The Timeboard – get creative with your scheduling

Are you a creative, looking to improve your scheduling? Is your schedule different every week?  Are you sick of reading business guides about scheduling that have no relevance to creatives?

Jenna Hubbard, Project Assistant at ICE, recently introduced me to the concept of a Timeboard. And no, this has nothing to do with Doctor Who or time travelling.  

Get creative with your scheduling!

A Timeboard is just a simple way of scheduling for creatives.  It is extremely useful when you have certain core activities but your schedule changes every week.
It’s very simple.  You take a big piece of paper and split it into seven columns, one for each day of the week.  Label each column clearly.  Then grab some coloured Post-Its and a marker pen. Each Post-It becomes a block of time.  Let’s say Monday you spend two hours emailing.  Great, just write Email, 2 hours on one colour of Post-It. Then stick it on the chart under Monday.  Put different kinds of activities in different colours.

Afterwards, take a red pen and a blue pen and put stars on the Post-Its.  A red star indicates where you give energy.  A blue star indicates where you receive energy.  This can help you keep track of how energising or tiring your weeks are, and prevent burn-out.

Then once a week you can sit down and plan your week ahead.  If things change, no worries! Just take off one Post-It and replace it with another.

If you suddenly have a week-long project that usurps everything else,   When a week changes like this, the way you spend your days changes. All those housekeeping, adminny things get left behind.  Maybe emailing goes out of the window. No problem! Can you fit emailing in on a Sunday evening?  Or will you just lose emailing for a week and survive?  

Take off the Post-Its for activities you don’t do, and put them under or around your Timeboard. Then you can clearly see what you have, and have not made time for.  

You can see the dotted red line on my Timeboard separates my schedule from those activities I haven’t made time for.  I don’t have much wall space, so I put mine onto A1 card I can move around my flat.  

A few weeks after I made my Timeboard, there had been no progress in one area of my business.  I checked my Timeboard to find this was the one Post-It that repeatedly never made it into my schedule.  No surprise there’s been no change!

The Timeboard is a revolution for me, and one of the best scheduling tools I have ever seen for creatives.

What you put on your Timeboard is entirely up to you.  If meditation is vital to your daily schedule, put it in!  On mine I have my yoga classes, time for walks and I have even figured in time for creative play.

So get yourself a Timeboard, and get creative with your schedule.

Tools for provoking the imagination – 2

A shortlist of creative thinking tools must include the work of Edward de Bono.

Dr Edward de Bono has written many books on productive thinking. He is responsible for coining the term ‘lateral thinking’.

Lateral thinking allows your creativity to sidestep the impossible, into new realms of potential. One if his best known lateral thinking tools is PO, the provocation operation. Using a PO statement, the group imagine a scenario which sparks off ideas. In this sense, PO is a bit like ‘suppose’.

For example, ‘PO cars have square wheels’ sparked off a discussion about how to make this happen. This led to ideas about a self-adjusting suspension, which were actually developed on modern 4x4s.

Using metaphors has long been recognised as incredibly creative. A metaphor compares something (e.g. a clock) to something which it is not (e.g. a ticking timebomb). In this instance, the metaphor gives the user a powerful sense of urgency.

Another important feature of metaphor is its ability to make the mind of the user active. In order to truly understand the connection, you must imagine it. This ability to engage allows the user to participate, and therefore can be very memorable.

Think of Shakespeare. His plays are full of incredible metaphors and imagery, and somehow his work is remembered 500 years after it was written.

As a metaphor exercise, try asking a question such as “In what way is our project like an elephant?”. The answers given will unlock different perspectives on the subject and spark new ideas.

The Personal Ideas Pad or PIP from The Accidental Creative is worksheet which actually guides you through the productive thinking process. Here you list your challenge, its main subjects, and use brainstorming to generate as many related words as you can. Lines connect these new words and this network will inspire new ideas.

The Creative Whack Pack from creativethink.com is another easy-to-use tool for productive thinking. This is available in a card version or as an iPhone app. You select a card at random which suggests a creative thinking strategy, for example ‘See The Obvious’ or ‘Take the Second Right Answer’. Although a quick hit and a bit like using Tarot cards, they are another effective way to see a problem in a new light.

Like all productive thinking sessions, any negative statements, criticism, or the fact that the idea might be impossible are best put aside for now. Critical thinking has its place, but not during imaginative playtime for the mind. During these phases you want to leapfrog obstacles into new ideas. Being negative or analysing will close doors too early and prevent excitement from building. So let these sessions be free and enforce a strict ‘positive only’ rule.

There’s nothing worse to a creative than feeling stuck. Try these tools next time it happens. Your mind will enjoy being playful, and can quickly become a fertile soil on which to grow new ideas.

Tools for provoking the imagination – 1

Which are the best tools for provoking the imagination?

New creative links can be made by drawing new comparisons or building metaphors.

Random word pairs can be useful, especially if focused around project keywords. This can help refocus a project or even stimulate new ideas. Try writing a topic statement, e.g.
“We want to develop a reception space that promotes our values and is pleasing to customers.”

Keywords:
develop, reception, space, promotes, values, pleasing, customers

Random word pairs:
space-customers
develop-values
promotes-reception
develop-pleasing

From these random pairs, we can ruminate on their new meanings. “Space-customers” might spark a conversation about where customers sit, and how much space they have, for instance.

To get even more food for thought, try listing synonyms for keywords.

You could also choose verbs, nouns, prepositions and conjunctions that fit with your project.

Returning to the reception area idea, you might choose:

Relax, greet, inspire (verbs)
Around, in, between (prepositions)
Plants, colour, invention (nouns)

Random word selection from a text can also be useful. Ask a person to choose a book, without looking. Person 2 chooses the page number from a given range. Person 3 selects the paragraph or line of text. The facilitator chooses the first verb or noun from that line or paragraph, e.g. “waterfall”. Discussion then starts on how our topic (the reception area) is like a waterfall.

For these activities, you might want to set a time limit. You might also ask small groups to consider different analogies and then feed back to the group.

During this kind of thinking the sheer quantity of connections is more important than quality. We are seeking to be creative by accident in the hope that serendipity will guide us to new perspectives. Therefore, criticism and saying ‘no’ are not allowed during this phase. Evaluating ideas at this stage will close too many doors too soon. Instead, look to create, combine and improve ideas.

A separate phase for analysis of ideas can follow afterwards.

Try these techniques when you really want to open up the way forward. They are a great way to get everyone involved. Metaphorical thinking is limitless.