The power of generating low-cost promotional ideas: a fight-back strategy

Come up with your own free, easy and low-cost promotion ideas that can help you to lift sales in a difficult economy

In this rough and tumble economy, some business people sit, like frogs in a pot immobilised with the water temperature rising. Even when the temperature hits boiling point, they remain in the pot. If the frogs suddenly stumbled into the pot of boiling water, they wouldn’t hesitate to jump right out. Why then don’t small business people react quickly when they recognize warning signs?  

Many business people seem to stubbornly believe that they can rough it through the difficult economy doing business in the same familiar way, despite turnovers in some cases plummeting by a third or more. Small business has such a high mortality rate in “normal” economic conditions but when economic activity declines, the mortality rate rises.

Riding high and spending less

During the good times small business owners were riding high. They spent less on their marketing as customers walked in and bought whatever they wanted. Small business owners were spoilt as they had to do little personal selling or advertising.

Now, when times are tough and small business owners and entrepreneurs are more concerned with meeting personnel expenses and covering overheads they are even more reluctant to spend money on promotion. Yet clients and customers are holding onto their cash, waiting for times improve, hanging onto their homes, cars, computers, household appliances for longer, repairing them instead of replacing them.What should store owners and small service businesses do?

Ignore selling and promotion at your peril

Even though small business owners have seen turnovers drop many are wary of spending money on promotion. Some are trying to play it cheap by bringing in well meaning family and friends to help them promote their products and services. Other owners knuckle down on the technical areas and processes in their business, ignoring selling and promotion at their peril.Promotional ideas need to work

Little do those businesses who use retail space or have high visibility and walk-in customers realise that if they don’t do something to promote their business and lift sales, they will be forced into operating the business from home to chop overhead. Running a business from home ironically means needing to acquire a whole set of new marketing skills.

How do you go about promoting your business in a stormy economy where every cent counts? Small businesses and entrepreneurial enterprises cannot pour vast sums on vague institutional (image) advertising with no way to measure sales. Entrepreneurs need to generate sales — even when advertising in traditional print media, adverts have to be “keyed” and have special phone numbers specific to adverts. This way they can measure their advertising conversion. A small travel agent told me recently that she had a separate phone number for each advert to measure response. If the newspaper, magazine, radio or television advertising didn’t pull, it had to go.

Test, test, test

Promotional ideas that work are specific to each business and the mind or emotional triggers of their customers. Small business owners need to brainstorm ideas that they think will work for their business. Try some no-cost, low-cost ideas out first and see how they work. Remember to test, test, test. As Claude Hopkins said, “Almost any question can be answered, cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign.”

To get fighting fit in this economy small business owners and entrepreneurs need to focus their attention on attracting customers to their business through a variety of low-cost, no-cost promotional ideas. Idea generation techniques can be effective as can meeting with fellow business people to share and swop ideas. In the next article on we’ll look at tips, strategies and other ideas to promote your business. In the meantime, take a look at what your competitors are doing as well try to spot other businesses that seem to be doing well no matter how hard the harsh economic winds blow.

Ways to generate ideas for income opportunities in your spare time

Growing an income opportunity starts with an idea. Try these proven idea generation methods to stimulate your imagination and come up with money-making opportunities you can run from home in your spare time

The lousy economy may give you a shove into thinking about coming up with ideas for income opportunities in your spare time. But it shouldn’t be the only reason. Imagine how it would be to have a second income that flows into your banking account proving your self-reliance, passion and providing you with greater peace of mind.

Though there are many tools for generating ideas, we will help you get started with some of the more creative and powerful methods.

 This method stretches your creativity

If you want to explore techniques and tools for generating your own ideas for products and services, one of the easiest is to quickly come up with a list of 101 ideas. You may think it’s a lot but when you try it out you will find that this technique forces you to stretch your creative juices to the limit. Often your best idea is hidden in the last 10 ideas that you list. Try it out. Don’t censor or judge your ideas – just write them as quickly as they come to you. You can review your list after a few days. Select your best three ideas and see how you could expand on them.

A tool to produce ideas at any time

Another tool is the 20 Idea Method. Write down 20 ideas quickly to a problem you may have. Don’t overcomplicate things. You may want to focus your idea generation session with a question like, “In what ways could I increase my income this year by 25%?” Review your ideas after a day or two. When you’ve completed your list, choose your best idea and write down a plan to implement it. Put your plan away and review it after a few days.

Try these for amazing results

Try out other methods such as brainstorming on your own. Drawing mind maps (write a central subject or theme in the centre of the page and add related thoughts as quickly as you can for 10 min). Freewrite 10 minutes without consideration of grammar and punctuation. Try a random process such as selecting a word from a dictionary (use nouns) and free associate them with your problem at hand.

Income opportunity ideas to spur your own

Once you get started on idea generation your income opportunity ideas will flow. For example, you may have an idea for offering to copy records to a DVD or making MP3 files. What about a photography service with a twist such as updating photographs for small businesses such as restaurants? Check Twitter for ideas. Randomly link trends to your topic.

You could consider a jewellery business, computer support business, pet sitter or cleaning business, or offer a virtual assistant service for home-bases businesses such as updating websites for small (even one-person) businesses, typing documents, transcribing audio files, uploading podcasts, calling people to build up a mailing list (a valuable asset for on-line promotion). Think of who these services would be offered to – check your online Yellow Pages, local Chamber of Commerce, speak to friends. You just need one customer to get started.

If you’re interested in serving the woman’s beauty market you could, for example, think about taking your service to working women. A mobile hairdressing service in our city involves the hairdresser riding a motor bike to your home any day of the week, including Saturday afternoons. The service is so excellent it rivals any regular store-based salons at a competitive price. But the personal attention and convenience outrivals conventional hairdressers. A similar service could be nail salon business for manicures, pedicures, polish changes and nail art.

For those with an interest in the automotive world, generate ideas for services such as mobile minor repairs, emergency services, battery replacements and hand wash car cleaning.

Training is a big market and anything from computer skills to on-line courses offer opportunities for you to apply to your idea generation session.

Questions for the reality check

But whatever business idea you come up with you need to ask yourself:

  • Does a need exist for the business?
  • What is the profit potential for this business?
  • How long will it take to reach the level of sales to make this profit?
  • How many hours in a day will I need to give to this business?
  • What is the experience required for the business?
  • Does the business require hiring specialised skills?
  • What is the capital required to start and run the business?

The Internet provides many opportunities for small home-based businesses. Take a look at the Internet and see how many businesses are selling health products, information products, marketing services, package businesses. Biz-op type kits abound.

Sleep better at night

Generate your own ideas using these idea methods and come up with income opportunities that will help you sleep better at night. Don’t be discouraged if nothing happens immediately. You have planted seeds that will eventually allow ideas to pop from seemingly nowhere. Use the same idea generating methods to brainstorm an implementation plan. Before you know it you will be on your way, whether you are man or woman, old, young, to turning your ideas into money making opportunities.

Who else wants to generate ideas for income opportunities from home in a lousy economy?

Looking for ways to earn a second income in your spare time could help ease the blow of rising living expenses

You hope the lousy economy is going to improve. How bad can it still get? Petrol price increases. Electricity price increases. Tax increases. Toll road fees so high they are effectively blocking entry into your city, forcing you to rethink where you work. Shortages driving up prices. As a friend remarked, “I don’t know how people are managing to live anymore.”

How are you managing to keep to your budget with expenses rising?

But after paring your personal business expenses to the bone, where should your focus be?

Second income opportunities and home-based businesses are looking increasingly attractive.

Home-based income opportunities may not be a substitute to formal employment but can be complimentary.

Use your creativity to generate ideas for niche markets

With the information explosion, Internet growth, and new ways needed to reduce costs and increase value, generating your own ideas for products and services is becoming within reach of many more people. Business-in-a-box packages and franchises are huge but designing your own business is becoming more attractive with markets going markets.

How can techniques of creativity of idea generation help you generate ideas and turn your ideas into moneymaking opportunities?

We look at how you can use techniques for producing ideas to make a second income, a silent income, without giving up your day job to make life a little easier.

I visited an outdoor market, probably the largest in South Africa, on Saturday morning to check out home business creativity first hand.

Stalls were overflowing with natural and organic fresh fruit and vegetables, handcrafted gifts, deli items, clothing and footwear in natural fibres, toys, arts, ceramics, hand-crafted jewellery, natural make up and health and wellness products. This informal retail environment provides a platform for crafters, farmers, pharmacists and artists – people who earn a living expressed through their passion and creative abilities.

“They know who they are buying from”

Most of these small businesses have some manufactured product (mostly handmade). The manager of the outdoor market said that what’s big is health products because of the health-conscious mothers in the area as the demographic has changed. More men are getting into the outdoor craft market with quality products that rival mass-produce products. I asked the manager what brings so many customers to the market. “It’s the quality of the handmade products and the interaction between the customers and stall owners,” he says. “Customers can deal directly with the manufacturer of the product – there’s more involvement… They know who they are buying from”.

Businesses that began from an idea

Not one of these close to 100 small business operations have been started from a pre-packaged business kit or public franchise. All these businesses were begun in the form of an idea and the creative yearning of the owners.

Open market selling is not for everyone. But the point is that many businesses are started all the time by people who have generated their own ideas for cash, either full-time or part-time (some of these stall operators sell on-line when they are not on show at the outdoor market).

Franchise businesses are proven in many cases with risks ironed out but they are expensive. Risks remain in any business such as changing demographics, new customer buying patterns and competitive threats. There’s no guarantee for any business whether you buy a franchise, a biz-kit type business or purchase a firm someone else started. Your idea for product or service has just about the same chances of success as all those ready-to-start businesses available off-line or online.

Consider the difference in opportunity

Just consider the difference in opportunity. You buy a franchise for R1 million ($125,0000) and have to be very successful to make back your initial investment. A business formed by an entrepreneur doesn’t have to pay this cost. You can sell your business at a healthy multiple whatever way you determine its value.

On the Internet you find many businesses that have begun in the form of an idea by their owners. These businesses express the know-how, experience, skills and passion of their owners. They are filling the many niches (creneaus or holes) left open by the larger businesses not geared to service them profitably.

If you are thinking about a second income opportunity for yourself, why not first try to generate your own ideas before you buy a turnkey business that you will have to pay for a long time before you start earning money. In the next article from we will help you to quickly generate ideas to come up with money making opportunities in your spare time.

By generating your own ideas, you may just discover an income opportunity that can help you cushion the blow of increased living costs or give you a little extra to make life more interesting. 

Use these creative selling ideas to pump sales even in this economy

Use creative techniques to generate ideas to increase your sales whether selling face to face, in print or on-line

Dear Friend,

We were in the market for a house and looked at several properties. Gail (not her real name), one of the real estate agents, showed us an attractive home but it had some disadvantages. She asked us to view the house a second time. While inside the kitchen we admired the spacious feeling and the view onto the garden. Then we became aware of another couple talking in the lounge. Suddenly we wanted the house more than ever. We put in an offer to purchase right away.

The real estate salesperson created urgency in her prospective buyers by creatively closing us. She increased buying pressure by bringing in another couple to view the house at the same time. She moved us rapidly from merely interested prospects to committed buyers desperate not to lose the sale.

Using your creativity as a sales person can help increase your sales in this economy. Knowing how to use creativity in selling can stop you leaving money on the table. Creativity in selling works not only for face to face selling but also in other forms such as in print or online.

How creative is your selling? We don’t mean creativity in the unsavoury sense of being devious or manipulative. Short-changing or deceiving a customer is not selling, it is dishonesty. Selling to be successful requires an exchange of value at an agreed price.

You can use your creativity to generate ideas for all phases of the sales process: understanding your customer, knowing your product or service, prospecting, qualifying, approaching the customer, presenting, closing the sale and after-sales follow-up and service.

Understanding your customer’s needs involves use of your creativity whether you are a kitchen table business owner or web entrepreneur. Who are your customers? Where are your largest prospects? What are their needs? Where will you find new customers for your product or service? Who will be your future customers? What motivates them to buy? You need to find out more about your customers and their needs. This requires creativity because you must come up with ideas to constantly stay in touch with your customer needs to grow your market.

Creativity is also required when you look at finding new uses for your products and services. In what ways are your customers using your product or service right now? What other ways could your product or service be used? What benefits of your products are most in demand and by whom? Needs change over time so you must keep current. How will you find out? What methods can you use to survey your customers?

Prospecting requires much creativity. How are you going to find out where your prospective customers are? What ideas can you come up with for generating leads? How much will leads cost you? What lead generation methods work best for your product or service?

Qualifying becomes very important in a tough economy – to increase sales and minimise your risk. If you don’t quickly qualify a prospect, you waste time and money. You need to know up front whether your customer needs your product and can afford it. What ideas can you use to quickly and effectively qualify prospects? Generate a list of questions you could ask prospects.

Presentations require creativity in providing proof of performance of your product or service. How can you sharpen your product or service presentation? Have you mastered the sequence of presenting benefits in your presentation? Do you have too many selling points, overwhelming your customer with detail? Are you able to switch from your presentation to a trial close immediately you sense a buying signal?

Handling objections benefits from creativity. Generate a list of your major objections for your products or service. Write down how you will handle each one. Make sure you have at least three answers for price in this economy.

Closing is arguably the most creative part of selling. How many closes do you have? Some top sales people have more than 25 closing techniques. How many do you have? You need at least 10 closes you can use at any time. You need to sharpen your closing because every sale you lose goes to your competition.

In this post we have mainly covered personal selling but remember that selling in print or on-line requires that you go through the selling process and determine how you can sharpen your sales process and offer (presentation). Instead of breaking your prospect’s preoccupation with a question such as in personal selling, you need to grab their attention with a headline that draws them into your sales letter, direct response ad or website copy. Closing is similar to conversion online so you need to be just as creative with various approaches to induce customers to buy from your website.

Whatever ideas you generate to increase your sales, make sure you test them. Some sales approaches work for years regardless of economic conditions or buyer behaviour. But make sure that your selling methods are up to date and effective.

Stay focused on creating value.



Chesney Bradshaw

Founder of

PS To maximise your business work on increasing customers, total purchase value and frequency of purchase. Just imagine if you could come up with 25 ideas for all three areas – you would increase your sales and profits exponentially.

How to generate ideas to deliver astonishing customer value

Dear Friend,

Walk into retail shopping centres these days and rows of shops have gone to the wall. What went wrong? Did these business owners know what they were doing? Did they stop creating value for their customers?

Very often we can trace the downward spiral in a business to the customer value proposition. A what? A value proposition really just means all the benefits a customer receives in return for payment.

The danger of an iceberg is what lurks underneath – in business poor customer service signals a value proposition that’s somehow got lost along the way. Here are some warning signals:

Call centres that force you through menus and make you wait and then the personnel have no clue how to solve your problem.

• Websites run by marketing experts who don’t answer queries on simple things like shipping charges.

• Household repair service contractors who take down your details but never get back to you to set up time to meet with you to assess your needs.

• A clothing shop that sells you long-sleeved shirts with buttons that come off after the first wash.

A daily newspaper whose subscription “service” is so cumbersome that it takes weeks to finalise a simple annual subscription.

A credit card company that tires to lure you into catalogue purchases with little understanding of your needs, aspirations and lifestyle.

Some of the larger businesses that allow these things to happen can get away with turning customers away but for the smaller business it can be deadly.

When you drive under normal conditions you might glance at your dashboard to check key indicators like fuel and oil. But driving alone on a country road at night wouldn’t you watch your dashboard with a much sharper eye? Isn’t it amazing how some businesses riding through the economic storm don’t keep their eyes on their dashboard, constantly looking at key indicators — customer satisfaction levels, cash flow, debtor days (see financeglossary for a good example) and shrinkage levels.

One restaurant owner I interviewed recently told me that she watches her shrinkage by conducting daily stock takes, closely watches portion size slippage and works overtime to come up with ideas to attract more customers.

A smaller business may find it relatively easy to brainstorm the key indicators for their business — and keep their eyes fixed on what they believe is crucial for the survival of their business. Whatever the indicators selected, customer value is vital. Lose your focus on this one in a changing market and you will soon find yourself in serious trouble. Customer value parity is useless in today’s competitive market.

Smart business people who want to thrive in any economic conditions practice these methods to keep their business healthy:

Spend time using proven methods to generate ideas to promote their business and achieve higher sales volumes in low-cost, high return ways.

• Ask for advice on how to implement systems that reduce shrinkage in their business if their own methods are not effective.

Recognise that when economic times are tough to implement controls to stop debtors endlessly delaying payments with easy-to-implement practices.

• Resist dishing out generous discounts to all customers regardless whether the customer buys before a certain deadline or buys in bulk.

 • Communicate to employees how they can contribute to repeat business through providing superior service and value.

• Focus their energies on filling the sales funnel. If they run a restaurant, as an owner recently told me, forget about tinkering endlessly with your decor — find ways to attract more customers (get to know what they need and want).

Ensure that their products and service have the best real and perceived value for their customers.

• Talk to business people from other fields, other industries, to find out what’s working well for them.

A mechanical cheeriness isn’t going to win over sceptical customers. To add value requires a deep understanding of your customers’ needs, customisation and a delivery system that offers quality and perceived value quickly flexibly and competently.

Don’t blow your relationships with your existing customers either — repeat customers, your backlist, have already been paid for by your upfront marketing and advertising acquisition costs.

Co-creating customer value requires listening to customer needs, wants and desires. Creativity and imagination are needed to identify new opportunities for creating customer value. Anticipate customer needs through brainstorming or use of other idea generation methods to produce breakthrough ideas for superior customer value.

Stay focused on creating value.

Chesney Bradshaw

Founder of

PS Breakthroughs happen when you combine your understanding of your customer’s needs and expectations with creative ideas to solve their problems. Read similar posts on creating value and generating ideas for income and profit in the archive, while they are still freely available.

Get more, much more, out of what you’ve got

Image by lalunablanca via Flickr
How much money do you leave on the table when pricing your services and expertise? Are you charging enough for your service or expertise? Do you often feel that you have over serviced clients but have been underpaid?

If any of these questions get your blood churning you might want to consider your current pricing strategy. Are all your services priced the same or do you charge different hourly or project fees for high level work? Routine work may only warrant standard industry rates but as the level of your value in your speciality rises, fees may need to be adjusted upwards. Complex, specialised work that requires a high-level of technical expertise and judgement would attract the highest hourly rate or project fee. Geographic market location, market position and size of client also have an influence.

The most audacious example of a high fee strategy in a field that requires a high level of judgement, creativity and strategic thinking I have come across is that involving a brand naming company. The agency did not particularly want the business from a client so decided to put in a bid at an outrageously high project fee. Work from similar companies was priced in the $15,000 range. The agency put in a bid for $150,000 – and won! Much is at stake when renaming a company and the company thought the highest priced solution would give them the best advice.

Continue reading “Get more, much more, out of what you’ve got”

Finding time to create #4 Ignite your creativity

How do we inject more creativity into our business – conceptualising, planning, implementing — and find the time to do so? Working in fixed time slots is seemingly impossible with today’s demands on our time. Tablet computers, smart phones, e-mails and the Internet are all meant to save time but our e-mail boxes are brimming every day and continuous disruptions from associates in company cubicle land have become the norm. Finding time to create before the workday begins has its merits but it’s not always easy to do with morning traffic, urgent and “unforseen” crises and cell phone calls. Continue reading “Finding time to create #4 Ignite your creativity”

Finding time to create # 3 Generate value upfront

Inside the money machine
Inside the money machine. Image by Yodel Anecdotal via Flickr

Times like these draw the best out of us. We need to dig deep and pull on our inner resources. Wealth and value creation take on a new importance. What are we doing to increase our sales? How much money are we leaving on the table? How can we get our products faster to market? What innovations on the backburner can we fast forward? Are our selling and promotion campaigns achieving the results we require? How can we transform our hobbies and interests into money making opportunities?

It takes more than hard work in tough times. Innovation is more important than we think. Joe Vitale points out in “The 7 lost secrets of success” that Bruce Barton, the second “B” in BBDO (the famous Batten, Barton, Durstine, and Osborn agency), became chairman of the board of BBDO in September 1928 when the agencies became one. The agency had 113 clients, 600 employees, and billings of $32.6 million in their first year — the first year of the Great Depression. Can you believe that? A business based on ideas making truckloads of money in the worst of times.

You may have all the best intentions in the world. You may have decided that you want to be more creative and produce more ideas to benefit your personal or business life. You may be inspired to create more ideas. Now what? You’ve got your week laid before you and have decided that you will spend a half an hour each morning to produce ideas.

Monday comes – you wake up late. Monday evening you are too tired to think creatively about generating ideas. Just as well because you can’t force creativity. Tuesday comes around and you have a meeting at eight o’clock and will to wake up half an hour early if you want to produce ideas. Perhaps you could find a quiet place with the right atmosphere to produce ideas. And so it goes.

Viewing producing ideas as some activity that you have to do at set, allocated times can be too forced, out of kilter with the inner human creative process. For those who are extremely self disciplined, it can help to allocate a set time. Creativity can’t be viewed as some add on to your life: it needs to be part of your way of living. Let me explain.

Almost anything you do every day can benefit from creative thinking. If you are planning a project, an event, a consulting proposal, a creative work such as a painting, a photographic shoot – all of these will have greater impact with pre-thinking, visualisation and imagining possibilities. You need to build creativity into important tasks in a seamless way.

With many tasks to do in a week, how can you find time to produce more creative ideas?

How do you integrate creativity into the most relevant or high impact processes where you hope to achieve amazing results? You are planning an important project. Do you just go ahead in the usual way? Perhaps you need to rethink what you’ve been doing. Is it still relevant? Does it give you maximum impact? Is it the most cost-effective way? Have you maximised the benefits for all involved? Will it make money?

By sitting down perhaps in a quiet place such as a coffee shop before you start dashing out your list of activities for your project, you could brainstorm, mindmap or perform a clustering exercise for 10 minutes. Right there, before you begin your project you can engage in a creative process. If you’re not familiar with using creativity tools like freewriting, you may not benefit from your first few attempts. Try it a few times and you could be amazed at the ideas you produce.

Why go to this trouble? With stiff competition for better, smarter and more cost-effective ways of doing things that stand out, you need to raise your game.

You can inject creativity into just about anything you do if you want superior results. Use creativity tools and techniques before you start anything important – a proposal, a sales letter, a business strategy.

Find out what works best for you. By placing creative processes at the forefront of your routine and new projects, you stand a much better chance of producing outstanding, profitable results.

Idea Prompt

1. Evaluate your projects. Make a list. Prioritise your top three projects.

2. Take your most important project and freewrite for 10 minutes on ideas to create more value. Or, if you don’t have time to look up what freewriting is all about, just list 21 ideas fast.

3. Select your best idea and include it in your project to generate greater value.

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Finding time to create #2 The secret of 10 minutes focused attention

Starting up again (3 of 4)
Image by Unhindered by Talent via Flickr

Under pressure, time never seems to be on one’s side. You have many projects to complete but they all seem to merge into an endless torrent of deadlines, one after the other. Work piles up. One of your projects you have given little time to. You just can’t seem to get around to sitting down and getting to grips with it.

You finally decide you will spend just 10 minutes on it. You sit down with your file, your notes, calculator, pad and pen and think through what you are going to do. Suddenly, you have the solution. Ideas come to you and you become interested about completing the project. You make a list of people to call, tasks to complete, resources you will need and a workflow plan.

You are surprised how quickly you sorted things out after just not being able to get around to kick-starting your project. It only took 10 minutes and you were thinking that it would take you hours.

What’s going on here? Why did tackling this project seem like such a mountain to climb? What lessons does it hold for creativity, ideation and innovation?

Under stress it is hard to bring ourselves around to work on projects that we may believe only offer us marginal prospects for gain. How do we know that these projects we have placed low on our priority list have low value until we examine their potential and possibilities? We often tend to put these projects on the backburner because we just have too much to handle. We don’t recognise that money likes fast action when it flows and we can’t let things wait for weeks or longer.

Another thing is that we try to do some of the thinking about a delayed project in our heads. That’s fine up to a point but the result is that we can become overwhelmed carrying all the details in our brain. It’s much easier to sit down relaxed with a piece of paper or an electronic screen and put down all our thoughts where they are easy to see. The whole project becomes more manageable.

The other important insight is that with a white-hot focus we can block distractions and concentrate our minds and imagination on one project, giving it our full attention. Our mind can process information so quickly in this way that it seems unbelievable.

Brief periods of concentrated attention can help you speed up and complete projects at a rate you may have previously thought impossible. A timer (on your cell phone) or a kitchen timer — but without the distracting ticking sound — helps you block out well defined time periods of, say, 10 minutes to work on important projects. It is not necessary to complete the phase of your project in 10 minutes. If you haven’t completed what you set out to do in 10 minutes, start another 10-minute session — and another, if necessary. The main point is to focus your mind with a laser-sharp intensity so that you can give your full attention to the task at hand.

Concentrated periods of 10 minutes or more may seem artificial, even contrived. But when you try them out, you will find that your ideas flow more rapidly. Ideas you never thought of may well rise to the surface of your conscious mind. You will also be simply amazed at how fast your mind can really work and the outstanding results that you are able to produce when you coax your mind into working for you.

Idea Prompt

As a brief exercise, time yourself for two minutes and think about all the main elements that you will require for a project. Next, write down the tasks on a mind map (or on a program such as PersonalBrain), cluster map or simply use a list – whatever works best for you — in two minutes. Think again about your list of items without looking at your map or list, going through the items in your mind for two minutes. Do new items crop up? After the two minutes, place them on your map or list. (You may find ideas popping into your mind the next day — add them to your map or list.) Review what you have achieved in eight minutes. If you haven’t done this exercise yet, do it now and see how incredibly well it works. Should it not work the first time, try again on another project.

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Finding time to create # 1: Why it matters

Image by wwarby via Flickr

You want to increase the impact of your work but it’s almost impossible most of the time to raise your game. You believe you should be more creative in your work but can’t find the time to sit down and think. You must start a new project but you don’t want to outline your thoughts at your desk because it just doesn’t feel creative. You try to find the time to get started but you just can’t.

What’s going on here? What’s preventing you from being more creative in your work? Do you need to be more disciplined? Is it because you haven’t established a routine and you are all over the place? Could it be a psychological block? Is it really about not having time?

It’s got harder to find the time to be creative because of the growing number of distractions in the workplace. Some studies say we get interrupted at work every eight minutes. Distractions make it much harder to focus and concentrate on important work, the work you get recognised and rewarded for and which gives you the greatest satisfaction. It’s a lot easier to turn to lighter tasks and amusements. No matter how much you convince yourself that social media will be significant in the future, your important work remains the core of your value to yourself and the marketplace.

So where do we look? Time management. This could be the panacea we’ve been looking for. But wait. We remember all those times we tried time management programmes and what happened? We found that it’s almost impossible to control our time despite keeping detailed time-planners when so many other things demand our attention – e-mails, follow-up work on projects, proposals, projects, people calling us on our landlines and then on our cell phones when our landlines are engaged, sms’s, BlackBerry messages and even tweets to get our attention. Do we really control our time or do interruptions control us?

We know we are smart – we can get a grip on this time thing and take charge of our lives. Our next search takes us into the whole personal qualities trap. We are out of control because we need more self-discipline. We’ll work ourselves out of our trap with better personal qualities. Soon we begin to realise that self-discipline is not enough. The onslaught of distractions, the demands, the deadlines, keep coming. We begin to feel overwhelmed. There must be a better way, we say to ourselves.

If you doubt the need for creativity just consider the challenges of modern living and working. Creative thinking is required more than ever in the past. Economic decline and stagnation means the need for better products and services, more cost-effective marketing with better results. Natural resources under threat requires new thinking for cars, homes, architectural design, consumer appliances and industrial processes. Sustainable products need to be made with less and be functionally superior. Design becomes far more important in a marketplace with many similar products vying for attention. Media and entertainment requires innovation to new forms of pleasurable distraction such as computer games, social media, downloading music, podcasts and videos.

In the next blog post, part of a series on “The secret to finding time to create”, we will further explore what prevents us from making the creative process part of our personal and work lives.

Idea prompt

Below are some questions that may help you to understand better your existing beliefs, processes and habits. Think through the questions that intrigue you and write down the answer to the question that most affects your life right now:

  • What associations do you have with being creative? Does the word “creative” disturb you?
  • What does being creative mean to you – wild thoughts and ideas or coming up with something fresh and amazing that can be put to use?
  • How important is it to you to be more creative in your personal and business life?
  • Where and when do you come up with your best ideas?
  • Where could you benefit most from being creative in your personal and professional life?
  • How well do you control distractions?
  • What controls your time?
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