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Sam Davidson's blog

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Posts tagged creativity
Speaking Event: Creativity Moves

I'm excited to announce that I'll be speaking at a brand new event in just a few weeks. Creativity Moves is a new event series beginning in Nashville on May 24. The four-day event is designed to uplift and inspire creative professionals to use their tools and art to make a difference in the community.

I'm speaking on the afternoon of the first day, giving a short talk about creativity, art, and caring. Here's the full lineup of speakers that afternoon.

Check out the entire event schedule and if you're in Nashville, be sure to attend the event. And if you're not in Nashville, don't worry. There are talks already of replicating this model elsewhere.

Here's to staying creative!

Use Your Art in Service of the Good

What are you doing with your art? I don't mean your paintings or sculptures or your songs (unless of course you do those things). Your art is that thing (or things) you do well, perhaps better than anyone else. It's the discipline, the talent, the gift you have that allows you to excel at something, whether it's accounting, storytelling, parenting, or teaching.

If you're merely scheming ways to use your art to make money, I'd like to challenge you to do better. Use your art for something deeper.

Honor someone with it. Pay homage to the person or people who inspired you, people who used his or her art to make you better.

Here's how Coldplay recently used their art to honor the person who they respect and admire:

It's okay to make money with your art (by all means!). But go beyond that and use it to tell the truth, honor someone, or make a difference in the world.

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How to Take Notes at a Meeting

One of the reasons that meetings are such a time-suck is that few of us know what to do afterward. Even if there is a follow up meeting scheduled, knowing how best to parlay our time in the meeting into concrete action can be a challenge. Therefore, I think it's essential to take the right notes at a meeting. Whether I'm typing on my laptop or writing notes out with a pen, I do so in a way that lets me know what I need to do after the meeting to keep a project moving forward. Whether I'm leading a project or serving in a strategic implementation role, here's how I take notes in order to be more productive.

First, I divide my sheet of paper or screen into four sections. As items are discussed during the meeting, notes go under a particular heading so I know what to do with the information discussed during the previous hour (or two).

Information

This section is for newsworthy items - things that were shared that I may need to share with others. This is also where I put quotes said by other attendees that could be used later as some form of copy or that might be used as continual motivation towards some end goal. If the information is shared elsewhere (like on a handout), I don't write it down here. This space is for what people say and is a good place to capture it and compartmentalize it for future reference.

Ideas

Sometimes, ideas come more quickly when someone else is talking. When you focus on the subject of the meeting at hand, you'll find your mind racing in a very specific direction. The ideas section is where you put the ideas that come to you mid-meeting so you don't forget them, especially if you need to share them. This is also a good place to look back after the meeting and see what ideas still seem good and are worth spending time on.

Questions

Every meeting should beget questions, whether they are internal ones for you to consider afterward or big questions you need to pose to the group. Having a running list of questions will also serve as a reminder of what needs figuring out before launch or what needs to be prioritized. Once a question is answered, mark it off the list and keep going.

To Do

This is where I keep the list of immediate action steps to follow up on after the meeting. People to email, things to write, stuff to research - it all goes here so I have a nicely organized and highly relevant list of tasks.

A lot can get shared and said in a meeting. I've found these categories to help as I sort through the data and ideas shared in any brainstorming meeting. Give it a shot; it may work for you, too.

How do you take meeting notes? What format do you use in order to be productive once the meeting is finished?

What happened to that good idea you had?

Remember? It was about this time last year. You had a perfect brainstorm and ended up with that perfect idea. You bought a domain name. Started telling people about it. You were really, really excited.

And then what happened? What came of it? It was supposed to change your life and maybe even the world.

One of two things happened:

  1. The idea ended up not being great and deserved to die.
  2. You grew lazy, were turned on by distractions, and never put in the hard work to give birth to the dream. It died unjustly shortly after conception.

Some ideas need to die. Mourn them and move on. There will be so many others.

A few ideas need to live. To grow and to thrive. But ideas are codependent. They can never live on their own. They need you in order to reach their full potential.

So - back to that idea from last year. Which was it? What about the idea from last week? Or the other half dozen you'll have this year? Are you ready to get to work?

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Time for Work. Maybe.

For most of us, the working day isn't working for us. From what I hear from many of my educator friends, the school day isn't working for students, either (I'm guessing many people don't do their best work at 7:30 AM, like we ask teenagers to do; seriously - whose idea is/was that?). Because of tradition and convention, it seems like many of us are spending our creative hours not creating and our productive hours not being productive. And this is a shame. If you have job that demands creating, then you need to do the hard work of figuring out when you're at your creative best and then protect that time fiercely. If there are certain times when you're in "the zone," then block off that amount of time and work on your biggest problems.

In fact, go read this by Sarah Peck. Right now. She shares how she works and why the 9-to-5 doesn't suit her. Rest assured, she's putting in her 40 hours (or more), but those hours don't fit nicely within our normal mindset of when someone should be at "work."

Or, check out this post on the 37 Signals blog about how a remote worker in Spain was able to get more done because of the time difference. You don't need to move to Madrid or Paris to get the same effect, but the idea has to make you wonder.

Remember, the goal of our work - especially as entrepreneurs or business owners or leaders - isn't to work a schedule. It's to create. To take risks, innovate, or be bold. It's about forward motion, as Matt Cheuvront emphasizes here. If we're stuck in work or life, it may be because we need to shake up our schedule.

Some jobs don't make this easy. Based upon who our boss is or where we work (like in regimented shifts), this may not be feasible. Yet.

The world of work is changing and I think you'd be surprised about how flexible a place may be. With a little finesse and a compelling case of numbers, you may get to come in and stay an hour later. If you worked for me and could show that a shifted schedule makes you a better worker (meaning I get more value out of you), then I'm all ears.

Many companies are understanding this in terms of location and are seeing the benefits of letting people work from home (or the coffee shop or the beach or Spain). It's only a matter of time before we see the same with time.

What do you think?

Do you work an unconventional schedule in order to get more done? What does that look like? And did you have to sell anyone above you on it? 

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I Do My Creating in the Morning

A fun question I like to ask fellow entrepreneurs or creative types is: "When do you do your creating?" Some people have the awesome luxury to create all day and can schedule it like a 9-to-5 gig. Others need to be in the right spot at the right time with the right tools for inspiration to strike.

For me, I create best first thing in the morning. Refreshed from a good night's sleep, I take advantage of a quiet house and hot coffee, crack open the laptop around 5:30 and write for an hour. I don't read. I don't check the incoming. I force and push myself to create.

I write, even if it sucks. I brainstorm, ideate, and notate. I produce. Mornings are for creating.

You need to find the time and place where you create best. Then, plan your schedule around that time. You'll make better stuff, have better ideas, and get more done in those hours where you're dealing with the inbound and putting out fires.

Let nothing stand in the way of the chance to make something amazing.

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Staying Curious

My daughter's favorite book series right now is Curious George. We've read each book we own at least twelve times. Now, my daughter can complete the sentence you're reading, especially at the beginning when you say, "George was a good little monkey and always ____ _______." (very curious) At her annual checkup last week, we completed a questionnaire from the doctor to make sure she is developing socially, mentally, and emotionally. One of the questions was whether or not we own firearms (we don't, unless you want to rob us, in which case we have several) and if so, whether they are locked up. The questionnaire mentioned how _______ kids are, thus the risk. (curious)

There is no one else in my life (not even George) as curious as my daughter. She throws things over the stair rail to see what happens when they hit the floor below. Other than new foods, she's game for trying nearly anything.

I give in to this more often than not, wanting to show her that staying curious is a great skill to have. She wants to see what happens when she puts a cracker in milk? Give it a whirl. When you squeeze a balloon too hard? Try it. When you throw a Lego down the hallway, put a basket on your head, or get Elmo wet? Why not?!

I want my daughter to stay curious. Curiosity is what eventually leads to being able to ask smart questions, a skill she'll need forever. Sadly, too many adults are done being curious and therefore forget how to ask smart, relevant, or timely questions.

When we leave our curiosity in childhood, we forget how to explore. And without exploration, we'll never discover anything new for ourselves. With adulthood comes the awareness of our own vulnerability and the overestimation of pride. We don't try something new because if we don't like it, we may feel foolish. If we try to learn something new and fail, we'll look foolish.

For a lot of us, we've reasoned risk out of our lives, and with it, reward.

We need to stay curious. We're born with this desire and it's educated out of us as we grow up. This is not good.

If you don't understand, ask. If you don't know, learn. And if you don't wonder, begin.

Stay curious. If you're not sure, how, pick up a yellow paperback with a cartoon monkey on the cover. Watch what happens as he visits the museum, pizza parlor, or dinosaur dig. Then, go and do likewise.

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