don’t know where to start or how to move forward? try an elastic process.

October 17, 2013

by william choukeir

continued from: stuck in this maze? 3 ways to get unstuck.

often you can’t see a solution to your problem. sometimes you can’t even see the problem. here i share with you my own elastic process that has been refined over 15 years of experience as a creative. this has worked every time for those i’ve shared it with and myself. why elastic? you’ll find out towards the end. these are the four steps that i loop through until i’m unstuck:

  1. you immerse yourself in research around the subject at hand. you go far and wide reading seemingly unrelated topics. interviewing people often helps. you take “unorganised/uncategorised” notes of everything worth remembering.
  2. you structure, categorise, and “hand-write” all your notes in an organised manner. you do not structure according to the sources. this is vital because it allows you to make new associations. the goal here is to internalise the information to the point where you are able to teach it from heart. that’s why hand-writing is important. you learn faster when you write.
  3. now you relax, you close your eyes, you go for a walk. this invites your mind to make new associations, ask new questions, observe from different perspectives, and visualise things without using language. often this happens while showering or driving. now whether a breakthrough happens or not, you move to step 4.
  4. you involve a 3rd party; one or more people. you explain the breakthrough, or you share your newly acquired knowledge. you observe reactions, and listen. often new doors open. if you get the reactions you’ve been looking for, or if you get a breakthrough, great. if not, you repeat from step 1 using newly acquired questions and insights.

if you stop reading here, you’ll still benefit from this process. but if you really want to get the most of this, every single time (even if you’re tight on time), then here are the key guidelines:

  • if you don’t trust that the process works every time, then it won’t work. that’s because when you don’t trust it works, you won’t go through it in multiple cycles.
  • this process works because your mind naturally goes through this process anyways; whether you’re aware of it or not. i’m only bringing it to your awareness. so the next time you’re stuck, instead of getting frustrated and anxious, you relax and trust the natural process of your mind.
  • for your mind to make associations at the speed-of-thought, it needs to have all the information already stored. if you don’t internalise the information, you’ll find that everything slows down to the speed-of-reading. at that speed, you’ll miss most of the associations. and we all know that at the core of creativity is our ability to make unheard-off associations.
  • with this process, time is elastic. if you only have a couple of days, you go through this cycle multiple times a day. you set a time limit for each step (i.e. 60, 15, 60, and 30 minutes respectively). then you repeat… here’s the other extreme. if you have weeks, you go through steps 1 and 2 in one day. you skip a day for step 3. and you do step 4 the day after. then you repeat… It’s very important that steps 1 and 2 not be separated. you’ll want to structure and categorize the information when it’s still fresh. otherwise you’ll forget a lot of the connections you’ve already made. keep in mind that spending the whole day on steps 1 and 2 is not very productive. so even if the process spans weeks, you set a time limit for each step (i.e. 1-3 hrs daily).

this method is process oriented. the next time you’re stuck, you know exactly what to do. instead of focusing on the end result, start with step 1. you now have an elastic process that works every time.

p.s. bookmark this to come back to it when you feel stuck. post your questions in the comments.


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3 Responses to “don’t know where to start or how to move forward? try an elastic process.”

  1. […] 3 |don’t know where to start or how to move forward? try an elastic process. […]

  2. Great read! I could really use this when writing. There’s this particular op-ed I’m working on currently that I feel could use this process to really get creative with my content. I’ll let you know if I try it for the op-ed! :)

    Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Thanks Aisha. Let me know if you try this. Hope it’s as useful to you as it was to all my friends who tried it.

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