This is my first official post for the re-launch of the website. Happy Belated New Year!
I’ve just gotten back from vacation and in the last few days (and on the plane), I was thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions and plans for the year for this business. When I do this kind of thinking exercise, one of two things happen… 1) I get super excited and have more ideas and thoughts than I can write down or 2) I get anxious and overanalytical and some self-doubt kicks in. I’ve realized (or am continuing to realize) that this is normal behavior for me and either “mode” is fleeting. It helps to know this about yourself so that you are prepared to take advantage of those fleeting ideas or own those feelings of anxiety yet be able to step back before it takes over your entire day. I’ve realized that the way to handle either kind of reaction is to have some structure; the technical term is “buckets”.
These “buckets” are simply broad categories that you define; in some schools of thought this has been called “chunking”. I’ve found that creating 3-5 buckets works for me. Back in my communications class in college, I learned that odd number lists (ranging from 3 to 7) were easier to remember and somehow more appealing to the mind. I’m sure there’s a more scientific explanation somewhere.
The great thing about creating these “buckets” is that when you have your next deluge of ideas and thoughts, you can start to organize them. After you’ve chosen your buckets, write them on one side of a blank sheet of paper. Then on the other side, write all your amazing and even not so amazing ideas down in whatever order they occur to you (This is important: Do NOT start organizing or editing them yet because your brain will switch from creative to logical mode prematurely!). I prefer to use unlined paper or grid paper but as long as it’s blank (any color really) it should work.
Once you’ve written all your ideas down or you’re stumped, review your list and play the matching game–draw lines connecting the bucket list items to the ideas that match them best. If this seems a bit messy to you, you can opt to have a separate blank sheet of paper and write each bucket item neatly with list the ideas that belong in each bucket. Using a pencil might be good if you really need to be neat in order to move forward. If you use a large poster-size paper, you can rewrite your ideas on post-its (maybe color coded for each bucket list) and then start to organize them.
Keep in mind that these “buckets” don’t have to be an ordered or numbered list. If you’re especially creative or are a non-linear thinker, it might be helpful to draw actual pictures of buckets or small circles on a blank sheet of paper. Then write all your ideas all around these small images. When finished, start drawing lines to match these ideas to each bucket. You might make this more enjoyable by using colored pens/pencils for each category, even doodle if you’re so inspired.
Ideas can definitely belong to multiple buckets, by the way.
If you’re having a different kind of day where 1) every task makes you anxious, 2) you analyze everything until you’re stuck or overwhelmed or 3) you feel completely uncreative, these “buckets” can help diffuse your feelings and give you clarity and perspective, even inspiration. The steps are essentially the same. Write down your buckets first. Then, write down your thoughts, your worries, your tasks, etc. The final step is to categorize them. Once you have your buckets full, you can start to dial down your anxiety by choosing just one bucket item (maybe the most fun or the one with the shortest list) and just focus on that (ONLY); you can even plan to reserve the other buckets for other days if you think you can only handle one. By writing everything down, you’ve given a home to all your thoughts and you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that they will all be addressed and nothing will be forgotten. By seeing everything written down, sometimes a magical thing can happen where a solution emerges simply by looking at different things together! Or, you realize that thing that’s been giving you palpitations all this time really wasn’t a big deal in the context of other things. If you’re one of those highly organized folks, the simple exercise of categorizing will help alleviate your anxiety.
On those days where you feel your brain is simply not working or you feel devoid of ideas, just come up with your bucket list and THEN, use that list to start generating ideas. Ask yourself positive questions like, 1) How can I improve (in this category)?, 2) Who can I speak to for ideas/suggestions regarding this?, 3) What have I done before in this category that worked well?, 4) if I could do anything, what would be awesome to do regarding this?, 5) What do I need that would be very helpful regarding this?
You might find that once your ideas are down that you may need to refine or add buckets. Don’t be too rigid and give yourself permission to let your list evolve. Your bucket list may even change over the course of the year or you may want to revisit this list monthly, or quarterly.
I’ve purposely not told you anything about what would make a good bucket list until the end of this with the hopes that as you read, your own thoughts emerge naturally. If that hasn’t happened, that’s okay too. Here are some sample bucket lists for your business resolutions…
- Marketing, Finance, Operations
- Relationships/Networking, Marketing, Processes
- Strategy, Systems, Sales (btw, alliteration is helpful!)
- Share, Master, Build (verbs are great too)
- Partnerships, Promotions, Processes, People, Paperwork
Start your week off right and grab some blank pieces of paper and a pencil/marker and get started! Share your bucket list or thoughts in the comments below.
1) Grab blank sheets of paper and writing utensil(s); post-its are optional
2) Create your buckets and write them down
3) Write down your thoughts, ideas, worries (brain dump!)
4) Brainstorm/Organize your thoughts, ideas, worries by your buckets (match up by drawing lines, or re-writing list)
5) Review/revise periodically
BTW: This bucket list method is powerful and can be used to help overcome writer’s block, organize your week, write a book, and more!
Some related recommended reading: