Finding focus

Life is hard. Adulting is hard. Parenting could sometimes be seen as a very specific type of torture. Work is stressful. Home life is stressful. Home life is work life for many of us, and THAT is stressful.

And then on the side I’m trying to build and run my own creative business as well. How hard can it be?

Finding focus, space to think, clarity of mind is a wonderful idea. Actually doing it is almost laughable for many of us.

I’m perfectly clear between the moment of ‘washing the dinner dishes’ and ‘whatever unreasonable demand is foisted upon my attention’ immediately afterwards.

Here’s a handy tip, a tidbit of how to approach creative work that can take the thinking and planning out of the way of making it actually happen. I learned this from a young Scottish father / musician / youth worker called Mike.

“Aawwlweighs naw waht yer necks stehp ez”.

….huh?

He was saying to me “Always know what your next step is”.

It sounds a bit simplistic, but when you think about it there’s a real nugget of genius here. How often have you been paralysed in your creative work because there are so many things to do? We spend any spare minutes circling around the competing challenges in our heads.

“I need to finish the last bit of that project, but I should take some more photos too and update my social media. Actually, what was that article I was going to read about running a business account on Instagram…? Where was I? Oh, yes, and I really need to remember to grab more packaging tape – actually – I’ll put that on the shopping list now.”

It’s like standing at the bottom of a mountain and staring at the top thinking ‘how will I get there?!‘ when all you need to do is take the first step.

Mike’s words make more and more sense to me the more I think about them. He’s essentially asking “what is the most important thing that has to be done next, if I’m going to be successful in the end?”. Everything is pressing, sure, and everything needs to be done, of course, but you can’t do them all at once. What needs to be done first?

The tidbit:

Every time you finish a task – be it shipping a sold item, putting in the final stitch, applying the last coat of lacquer, or dreaming up your next design – ask yourself “what do I need to do next?”. By getting in the habit of answering this question while we’re still doing our creative work, we make it much easier to pick up and continue ticking through the to do list next time. And the time after that.

You can try it now.

Think about your Felt shop. If you were to get to A+ rock star level professional Felt Shop, what would you need to do next? Write down three, five, 25 things that come to mind. Be specific – don’t just say “take new photos”, drill in to the specific task that is preventing you from taking photos right now.

  • “Find camera”; or;
  • “Replace light bulb in spare bedroom lamp”; or
  • “Buy white light bulb for lamp”.

Even writing out the list of things that needs to be done is cathartic, but circling the most important one is what takes you from dreaming to doing. From stressed to progressing.

Now, stop – if you haven’t already – and write a list. Seriously – you, reading this. It takes 35 seconds. (I like to start with “Write a to do list”) . What do you need to do next to step towards success with your creative work? 

*pauses while you write*

Circle the most important next step.

Do that next.

Easy!

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