If you’re like most creative people, you probably have a number of projects on your plate right now. You probably also have a number of projects twirling around in your head that you’d like to get around to – someday. The weight of all that’s undone can feel oppressive and make you feel like you’re under-performing.
But doing everything at once obviously isn’t the answer either. If you try to tackle too much at any given time, you’re likely to wind up in burnout mode, and you certainly won’t be equipped to bring your best to whatever other important work you’re doing.
When was the last time you purposefully pruned your life (and project list) so that you had the time, focus and energy you needed for your most important work? Doing this on a regular basis is difficult, because each pruned idea and project feels like you’re abandoning a child, but this kind of ruthless dedication to energy management is what’s required in order to sustain over the long-term.
Here are four quick questions to help evaluate a project for potential prune-ability:
Is this something I could do better later? Excitement about a project does not equate to present viability. Scott Belsky talks about the project plateau, which is what happens when a project is abandoned once a new and exciting comes along. We need to develop a filter for the timeliness of our ideas so that we’re not bouncing from project to project and abusing our energy.
Is this something that could be folded into another project? With a little effort, we can often fold our new ideas into existing projects. Not everything belongs on your project list under a separate heading. Ask yourself how this idea applies to other efforts already under way.
Is this an idea for someone else? Sometimes others are far better equipped to execute your idea than you are. Don’t be stingy. Share generously and don’t be afraid to offer up ideas to others if they’re in a better position to see them through. The world needs ideas that are well executed, not ideas parked in notebooks.
What’s my true motive for wanting to do this project? We can be compelled to do things for many reasons, some of which may not be the best or most healthy. Are you striving to make something great, or for the recognition that will come from your work? Are you genuinely curious, or do you just want to appear so? Identifying the projects on your list that truly resonate with your deeper motivation can help you determine which should find a place on your task list.
Take a few moments to peruse your project list and filter it through the questions above. See if you can’t find some room to maneuver good, but not timely projects onto a someday maybe list or shuffle them off to other more capable hands.
Being intentional about managing energy is one of the most important practices that creative pros can implement. Prune relentless, execute flawlessly.
How about you? Do you have any methods for managing your creative energy?