Can planning free up more space for your ideas?

Main image – Getting my pine cones in a row this Autumn…

This week I’ll admit, for once I didn’t have a clue what I was going to write until Sunday night, which is rare more me, ideas usually spring up by at least mid-week.

I wondered if this was a sign that I should have written that ‘Ideas for Blog themes’ list that’s been on my ‘To Do’ list for a while and therefore it was my own fault for failing to plan for those ‘brain fog’ days? Maybe I’d gotten too comfortable trusting myself that the ideas would come?

So that got me thinking about planning, which apart from the ‘themes’, I’ve actually been doing a lot of in other areas of The Curious Creative Club. I decided that my spidery notes in my journal were not good enough and I needed to get more effective on scheduling time in for different pieces of work.

So, last week, I did a full-on schedule for my week, hour by hour, I even colour coded it into the following areas:

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Pink =  Self Care, Exercise (inc dog walks), Friend Catch-ups, nights out and photography time

Green = The Curious Creative Club; admin tasks, Blog posts, Social Media and business workshops / learning

Blue = Writing; my own writing, the book, planning and delivering my writing courses and writing groups that I belong to

Yellow = Art; art-work time, groups and workshops I got to, Art events I exhibit or run stalls at and finally Art admin – going to the printers and delivery etc

Orange = Housework, day to day chores, food shopping and Mum Taxi!

This technique enabled me to see where most of my time goes, and to ensure there was a spread of colours across my week like a rainbow! Needless to say, the over-riding glow was orange, BUT it did cover everything else fairly evenly too.

Since then I’ve broken it down further and bought a book for daily plans, because the small journal I have just wasn’t cutting it anymore, not enough space for my long action lists!

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So, did it work? Well I didn’t complete all the tasks on there, it was a little ambitious and didn’t account for any ad-hoc things coming up, but it did keep me more on track and I had a better idea of the key things that I needed get done that week. Plus, the simple act of writing it down and using colour really works for me, more like a colourful visual map of my week, that sinks into my brain better.

After doing all this I was feeling a little more in control and it even spilled out into creating a weekly menu too – mainly to stop the kids asking what was for tea as soon as they walked through the door, I mean my son even texted me from the bus one night for goodness sake! Thankfully it’s working, apart from when it’s something they don’t absolutely love!

Next, thanks to using @ruthpounwhite’s ‘Back to Business’ free email challenge, I had access to her 3-month planner template, which just makes you step back a little and look ahead at what the key things are that you need to get done over the next few months…..and that got me thinking about the ‘C’ word which you’ll be surprised to know I am fearful of and hate thinking about it until at least Halloween has gone by. I have a friend who sends me text messages counting down to Christmas from about week 14, – it literally drives me insane, so of course she does it all the more!

Usually creative makers love the run up to this time of year, it’s one of their busiest and most lucrative seasons and they have probably been planning for it 6 months ago, but I am notoriously bad at it, despite selling lots of Christmas cards last year (all very rushed and last minute!).

So, I’m trying to embrace it all a little sooner by doing some research on trends, which I actually find fascinating, to help inspire ideas for my card collection this year.

For those who leave it as late as me, there are some useful resources out there; here are my tips if you want to quickly dream up a new collection of creative goods!

  • Listen to the Elevate Your Curiosity podcast by Joanne Griffin, a retail specialist and designer who talks lots about upcoming trends, way in advance! You can also follow her @arnoldandbird on Instagram and Pinterest, where she shows examples of her suggested themes on her boards.
  • Pinterest itself is great for having a browse on what is out there already, and helps you to discover what you are drawn to. I’d also suggest creating a board yourself, specifically for your next project that you can easily refer back to and narrow down what appeals to you most, before getting completely lost in the Pinterest Universe!
  • Get out on to the high street and local artisan and craft shops, see what’s out there, note key themes and colours. Retail is always ahead of the game, working on their current themes many months prior. Whilst you don’t want to copy, obviously your designs should ideally be unique to make you stand out from the crowd, there may be elements of themes you can use that gives it that current edge.
  • Ask you friends, colleagues, family for their thoughts – what is their preference – this is particularly useful regarding pricing too.

Just some of the ideas I’ve been gathering from Pinterest for my next Christmas card collection

If you have great ideas already then draft them up and test them out on your customers – you could easily use Instagram stories for this using their ‘poll’ gif.

Planning can not only help you be one step ahead of the competition, but also help you to tap into all your ‘planner’ customers; you know the ones who get giddy and organised at least 3 months in advance? It gives you a longer stretch to sell, which means you maximise your seasonal designs over a longer period of time and hopefully make more money.

Also, when you have more than one creative project on the go, like me, planning is practically essential, or you’ll just end up never quite finishing one thing and spinning quickly into the other.

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Some of the new designs I’ve been working on…

For example, I’m currently working on a regular update to my card collection, the Christmas card collection, pulling together my new Writing Course which begins in October and planning ahead for new elements of our accountability group – WOW Wednesdays.

Using Ruth’s 3-month planner has helped me to see the key weeks where each element slots in and what I need to do before and after the main activity.

Not surprisingly, planning has other benefits too as cited in Andrew Macleod’s book, ‘A positive psychology perspective on quality of life.’

He states, ‘Individual well-being has been linked to having an approach to life that is goal-based. That is, those who have a goal-based orientation and a tendency towards planning report a higher sense of well-being.’

This makes sense to me, planning certainly get’s rid of that sheer panic that you’ve forgotten to do something major or that you’ve run out of time and can’t get that perfect piece of art to the printers on time. Essentially when you have a plan, you feel more in control. For me, it also breeds a little more self-confidence, like you officially know what you are doing, because you have a plan! It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The one exception to pre-planning? Capturing the moment with photography, nature has a way of saying, ‘I’m here, lets do this!’

And whilst some creatives may feel it flies in the face of that ‘free-spirit’ feeling and that you can’t plan in when the creative lightening will strike, I do think that just getting down even a rough plan, does free up your brain for the really important stuff, the thing you love to do – create!

After all you can only hold so much in your head at any one time, right?

Plus, if you get all the nitty-gritty bits down on paper / computer or your phone, whichever works best for you, and schedule in the time for your creative projects, then you’re left with far more space for ideas and time to paint, write, knit, compose music or whatever floats your creative boat!

It’s those delightful chunky slabs of time, i.e more than that 15 minutes before you pick the kids up from school, or that half hour after dinner when you feel like you should do something but you’re too shattered, that are really important to us.

If you plan it in, it’s far more likely to happen.

So, maybe the saying could be true; If you fail to plan, you plan to fail?

It’s certainly worth a try with only 3 months left until the end of 2019, and a whole host of things I want to get done.

This year has been so great, in terms of the Blog and what I’ve done with The Curious Creative Club in just 9 months since I launched and I’ve run with all kinds of ideas and opportunities that have felt completely right for the direction I want to go but as new things come in and more and more ideas escalate, it’s definitely time to nail down a more forward thinking plan.

I’ve even taken a leaf out of Ruth’s book, and started to park my ideas, finally understanding that I won’t get to them immediately this year, no matter how much I want to! I’ve put them into a list for 2020, I’m actually reigning myself in which is major progress!

Plus of course my fellow WOW Wednesday accountability buddies help enormously with looking forward and planning ahead. For anyone interested in joining us, please click here. The next meeting is this week on the 25th September 9.30am at Miriam’s Kitchen Table, Kirkburton.

And if you live too far away to come along, why not set up your own? It’s so easy and a brilliant way to meet like-minded people who support each other in their businesses, passions or goals. If you do set one up then please do let me know, I would make my day!

I hope that this has been helpful in getting you to think how you would work best, are you a planner, like I’m learning to be, or do you fly by the seat of your pants and it still works out OR are you thinking it might be time for a change?

Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Until next time….

Juliet, The Curious Creative Club x

P.s In the spirit of encouraging people to talk more and take more action on climate change, please see a post I did below on Friday and if you want to find out more, please click here.

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