Ok, I’m Inspired! Now What?

Ok, I’m Inspired! Now What?

I spent most of this weekend vegging out and reconnecting with local people who I haven’t seen for a week, but it’s time to face the coming week head-on!


I feel I’m lacking clarity in what I should do. I am starting to think, though, that may be a matter of having the courage to pick just one thing and do it. And by “one thing” that, I’m not talking about finding the mission…I’m really just talking about starting a project and willfully ignoring all those other things that seem so pressing. Can’t get them done all at the same time, after all.

Perhaps focus isn’t about willfulness, power, and character after all. It might just be putting on blinders of productivity on the sides of your head so you aren’t distracted, so you get from point A to point B without freaking out.

Thoughts? Experiences? Is this a crazy idea?


  1. Jinnan 14 years ago

    Here’s a quote I recently came across: “What would you start if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

  2. Nate 14 years ago

    There’s lots of different ways of saying this, but from Better Off Dead:

    “Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.”

  3. Abi Jones 14 years ago

    I find that when I have a ton of things on my plate, I’m good at procrastinating by doing more work. Case in point: I have a 12 page paper due on Tuesday. Do I work on the paper all weekend? No, I manage to write more reviews than I have in the last month.

  4. Bill Peschel 14 years ago

    No. Remember that work expands to fill the time allotted. You’re going to have more work than time, so it’s a matter of managing your work, not your time.

    Heck, Here’s the site I’m stealing this observation from. She explains it better than I did.

  5. Nathan 14 years ago

    I think putting on blinders of productivity is a great way to describe focus. In working in game design, and constantly having ideas I’d like to pursue myself, I find it difficult to not see the attractiveness of a new idea and want to chase after it. This is something the game dev team i’m a part of has recently come to struggle with as we develop our game and think about others.

    Perhaps a suggestion would be to take a half hour or an hour to just let yourself be bored (note, not relax, but bored, as that’s where I think additional creativity can really occur). After that has manifested some really interesting projects- pick one and put up the blinders. Perhaps for those who really struggle you can set accomplishment points (milestones) where it becomes okay to start thinking about other things because you’ve gotten far enough.

    Sorry, short question, long answer.

  6. Peter 14 years ago

    Blinders are pretty important. I was recently diagnosed with ADD and the biggest insight for me has been that setting aside time for one task- even if it only ten minutes- can move you forward really quickly. I have a TO DON’T list for all of the distractions- so if I think of something ‘urgent’ I commit it to the list for processing later and get back to what I was doing.

    As for choosing- I read some great advice on a website for FPS gaming tactics. The example was of coming around the corner into a room with two opposing team members facing you. In this situation, there is no decision to be made- shoot on first, then shoot the next one. Any time spent agonising over the decision of who to go for first is time wasted. So shoot your first task down, then shoot the next one. Surprisingly useful advice for productivity, considering the source.

  7. Christian 14 years ago

    Dave, I definately agree with you here.

    I’m currently 1 hour away from my Monday finishing (Damn Aussies getting to start the work week earlier then everyone else) and have been constantly fighting off distractions all day. The only way I’ve been able to get anything done today is by looking at my list of 10 or so critical things and simply choosing one of them and working on it trying to avoid the remaining 9 items.

    Not crazy at all.

  8. Boy o boy, do I ever believe in putting on “blinders of productivity”?!  I think it’s the only way to do things really.  I know GTD is about prioritizing and working down that list.  I believe in a different technique: Writing the list, then taking a step back and saying, “what feels right, right now?” and then creating GOOD constraints (I always capitalize them, not sure why).  Those constraints are the framework within which you can get that part of the list done that’s most important to you.

    Actually, the most important thing from what you wrote is that the lack of clarity may be a signal to you from you.

    You know what Orson Scott Card says he does when he comes to a point where he seems to have writer’s block?  He goes back and changes the last section – “writer’s block” is a signal from him to himself telling him that that direction isn’t the right one.  Would it be helpful for you to backtrack on anything?

  9. Grzegorz Kędzierski 14 years ago

    Do you mean, by saying about ignoring “other things”, completely ignoring your work? If so, it’s definitely not a good idea. The problem with “great, new projects” is that we are full of motivation only on the beginning and there is always a great chance that we will abandon it… and then what? You stay with nothing but lots of things you left for that time.

  10. Tim 14 years ago

    Maybe you need to collaborate with another person to help keep you motivated throughout the project. Apollo was just released today and I sure could use some design input for an idea or two I have kicking around…

  11. Chris Huff 14 years ago

    I agree.  Sometimes to get anything done, you have to get nothing done in other areas.  I also agree with Grzegorz above, though.  If the things you intend to put off are also clients with deadlines, perhaps the best solution is to practice time management appropriately.

  12. Ian Muir 14 years ago

    I actually just posted about a similar topic. I find that in many cases it’s not a matter of inspiration, but motivation.

    In fact, inspiration can frequently be a detriment to getting work done for me. If I keep jotting down notes about a neat project or spend time trying out a new idea or technique on a project, I usually just end up getting behind.

  13. Ryan C. 14 years ago

    Inspiration doesn’t find me until about 10 minutes or so into a freak out… :)

  14. Dan G. 14 years ago


    I love reading your blog so much because our approaches to the challenges presented by “the good life” are so similar.

    I mean, look at what you’ve got going for you: you’re doing things you love to do, you just had the opportunity to go and spend nearly an entire week surrounded by folks who not only do what they like to (which is also what you like to do), but are also, fundamentally, making it work for them and for others. You’ve got a small but loyal following of readers who appreciate your work and comment thoughtfully and productively on it, and you have (unless I’m mistaken) the time, energy and ability to put towards whatever you want to do!

    Now what?

    Good question, and I have to confess that the same question gnaws at me all the time. My own career has been a series of surprises and discoveries, linked together by periods of deep self-investment in my then-current work. I’m both deeply grateful and blessed with more than my own meager efforts deserve.

    I also study the martial arts. There’s a saying in the lineage I work in that has helped me. It says, roughly, “If the hands are wrong, look to the feet. If the feet are wrong, look to the hands.”

    In the context of my career, it seems to me that this means: “If something isn’t quite right about where you’re going (feet), check the direction of your work (hands). If something isn’t quite right about your quality of work (hands), check that you’re headed in the right direction (feet).”

    I don’t know what the direction of your work points you to, but what it says to me is that you love people, that you want to see them do better, and that you love to know that you can take a part in that. If that’s so, are you headed in the right direction to do that? Anything you can do to refine the course or look for clearer landmarks?

    In any case, I hope all the best for you, and wish you joy in the journey. It’s never dull!

  15. Jakob Heuser 14 years ago

    I treat my post-sxsw haze like a sifter.  I rock things back and forth, letting the small stuff drop off.  Pretty quickly, I can see some cool and huge idea, and I take it off the sifter and run with it.

    The hardest point though, is always getting all the noise to die down to find that one thing.

  16. Jamin Ellis 14 years ago

    Try this: Take a pad of post it notes. On the first, write down one of the things you are thinking of. Peel it off. Stick it to the wall. Rinse and repeat until you run out of either post its or ideas. Now arrange them vertically. If two post its are at the same height, move the best one higher up and the other lower down. Keep going until they are all at the right height, force ranking them against each other. Now take the postit that is highest (it should be the ‘best’ one). Do that thing, until you can’t do it anymore. Now take the second postit and do the same… You get the idea :). Does that make for a good ‘blinder of productivity’?

  17. Peter Flaschner 14 years ago

    Dave – you know exactly what you should be working on! We talked about it, remember? It’s a bloody good idea man!

  18. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    wow, many many comments!!!

    jinnan: That’s a great question! I find that I’m almost afraid to say it out loud (funny, that). I’d want to create something like Disneyland for Personal Empowerment.

    Nate: Heh, great great advice. Coincidentally, I think I heard that also in a panel at SXSW…maybe it was the Coudal/Dawes panel on short attention spans.

    Abi: I find I do that too. I am actually doing that right now…I know that responding to comments helps maintain that sense of community, so it’s “work” in the best way. But there are lots of paying things I should/could/would be doing now. I’m setting a time limit at least. I think it comes from wanting to be in alignment with what we really want to do.

    Bill: I’m thinking that managing my work means also being more realistic about what can be done in a typical waking period. Kate’s observation that “Work is infinite; time is finite” is really appropos. I just drew a time grid at the coffee shop and was facing the same thing. Great link…thanks for posting that!

    Nathan: Game Dev is pretty challenging because you’re constrained by resources, but need to deliver that “fun” experience (maybe this is an exception for licensed property titles, if I were to be cynical about it). I like your suggestion about being bored leading to creativity; it reminds me of Jim Coudal / Brendan Dawes panel at SXSW where they said that they structure their studios for maximum goofing off. It’s a lot more productive than it sounds, I’m guessing!

    Peter: That’s a great personal observation…I think in my case I also need to commit to that 10 minutes and not be afraid to choose. I love the FPS analogy. It might explain why I don’t do that well in those kinds of games.

  19. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Christian: Ha, that’s great!!! I’ll have to try that…10 critical things, then choose one and SNUB THE REST. That’ll show ‘em! :-)

    Senia: Hm, interesting idea with the OSC tie-in! I think I would tell myself that I need to rewind and start pursuing what I really really want to do. Which is, essentially, creating game structures for real people.

    Grzegorz: Jim Coudal (mentioning that SXSW panel again for the THIRD time :-) had an interesting take on not finishing things being a success. The gist was that (1) you learned something to the point where it stopped being a priority to you, for whatever reason and (2) they keep a “book of unborn ideas” that LOGS all the work they put into that idea. It becomes the source material for…who knows what? The side effect is that people feel free to be creative without having to “monetize” it, which keeps them fresh. It was a powerful idea. In a way, it’s like a kind of training and conditioning, so when you do need to push through on a paying project you’re in shape for it. However, I do wonder what their balance of work/play is actually like. It’s very mysterious!

    Tim: Yes, I think I need that. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make collaboration work and worthwhile for everyone involved. Yet another thing on my mind.

    Chris: Oh, I didn’t quite pick up on that from Grzegorz’s comment…yes, ignoring client deadlines is NOT AN OPTION. However, I find that I do need to juggle them with my own stuff; a lot of small companies, I think, fall into the “we have to do everything for our clients first, and then we can have time to work on our business” trap. That NEVER WORKS, because there are always clients and client demands. Which is why I want to shift from services to products; scheduling the time in now and doing those things (and there are a lot of them) is what’s creating that sense of anxiety in me. There are so many, and I am my own bottleneck, and building a team of people / company culture is just the tip of the iceberg. On the positive side, my friend Scott gave me some good pointers on business plans and what they ACTUALLY are, so I’m feeling a little more relaxed.

  20. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Ian: I hear ya, man…motivation comes in many forms. If anything, it feels like I have a surplus of inspiration and am trying to unload it for maximum gain, but the market is already flooded :-)

    Ryan: LOL…I need to EMBRACE MY FREAKOUT!!! That is awesome advice :-)

    Dan: Thanks for the reassuring words…I think your comment combined with Senia’s about backtracking are helping me see what I need to do. To some extent, I think making your OWN landmarks is a good thing, and having an idea that you know where you want to go (and what experience it would be) is an intuitive “internal compass”. Then, combined with Scott’s business plan advice, this is the creation of a MAP that tells you how you might get there, with whatever known obstacles, danger, and useful resources you’ll find along the way. So my “now what” question might be really the impulse to create a map / kit so I can go have my safari of daveness.

    Jakob: That’s good advice too…let things sit for a while, see what bubbles up out of the noise. Thanks dude! BTW, you had a great hat at SXSW :-)

    Jamin: That sounds like a BLIZZARD OF POSSIBILITY to me! :-) I’ve actually done this once or twice, except in a text editor (I don’t have the wall space for 100s of postits, sadly). Perhaps the Blinders are just best to be imposed by an actual person on a 1:1 relationship level. “Dave, go do this!”

    Peter F: Aiyeeee…I’ve already forgotten what that was! Crap! I hope I wrote it down!

  21. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Peter F: Oh, NOW I REMEMBER…yes. I think I’m thinking of it as a “Game Design Applied to Real Life Boutique Studio” at the moment.

  22. Lynn O'Connor 14 years ago

    Hi Dave and Everyone:

    I finally participated in a David Allen seminar about a month ago. Many time during the seminar he said to:
    “Pay attention to what you are paying attention to”
    And this is what your post reminded me of. We should select out of our numerous “to-do” and “to-be-done” items, what we have to do, and then, what has our attention at the time we’re selecting. We are fortunate in that much of our time is “ours” in that we select our clients, our students, and our projects (well sort of), and we have the luxury of selecting at all. The fact of being able to select our next action is a blessing, and perhaps the result of being lucky. I thank the universe for it, and I imagine you do too.

    Now I am trying to keep Allen’s “Pay attention to what you are paying attention to” in my mind in my selection process. Someone mentioned that responding to comments, as I am doing now, is possibly a distractor. It may be, but for me it is paying attention to what I am paying attention to, and therefore it is the most efficacious selection for me in this moment. I was going to respond yesterday, and couldn’t because of time, but now I realize it really was the most important thing to do, and I could have done this yesterday. It is most important for me because I have felt isolated as part of being an independent creator and scientist, and getting into contact with all of you has broken that feeling of isolation. It makes sense since so many of you are running independent design etc. projects/companies/ some similar type entity, much as I run my lab (www.eparg.org), and now my own blog which is new and just getting off the ground. Dave you make all of us think, and you do so frequently, and I am sure that if you pay attention to what you’re already paying attention to, that your decisions will be the best most of the time.


  23. Boris 14 years ago

    I am just reading a book that is amaaaaaaazing and it   partially plays into this topic as well.

    This book has been the best I have read in a while.

    It is called “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”  by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

    Highly recommended…..

    Check it out.


  24. JL 14 years ago

    I wonder which approach is better suited for the “blinders of productivity.”

    Let’s suppose you have several projects to complete and none of them are time sensitive, but you want to get it done soon.

    Should you do the “sprinting” method where you choose 1 project and dedicate every waking hour to it until your done.

    Or the “marathon” approach where you split up your day and work a little bit on each project?

  25. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Lynn: Thanks for the “Pay attention to what you are paying attention to” quote! I think you’re absolutely right about selection. I just wrote something that is along those lines. I think having the courage to choose what’s important, and to say that out loud.

    Boris: That book is on my shelf waiting to be read. I will move it to my nightstand and hopefully I will start reading it.

    JL: Hm, that’s an interesting notion. I tend to be a sprinter (or, as a friend puts it, like a cat) in that I store up energy before bursting it all out in a frenzy of activity. The Marathon approach is something I am not so well practiced with, and for me I suspect this would be more blinder like.

    In context of horses, I guess the marathon would be like a carriage-pulling horse trotting down the street, and the sprinter would be like a race horse. Am I a carriage puller or a race horse? In terms of doing my own thing, I’m more of a carriage puller not caring that much about competitors. However, I’m more like a race horse in terms of liking to be free to move quickly.

    The blinders work by restricting the field of view of the horse to just forward view, and I guess this makes it easier to steer them because they don’t get spooked by things to the side, and naturally move toward what they can see. Which makes me think that I need more than blinders; I need some steering too! :-)

  26. JL 14 years ago

    Ha! Interesting horse analogy.

    Of course, remember that a race horse has a little boss on his back forcing him to move quickly!

    Oh… and that “little boss” can either be a real person demanding we get something done immediately, or it can be a urgent, hard-set deadline.

  27. Sharon Wilson 13 years ago

    As a spiritual life coach I can tell you that it isn’t always about inspiration…sometimes its all about motivation.  The two work the best hand in hand though.  Inspiration is only the beginning of the journey; motivation is the journey leading to the destination.