How to Plan Then Execute Goals: Free Downloadable

As artists, when we’re setting our daily, monthly, and years goals it can be a pain to figure out where to start. Maybe you’ve read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen and looking for a refresher. Maybe this is entirely new to you. Either way, the Get It Done downloadable poster pdf is the perfect way to get your goals in motion. Making decisions can be daunting, here’s a Choose Your Own Adventure style strategy for making it less stressful:

Get It Done Process Poster: Based on the Book Getting Things Done

Get It Done Process Poster: Based on the Book Getting Things Done

Capture: Where do you start? Anywhere! Write down anything and everything related your goals. Keep an ongoing list as you live your life. “Do laundry.” “Answer Joan’s email.” “Talk to Tim about the Johnson Report.” There are tons of list apps for any technology platform. Everyone has their favorites. If you’re a paper and pencil kind of person, that’s always an option too. Capture thoughts as you work to keep them out of your mind. If you have a thought on how you get your ideas down, please share in the comments.

Is it actionable? As you decide whether a task is actionable, try to think of the smallest practical task. Think of a task in a way that’s big enough that you’re not wasting time listing the baby steps. And yet not so large as to make the task overwhelming. “Write the Johnson Report” would be a great project, not a task. Smaller tasks make up a project when a goal is too big to be a single task. What’s needed for your report? Who do you need to talk to? Think your goal out as much as you possibly can. For any task that tasks less than two minutes or so, just knock it out and cross the item off your list right way.

Smaller tasks make up a project when a goal is too big to be a single task. What’s needed for your report? Who do you need to talk to? Think your goal out as much as you possibly can. For any task that tasks less than two minutes or so, just knock it out and cross the item off your list right way. If an item is not now actionable, then:

Forget it: If the idea is something that would be nice and at the same time does not need to get done, is it best to forget it completely? Maybe you don’t need to talk to Tim about the report after all. His insights would be nice to have and still are not completely necessary. Drop the idea from your list. You might also change your original task at this point. Perhaps you’ll just email Tim thanking him for offering to talk your idea through. Let him know that due to time constraints you’re going to give it a go and if a stall happens you’ll check in.

You might also change your original task at this point. Perhaps you’ll just email Tim thanking him for offering to talk your idea through. Let him know that due to time constraints you’re going to give it a go and if a stall happens you’ll check in.

Someday/Maybe List: For tasks that are so low priority that you’d like to revisit them later and have no clear or necessary deadline, add them here. Perhaps you’re okay with a messy desk for a while. Someday you’ll organize things and for now, you can live with it.

Reference: Save the thought for reference. Perhaps this bit of information you captured isn’t necessarily something you need to act on. If the idea appears useful for your tasks, save the thought in a place that’ll you’ll be able to find it quickly. Many of my reference ideas end up being useful when I’m writing blog posts and emails

Right away? If the idea is an actionable task, the next question is whether a task must be done by you. If so, if it’s possible and necessary to do right away. This means that it’s a high priority task! Add the task to your “To Do/Action List” as a top priority. If the task is not necessarily a top priority task, consider your options:

Someday/Maybe List: See above. Send the task back up to the maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow list!

Delegate: Is this task better suited for someone else? That coworker who’s playing solitaire might want to feel useful. This also could refer to hiring a temp, freelance, or full-time employee if no one is around. If you can afford a housekeeper, you might delegate some of your cleaning. We live in a service economy, don’t feel as if you must do it all! Schedule a time to follow-up and let those you delegate tasks know that you are available

Schedule It: Add the task to your calendar. Today’s lower priority might be tomorrow’s number one task! This is also great for tasks that are better suited for certain days. Save that discussion for your weekly team meeting or quarterly review if it makes more sense. Call back your mom when you’re having a less busy day or during lunch.

Scheduling is a very powerful tool! I always schedule haircuts, dentist appointments, get-togethers with friends,  and anything else I can! Also schedule reminders and conversations. I like to check in at some point before meetings to make sure that it’s still a good date. Also, schedule a time to check your tasks. At work, I like to do a quick check in the morning and after lunch.

Waiting List: If you’re waiting for a response, for files, or any other information then the Waiting List is where you’ll want to keep such tasks. If there’s a certain point where a Waiting List item becomes more critical, add it to your schedule. Wait and if you don’t hear back from Cindy in a week, you can schedule a follow up email. This is a powerful place to keep items that need some attention eventually, and that you can forget about for now.

Organize: There are many ways to organize all of your information. Calendars, lists, and apps are all popular goal trackers. Decide on rules keep these categories separate. You’ll be able to find clear answers as you work and keep moving. Always know what your highest priority task is! If you don’t, go back through the above steps.

Get it done! Work through your tasks in order of priority, one tiny step at a time. If thoughts pop into your head, capture them. Feel free to get back to that idea later unless you’re sure the thought is more important than what you’re doing. What steps add to your creative process? Let’s talk about your goals in the comments!

Get It Done: Download the Free Poster as a PDF

How to Plan and Execute Your Goals: Free Downloadable

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

How do you organize your ideas? 5 Steps

In today’s Q&A Monday, methods for organizing your ideas that make it so much more convenient to act:

How do you store your ideas to be organised and easily accessible to use as raw material in different projects?
Anonymous (via Quora)

I find ways to make storing ideas fun and rewarding. I have little “rules” that help it feel like a game. The basic outline of my system includes sketching, lists and a calendar. I keep as little in my brain as possible. Delegate remembering any thoughts and ideas to the system.

Getting Things Done

I’m a big fan of Getting Things Done by David Allen and base some organization ideas on that. One of the main ideas of Getting Things Done is to write down anything you think of. Then put it in a place where you can remember it. The other principal is separating an actionable task from reference material. Actionable items are broken down into small tasks and included on project task lists.

Then the only habit I have to really have is to check the lists or calendar. It’s a lot more freeform then it may sound, basically just write things down. I have designed this “Choose Your Own Adventure” style Getting Things Done cheat sheet that I’ve hung up at my desk at work:

The system shown here helps with my graphic design work as I decide how to accomplish all of my daily priorities. At the same time, when thoughts drift to personal tasks and ideas that could be distracting I can quickly make a note on my shopping list.

I keep a Google Tasks app on my phone to keep lists of various thoughts, quotes, links to articles I’ve found. It’s a pretty simple system with some basic categories like painting ideas and quotes. Within each category, a lot of what is captured is in random order.

Step 1: Brainstorm using a trigger list

A trigger list is a short list of keywords that helps with brainstorming even more thoughts. It reminds me to write down ideas I may not have written yet: Boss, Painting, Bills, Important Dates, Weekly Events, Projects, Unfinished tasks. The words themselves jog memories. I jot down any and all thoughts that come to mind when reading my list. Then organize them into the above systems

Sketch when you can

How do you organize your ideas? 5 StepsSketching and doodling is one fun way I really get ideas to paper. I scribble sketches. I really like cheap spiral notebooks. I have sketchbooks where I move up to a different level of finished artwork and design. The cheapness of the notebooks helps me feel less precious and anxious about whatever I’m putting down.

A study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology found that doodlers remember more than nondoodlers when told to tediously delivered information (via Time.com). Participants had to listen to a fake voicemail filled with rambling information. We’ve all had to do this at some point. Even after they were removed from their papers, doodlers were able to retain more details. The researchers conclude that doodling helps focus and prevents daydreaming.

Step 2: Sort Reference Material and Inspiration

For any thought or idea that isn’t related directly to an action, task, or project I keep on lists by various category.  Joan Rivers was known to use index cards to store every joke, as she explained in the documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”. She would type each on index cards and file them by the subject of the joke. If it’s an idea related to landscape paintings, I have a list for that. I keep lists of quotes, articles, and all kinds of thoughts.

Blogging and social media can help!

As Austin Kleon wrote in his book Steal Like An Artist, “Do good work and put it where people can see it”. I’ll often write a short blog post combining ideas from various articles, studies, and inspiration. That way they’re available for me when I need it. Often times others will have new points which help with my creative process.

Pinterest is a nice tool for storing inspiration. Anything inspirinh me on the web gets pinned. I also use it to search for visuals. For anything that has an image associated with it gets pinned.

Step 3: Keeping lists of actions

Project Lists

When I have decided on a project, I sift through the lists and put the items in an priority order. For example, if I’ve decided to paint any tasks involved in making the painting  onto my task list. You’d be surprised how much putting things in a single place can create inspiration and motivation. It really makes difficult and complex tasks suddenly feel easy

Actions include sketching out thumbnails, working out any drawings, and finally any ideas that might work through the painting. It’s almost magical how separating references from actual tasks helps me to focus. Suddenly it becomes convenient and easy since I have a clear next step to take.

A lot of procrastination happens when I don’t have a clear direction. I dread having to think through a project after each step. Figuring out the whole scope within 15 seconds of typing makes it all go by really quickly

Someday Maybe Lists

It’s also worth while to set aside ideas that aren’t happening any time soon. It’s a relief to let them go here. When you have free time, having a bunch of ideas that might suddenly become possible or appealing is also a life saver.

Context lists

Another type of organizational tool I use is having lists based on location or context. This could be “When I’m on my computer”, which I’ll abbreviate @computer. This would have lists reminding me to read a website, pay a bill, or order art supplies from Amazon. Other examples of contexts: Home, Car, Work, Bathroom, TV, Microsoft Word, During Monday’s Meeting.

Step 4: Schedule what you can on your calendars

Some ideas belong in the realm of scheduling. If you can schedule it, then schedule it. Setting simple reminders of days that would be great to sketch help me get on track. Google Calendar let’s me set phone notifications, so I don’t even need to actively check for most things

Perhaps I have an idea to do plein aire painting. Not very useful in the winter. I could leave a note on my calendar reminding myself not to waste the summer and look back into this. Having a loose plan of your day, week, or year is a really amazing way to spark creativity

Step 5: Forget the rest

In a recent episode of her podcast Happier, habits researcher Gretchen Rubin suggests to instead not organize and get rid of clutter. Some ideas may never happen or won’t be useful. Learn when to let them go as your going through this whole process. If any ideas are timely or have a shelf life, make that clear in your system.

Readers, how do you organize your thoughts and ideas?

How do you organize your ideas? 5 Steps

 

 

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.