A daily practice

Like anyone who is constantly coming up with new ideas, the most difficult part is making those ideas happen. Scott Belsky (Founder & CEO of Behance) wrote a book aptly-titled Making Ideas Happen. Belsky details The Action Method -- a set of strategies and best practices for creative-types who have ideas, but who sometimes encounter difficulties bringing those ideas from the ether of imagination to the concrete world in which we live.

This method can be distilled to the concept that all projects should be broken down into elemental parts and then completed sequentially. The three types of parts are: action steps, backburner items, and references. Action steps serve to paint the progression of your work by serving as concrete steps that you can complete to bring you closer to your goal. To write this blog post, my first action step was: "open TextEdit and get some thoughts down re: the action method." Instead of staring down a pile of enigmatic work and stress, breaking down my large goals into digestible parts allows me to approach each part of the process separately and observe the progress that I make as I work through each step.

Action steps are specific and concrete tasks, and they should all begin with a verb. Completing a task called "open TextEdit and start brainstorming for project X" is more likely to be completed than a vague task titled "start brainstorming." Starting with a verb gives me an idea for what exactly I need to do, putting me in a better position to accomplish the action step.

Like most "creative people," it's sometimes difficult for me to stop producing new ideas and to instead devote my energy and focus to what I'd planned to finish the week earlier.   

Belsky (aptly) refers to this concept as the "project plateau," and proposes having a set backburner items -- ideas that are not fully realized, or ideas that you do not have the energy or resources to complete just yet. Backburner items are those ideas which could distract from your current priorities, but that are important enough to be captured. Lastly, references are anything that you might need to look at later, but references should be non-actionable information. Notes, phone numbers, web addresses, sketches, or any other non-actionable information that is not a backburner item is a reference item. 

Although I've only started applying these strategies to my life in the past few weeks, thinking about work in this way has since brought much clarity to my various projects.