Monday, February 27, 2012

How to Develop Good Ideas II: Removing Obstacles

Photo courtesy mconnors of

In the last article we looked at obstacles that get in the way of creative problem-solving. In this article, I want to deal with how to remove these obstacles so we can have the best environment to develop creative ideas.

First off, I’ve found that obstacles come in only two categories: those things that are out of our control, and those things that are within our control.

For those things that are outside of our control (such as being micro-managed), it’s a good idea to build margins into our days. What I mean is that we need to set times of unavailability in our day. There’s no need to explains this to anyone. We should make a habit of scheduling a couple of hours in our day where we are just unavailable.

It’s not a good idea to skip these times, unless it is an emergency (blood or death). Other than that, it must be a time of self-rejuvenation, rest, training, etc. Look, even if your boss doesn’t understand this, your boss will appreciate it if you schedule time in your day to dedicate thinking about getting his work done, right? It’s a lot easier than you think.

For those things that are in our control, we will have to decide what’s most important. For instance, what we need to do with competing demands on our time is to prioritize. What’s worked for me is organizing my tasks into 4 categories.

  1. Those things that are immediately important (important and need to be done now),
  2. those things that are simply immediate (not important but are needed right away),
  3. those important tasks that can wait for later,
  4. and those things that are not that important at all.

I then put my energy into the tasks that are immediate/important but require longer concentration. Then schedule some time around the margins to get done tasks that are the fastest and due the earliest. In this way I can strike things off the list while I work on projects that require a lot of thought.

Whatever you do, do what works for you.

In another instance, we must manage people we think we don’t like. Well, you might think this is something outside of our control. But it’s not. If we don’t like them, it’s really our choice not to like them. We must decide what’s most important: keep the job or project, or reject the job or project; either choose to like them, or don’t work with them.

There’s more to say about the process of developing creative solutions. But for now, the environment has to be set just to begin the process. In the next article I want to reveal what’s worked well for me, once I’ve established this environment.

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