This guest post is by Kent Sanders. Kent is an author, college professor, and host of the Born to Create podcast. He writes about mindset and productivity for creatives at KentSanders.net. You can click here to download a free resource to help you be more productive and creative. You can also connect with Kent on Facebook and Twitter.
The time I spent in grad school was one of the most exciting periods of my life. It was also one of the most dangerous.
Once a week, I would drive about 100 miles to the university where I was taking courses. The early morning drive was fine, but the drive back home at night was a killer. After sitting in class all day, I would get extremely drowsy. On some occasions, I even found myself drifting off of the road.
Drifting is dangerous, whether it’s happening in a car or your creative life.
There are several reasons for drifting: being too busy, feeling overwhelmed, or just plain being tired. Whatever the reasons, the result is the same: less focusing on priorities.
So how can you stop drifting and get back on track? These four questions will help clarify your priorities and refocus on what is most important to you.
1. The question of identity: WHO AM I?
The familiar phrase “Know thyself” is attributed to Socrates (but it actually predates him). Regardless of who said it first, it is a piece of wisdom everyone should follow. If you don’t know who you truly are, you’ll be like a rudderless ship in an ocean of constantly changing priorities.
Knowing yourself well involves both your personality and your skills. When you know how you’re wired and what your skills are (and aren’t), it frees you up to truly be yourself. It also releases you from the obligation of trying to be someone you’re not. It’s much better to work with your personality (and gifts) than against it.
2. The question of mission: WHY AM I HERE?
It may seem like this question more philosophical than practical, but nothing could be more practical than knowing your mission. Then you can make sure your actions are in alignment with your calling.
When you are clear about your mission in life, you have a sense of momentum that keeps you going despite obstacles. It also helps clarify your real priorities from other things that may seem urgent, but are not important in the big picture of life.
3. The question of audience: WHO AM I SERVING?
This question is both very simple and very complicated at the same time. Let me explain.
It’s simple because knowing who you are serving clarifies how you can best serve them. For example, if you’re a web designer, it will not be a high priority for you to write a romance novel (in terms of what is valuable for your customers). However, taking an advanced course on web design should be higher on your priority list.
It’s also a complicated question because it’s difficult to narrow down an audience. But once you are clear on who you’re serving and how you can best help them, how to use your resources should become clearer.
4. The question of productivity: WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING?
After you have gained clarity about your identity, mission, and audience, you must decide on what you should do with your time.
The question, “What should I be doing?” mainly concerns productivity and concerns three areas: your goals, your use of time, and your commitments. You must be clear on these three areas in order to be productive. It’s vital to have a clear handle on how you’re spending your time, and whether you are setting and reaching goals that will produce results for you. It’s also vital that your commitments in life aren’t working against your creative goals.
Each of these four questions can help you stop drifting and help clarify your priorities. I hope you’ll take a few moments to think about each one and whether you can clearly answer them.