I believe that more focus means more freedom and more joy.
But as creatives, sometimes it’s hard to focus on one thing for very long, because we’re constantly coming up with new ideas for the next “big thing”!
Sometimes, that can work to our advantage – like when we’re always coming up with new ideas for paintings, illustrations, blog posts, jewelry designs, or whatever fits in your own creative business.
But other times it can work against us – like when we switch from making jewelry to designing t-shirts to making baby clothes and then hand-lettering and then to blogging, and on and on… never allowing any ONE creative idea the time it really needs to work. And by “work” I mean move you towards your creative and financial goals.
So if you’re in that latter group, let’s chat. Because I know I’ve been there. For far too long and far too many times. It wasn’t until the last year or so I’ve really trained my brain to focus on one great thing, before starting the next.
The main way I do that is by asking myself the questions below. But first of all, If I have a great idea, I write it down. That way I know I won’t forget it, and it allows my mind to relax and remain focused on what I’m currently working on, because I know I can go back to that new idea later.
Then I ask myself these 4 questions before taking on a new project:
Will this take me closer to my overall goals? Or further away?
This answer should be easy – quick and decisive. Of course, for that to be the case, you must know what your overall goals are in the first place. If you haven’t set clear goals for the next year or so in business, do that asap. (I have a class here that can help!) That way you’ll be able to answer this one easily.
This is really my own “North Star” question, and the most important one – and always the first one – I ask myself. Because if the answer is no, the idea is easily ditched.
But if the answer is yes, I move on to…
Will this project make me joyful and creatively fulfilled?
I consider myself a serial creative entrepreneur. A few years ago I started a business that I knew would make money, but would not necessarily make me feel happy or creatively fulfilled by any means. It didn’t take long for the monotony of that business to drag me down. I was unhappy, and hardly ever creative. So I knew I had to quit, but that took at least another year while I figured out how to replace that income.
I don’t want you to make that same mistake. So answer this one as honestly as you can so you don’t waste years (or even months, days, or minutes!) of your life on something you really aren’t juiced up about doing. Which leads us to the next question…
Am I just bored/frustrated/terrified of my current project?
We’ve probably all seen that meme that says something like:
The Creative Process
1. This is awesome
2. This is tricky
3. This is shit
4. I am shit
5. This might be ok
6. This is awesome
Sometimes, when we’re in stages 2-4, we come up with new ideas so we don’t have to get through the tough parts of our current project. But honestly? That’s where we grow and learn the most as creatives.
So, being honest with yourself here, should you, at the very least, complete the project you’re currently working on? (Probably!) Or mastering one aspect of your business before you start another. (Definitely!) For instance: if you have zero Etsy sales, and you want to start a Shopify shop, or start selling on RedBubble or Society6… Maybe you should master Etsy first (or whatever platform you’re selling on), before just jumping to the next thing.
Is there a market for this? Will someone pay for it? If not, is that okay?
If you want this new thing to make money, be realistic when answering this question. You may be in love with your idea of creating over-sized doilies in neon colors… but is there a market for them?
But let’s also consider this revolutionary idea for many creative entrepreneurs: Not everything you make has to make you money!
Like Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Big Magic:
Sometimes, it’s good/important/dare I say it, fun, to make just for the sake of making. (That’s probably why adult coloring books are so popular!)
Also, it could be that this creative idea, project, or pastime will be the foundation for something you can capitalize on at a later time. Maybe after you’ve gotten really good at it. But again, maybe not! Maybe it’s just something you do for the sheer joy of it. That sounds pretty lovely to me!
Those are the 4 questions I ask myself before starting a new creative project. If you have any other questions you ask yourself before starting something new, I’d love to hear about them in comments section below!