance as an end, the “care about me”, in the wrong situations, this can spell trouble. There’s a time and a place for each. Knowing how to tell the difference is key.
3. Surround yourself with couragous and trustworthy coaches: As with many aspects in personal growth, the people you are around will lead you down a certain path. Which path depends upon the people you allow into your inner cirlce. Friends and family who challenge you in reasonable and realistic ways do you well. If they are well balanced, a quick check in every once in a while about your style and approach is appropriate. ” Does this present as professional?” or ” Am I comming on too strong”, are great examples of easy check in questions. The questions isn’t so much the issue as is asking the right person. Approaching someone with no social norms to advize you is not a good idea.
4. Prepare and be Confident: You are more likely to find balance when you are prepared and confident. This means that you have to put in the effort. If you are concerned about what your kids are wearing; learn. What are your objectives with what they wear? Trend? Modesty? Cultural? Whatever it is, make sure to do your homework. Put a “product” out there and be proud to know you put effort in.As you begin to grow, you’ll find you are confident in certain areas where you are not in others. This is o.k. . Learn from the positives and grow. The key here is that you are ahead of the curve by the mere fact that you are trying to get better.

Work on these a little at a time. Check in with yourself and those around you.

Share with me an area where you care too much? How about when you may not care enough (but still don’t want to change).

Rocco De Leo

No Written Life Goals? 5 Steps for the 30 something to Get Started NOW!

Dream Big White Tee

Dream Big White Tee (Photo credit: Five Wun O Clothing)

Listen to any life hack, guru, or personal development specialist and they all tell you the same thing about achieving your goals: “that which gets written down, gets completed”.  It sounds simple enough.  Write down your goals, keep time to periodically review them, and update steps along the way. Well, I’m turning 37 in 3 weeks and don’t have goals written down anywhere.  Am I doomed to failure? Absolutely not!  However, I am not advocating continuing this behavior.  Life sometimes catches up to us at the most opportune times.  The little voice in your head starts whispering when it knows you’re ready to hear.  Now that I’m considering being more tangible with my goals in life, where do I start? I think the answer starts first and foremost with my last post.  Just get off the couch and do it.  Don’t worry about inspiration, or a better time, just do something. Now is as good a time to start as any.  With that being said, there are a few things to consider.

First, make some time in your calendar to work on this.  For me, if it’s not on my Iphone, it’s not going to happen.  The other thing about this is to schedule a few times to work on it.  Give your creative mind time to digest what it is doing.  Don’t force yourself to plan out your entire life in a 1 hour appointment.

Second, find your medium to capture your goal.  Are you going to write it down or put on a computer.  If you are writing it down, put it some place special and some place nice.  This is your life, make it an enjoyable experience.  Maybe a nice journal?  This is not crucial, you can actually write it on a napkin if you’d like.  I just know personally, I get more excited about the “tools” I use at times and can help my motivation.

Third, have long term, medium term, and short term goals.  This is another one of those “no brainers” that you still fail to do.  Why do you fail?  Because you are AFRAID!  You don’t want to be held accountable.  You intend on writing this down and walking away from it.  Stop reading now if that’s your intention.

Fourth, include action items that are time bound as part of your goals.  David Allen, in his bestseller “Getting things Done” does an amazing job detailing “action” items.  Start from step one.  If your 3 year goals is to to finish your BA, your first step might be to get your transcripts from your previous school.  Think in those realistic and step-wise methods.  This is a road map to getting where you want to go.  Maps have the starting point and the end point and every point in between.

Fifth, this is so very important.  You must not limit your dreams.  Your success depends on your ability to dream.  Dream BIG! The world will stomp on your dreams, why should you? Do you want to be a senator?  Write a novel? Change careers?  Then by all means write it down.  Work backwards on what it takes achieve your goal.

Whether you achieve all your goals is not exactly the point.  You will live a much more focused life.  A life filled with purpose, ambition, and fulfillment toward a goal is much more rewarding.  Take some time for yourself to reflect on what you really want to do.  Don’t limit yourself to money or geography.  Find what will make you happy.  If you really want it, you will make it happen.