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Stop your Clutter from Killing your Creativity (The steps you need to do)

Stop your Clutter from Killing your Creativity (The steps you need to do)

A disorganized work space is an antagonist; a strong enemy. It stops you from doing your art. Clutter pushes you to stall. A desk in disarray is a time and energy snatcher. So, now that you know what it is, really, you need to devise a way to kick it out of your life. Specifically, your work life.

Let’s study clutter deeply and thoroughly. Everything; a pen, paper, your phone, your audio speakers, your sticky notes  — all are stimulants  —  whether you like it or not. When you look at them your brain recognizes each one even if you’re not consciously thinking of them. Once your eyes glance at them they have an imprint on your gray matter. Analyzing it now, every bit of them is registered in your brain. All occupy space in your human hard drive. Your supercomputer (the one located between your ears) treats every one of them as data. Simply put, the clutter on your desk is also clutter in your brain. (But that’s just one aspect of clutter).

Like your PC, your brain slows down when it has too much data. That’s the reason decluttering gives your brain space to play on. When you do your art i.e. write, compose music, design, draw, paint, whatever you do, you’ll function much better if your brain has a space to move around. The free space boosts its cells to function much better and more efficiently. Making way for it to pump up creative juices needed to manufacture art.

Step #1. Clear up your brain.

If you have a long list of activities, you have to start accomplishing some of them or else you’ll be slowed down by the thought that you have not accomplished them. However, there are items in your list that can be treated as not urgent. These can be left alone for a while, but you have to do something about the ones that are urgent. Something to accomplish them pronto!

Reason behind: After you have accomplished them, you’ll find that your mind will be more free to create. If they are left undone, they clog the brain like fat clogging the heart.

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Step#2. Remove distractions.

Turn off the TV. Shut the radio off. If you really want to focus on just writing, kill the Internet as well. Just open one window on your PC, and do just one thing — write. Multitasking is a big creativity killer.

Step #3. Tidy up.

When Patsy Clairmont began her career as a writer and speaker, she picked an unexpected route. She did not research, she did not free write, she did not drink a cup of coffee, or went walking for 20 minutes. Everyone was surprised with what she did: she washed the dishes.

I can see that big question mark written all over your face. What’s really my point? She has a message for the world and she wants to put it out, but when she was about to start working on the message, she felt a strong nudge to start differently. She got out of bed and started tidying up her place.

In other terms, she cleaned up her clutter, and this very act positioned her to live more creatively. You and I should do the same. Delivering your message to the world doesn’t start on the world stage, it starts from the home front. From your closet, your office space, your desk. Eradicate all the mess there and make room for creation.

Step #4. Apply the principle: Less is More

Simplify things and achieve more. When doing your art, or any work you do for that matter, always remember to make sure you just focus on the essentials and cut off the fluff. Once you will apply this principle in your life you will create more. Talking about this belief of making more with less, I encourage you to check Leo Babauta’s book “The Power of Less”.

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Here are three takeaways from Leo Babauta’s book:

  1. In simplicity is power — choose the essential and eliminate the rest.
  2. Start with small habit changes and take baby steps.
  3. Do one thing at a time to increase your effectiveness.

Don’t take a bite you can’t chew. Stop being greedy. Accept only the assignments that you can handle well. If you take too much work, in the end, you will suffer the consequences. To really be effective, take one step at a time. Study the load that is just right for your capabilities and sanity; accept only this.

Step #5 Journal.

It’s a famous option because it works. Journaling issues which are bothering you sashays you in reorganizing your thoughts. Whether it’s your upcoming meeting, your personal life, or the struggles you are currently facing, scribbling your problems will help you produce new strategies, angles, and answers. Everything clears up when you write them down on a piece of paper, or encoded on a screen.

Write down everything you need to accomplish each day and do them, one at a time, no matter what.

Unavoidable clutter

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No matter what you do, there will always be unavoidable clutter in your work and life in general. This makes it hard to focus on just one task. Based on the findings of researchers at Princeton University’s Neuroscience Institute, the brain has a limit when it comes to processing info. So, if you can’t manage your workspace and workload properly (when it’s disorganized and overwhelming) it can bring down your overall performance. Your attention is pulled in different directions, so at its worst, it can drag you away from your art.

6. Organize your storage system.

The destination for your go-to objects is significant, but the most used items should only be the ones allowed in your work station. (This is to minimize things in your work area). Remember less is more.

Regarding your most used tools, accessibility is the name of the game. They should be located within arms length. Example: in the top most drawers of your desk, or on a shelf very close to you. With just one step, you can reach for them anytime you need to. Not so important items, on the other hand, should be filed away and must not appear at work on a daily basis.

Example: your PC must reside on top of your desk, but your writing manual (whatever you use) should only enter the scene during writing and editing sessions.

7. Begin putting out clutter-free messages.

Find a way to set restrictions in your work. This will ignite creativity.

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Sources:

Clutter Is Killing Your Creativity (And What to Do About It) by Jeff Goins

Scientists find physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus, process information by Erin Donald

Your Messy Desk is Hurting Your Writing Career. Here’s How to Declutter by Marcy Mckay

Featured photo credit: Photo Credit: dorsia via Compfight cc via compfight.com

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Anthony Dejolde

TV/Radio personality who educates his audience on entrepreneurship, productivity, and leadership.

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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