43% of you are just waiting for inspiration to strike
I do my best work when I am inspired, not when I am adhering to a schedule.
Do you agree with that statement?
I was doing an interim analysis of some data that I recently gathered. I put together a quiz. A productivity mindset quiz. (You can find it on my website, here). I have over 330 complete responses. I thought it was enough to look at the trends.
The most surprising result to come out of the quiz so far. Out of 5 possible choices, 43% of respondents agreed with the statement above. Basically, 43% of the people who took the quiz don’t believe that inspiration and a schedule co-exist.
That shocked me.
I’ll be honest. I threw that statement in. It’s in the last question. And it came from a comment by a reader a few months ago.
I understand how great it can feel to be moved by inspiration. Its that feeling of deep flow. Of being in the groove. Of looking up from a project and being shocked at how much time has passed.
Inspiration is defined as:
filling (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
It would be great if we could make progress toward our goals and hit our deadlines. By doing nothing more than waiting for inspiration to strike. Of only working when we are moved to do so. If we had all the time in the world.
In reality, we can’t wait for a muse to descend upon us. It isn’t practical. Progress toward goals requires regular, if not daily, work. Most of our day jobs don’t allow for deadlines to linger, depending upon inspiration.
But we can cultivate inspiration. We don’t have to do nothing and wait.
So, how do we seek out inspiration? How can we combine these two things that seem completely unrelated — inspiration and a schedule?
How do you ignite inspiration, on purpose?
Figure Out What Inspires You
We all have different patterns. Different ways we find inspiration. I walk my dog, Rosie, every day. Usually right around lunch time. While this may seem like a hole in my productive schedule, it isn’t. I listen to podcasts. I go outdoors. I step away from my computer and think through snags in my writing or my consulting projects. I smooth out the rough edges of my mindset if I’m struggling that day.
When I come back from that walk, I have figured at least one thing out. I am inspired to take the next step in my work.
Look for your own patterns. Does the outdoors invigorate you? Does music do it? Are there books? Blogs? Yoga? I also have multiple Instagram accounts. One has nothing but inspirational quotes, mindset, and productivity people. Sometimes I will scroll through that account for a few minutes. For a burst of inspiration. A purposeful break to find my flow again.
Figure out your own patterns. What triggers your inspiration. Because it doesn’t happen on a whim. You might not see it, but there is a pattern. You need to figure out what does it for you. And do that thing.
Find Regular Time For “Inspiration”
One of the things that I have noticed with productivity. Is that people assume that means getting tasks done every minute of every day. That its all action, all the time.
That only tells part of the story. Jack Canfield, the prolific author and speaker, talks about two types of action — outer and inner. Outer work is the execution of tasks and activities. But inner work is the mindset work. The inspiration work.
An ideal schedule incorporates time to allow for this. Bill Gates was famous for taking what he called “Think Weeks.” Twice a year, he would go off the grid and spend a week thinking about the future of technology. Basically, he planned time for inspiration.
Most of us don’t have the time or resources to take 2 weeks out of our life every year for contemplation. But we can take little pieces of time. 15 minutes a day. Somewhere in the schedule. An intentional step back from the details. To do what we know can trigger inspiration.
So the next time you find a day booked with tasks for every minute. Remind yourself of what actually inspires you. It doesn’t have to take up an hour of your day. But find the time to do that inner work. Plan for it. Five minutes reading an inspiring blog post. A walk around the block of your office building. Don’t spend that time feeling guilty for stepping away. Remember that it is intentional. Fuel for the fire of your mind. Use it to reconnect with your inspiration.
Seek Out Accountability
Sometimes we are stuck in a rut. We are halfway through a project. We can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can’t find inspiration, no matter how hard we look.
We need to call in reinforcements.
Accountability works for so many people, on so many levels. It can keep you honest. An accountability partner can keep you motivated, put gas back in your tank. They can also be someone to bounce ideas off of when you are stuck.
You could find accountability in a friend, or a work colleague. Someone who will keep you motivated. But also reinforce consequences if you don’t stick to your plan. Masterminds are becoming increasingly popular as a way to, among other things, maintain accountability.
A quick Google search tells me there are also a lot of services. Websites that can connect you with more structured accountability partners and programs. I know nothing about any of them, so I don’t want to recommend anything in particular. But if you are curious, you can look here and here.
The idea that we are accountable to another person. That they know what we need to do and when. Often that is enough to inspire us to move forward.
Lack Of Inspiration Doesn’t Give You Permission Not To Do The Thing
In the end, we have to be willing create our own inspiration. We can’t rely on random fluctuations in time and space to give us our best ideas. And we can’t use a lack of inspiration as an excuse not to do something.
But we can find our own ways to prime the pump. To get into the best headspace that we can. To seek out inspiration.
As August Turak says,
As counter-intuitive as it may sound, inspiration actually emerges from the soil of action: perspiration is just the water that nourishes it.