Plan Your Creative Success With A Bucket List

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What’s a bucket list? A list of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket” or die. At first, making a bucket list sounds macabre. Once you consider that a bucket list is really about identifying the things you want to do most while you’re alive, you’ll quickly realize that it’s not scary or depressing at all. It’s exciting! You make a bucket list to help you live the life you really want to live.

Ask the important questions. “What do you most want to do before you die?” Or, “What things haven’t you done that if you don’t do them your life will feel incomplete?” Some people never ask this question, until it’s too late. Those that do ask and answer these questions have a much greater chance of living the lives they want to live than those who don’t.

Start your list. It’s never too early or too late to start a bucket list. Younger people often think there’s plenty of time to ask these questions and make their bucket list – later. Don’t count on it. Start now. Imagine the life you will live if you do! Older people sometimes think it’s too late for them to start a bucket list. It’s never too late. It’s likely that as you grow older your list will become shorter – and quite likely more important than ever.

It’s your list. Only you can answer what you want to add to your list. Still, looking at other people’s bucket lists may help you identify things that you’d forgotten or had never thought of. It can be both enjoyable and meaningful to compare lists with your friends. Doing this may help you clarify your thoughts and feelings and make important decisions.

Make your list a garden of possibilities. Grow your list. Weed your list. Train your list. Long is good. If you don’t list everything, important things may be missed. Unmanageable isn’t. Your list may quickly grow so long it becomes impractical and unmanageable. Rather than making your list shorter and limiting your possibilities, rank your list, sequencing the items in order of importance. Put the most important items at the top of your list. Identify the most important thing, the three most important things, the six most important things, and the twelve most important things. For each item, ask yourself, “What is so important about this?” Remember, the only right answer is your answer. By thoughtfully considering what’s on your list, your thoughts and feelings about yourself and your life will become clearer. Align your goals with them. You may find that when you identify important qualities and outcomes you find other ways, possibly even better ways, to satisfy them.

Work your bucket list. It’s not written in stone. Your list is there to serve you, not the other way around. Instead of writing your bucket list once and putting it away, revisit it – frequently. Visualizing the things on your list will increase the likelihood that you will accomplish them. You can do many things with your bucket list –remember things, clarify goals, set and revise priorities, add new relevant items and remove outdated ones. Though it may grow shorter, your bucket list is never finished – until you’re finished.

Take action. Making and managing a list isn’t enough. You have to start making things happen. For the most important items on your list, ask “What thing(s) do I need to do to make something happen?” “Are there other people who can help me make it happen?” While it’s most important to identify the most important things on your list, it’s also important to identify the easiest things to do. At any given moment, there’s always a new balance to be struck between effort and resources. Don’t let the little stuff get in the way of the big stuff, but do enjoy it. Doing these things will quickly give you a sense of accomplishment. You can do this! Once you start making things happen for yourself, you’ll find this becomes habit-forming. It’s a good habit!

Give yourself a timeline. It’s easy to get distracted or make excuses. And, there are some things that can only be done at specific times, sometimes for a limited time only. Often, the distractions or excuses come from other people. Make time for yourself. Having trouble rationalizing this? Add up all the time you spend doing things for other people. Now add up all the time you spend doing things for yourself. If you’re like most people, you’ll quickly see that an imbalance. So, don’t you deserve a little more time for yourself? Imagine what the benefits to both yourself and everyone you help or spend time with will be, if you make time for the most important things in your life and become the best you you can be.

Record your accomplishments. List the items you do and the dates you did them. (You may even want to make notes on the benefits of having done them.) I recommend you make this a part of your bucket list. Then, whenever you look at your bucket list, you’ll see that you’re moving forward. In time, looking at this part of your bucket list will probably bring back many fond memories.

Still don’t have a bucket list? What’s stopping you? It’s your life. A bucket list will help you make it more so.

Read more in my Creativity Planning resources.

Get our DPD Buck List Destinations ebook free.

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The Importance Of Keeping Your Current Project Visible

These are two book covers for projects I’m currently developing.

I create visual reminders for projects I’m currently working on. Then I place them in my working environment. They constantly prompt me to consider the work I’m developing at many times and in many moods. I sleep on it. I collect sketches and notes. I plan trips to make new exposures and list what I kind of material I’m looking for. I assemble relevant finished images in the series. I look for connections between images currently being made and images made in the past. I list many ways to develop the work.
What projects are you developing?
What kinds of visual reminders would be helpful to you?
What other things can you do to develop the work you want to do right now?
Learn more about creative planning and goal setting here.
Learn more in my creativity and digital photography workshops.

Review Your Creative Plan Annually

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One of the things I do at the beginning of every year is review the accomplishments of the past year.
I take my projects list from the last year and color code it, assigning one color for done, one color for soon to be done, and another color for not done.
I want to know what happened. It feels great to see a list of everything that got done, especially when you get a significant surprise windfall. It can also be disappointing to see what didn’t get done, especially when the items that weren’t accomplished are important. Seeing it the items collected in one place is always revealing.
I want to do more than just see clearly what happened. I also want to know why things happened.
I find the vast majority of things that got done were things I identified as important and scheduled time for – wishing won’t make things happen. If something great and unexpected happened, I want to know why it happened, so I can make similar things happen again. If at the end of the year, I’ve completely rewritten my plan for the year, but it’s been substantially improved, I’m delighted.
If something important didn’t happen, I want to know why. I want to learn from my failures.  How many items are close to being done? (A calendar date can sometimes be arbitrary.)  Was something delayed for an important reason? Will the delay make it more successful? Did I not see the problem clearly? Were my expectations unreasonable? Did I not perform at peak? Did I overextend myself, taking on too many projects? Did I not allocate enough resources? Did I have the wrong team? Was the timing not right?  Did I get distracted? What I can do to avoid this in the future? How can this apply what I learned on one project to my other projects?
This yearly review helps me mentally consolidate everything I’ve accomplished and everything I’ve learned. Often, while I’m doing this review, I learn more things and find more ideas. At the end of the review, learn from my failures and repeat my successes. I want to know if I’m on track and moving forward toward my long term goals.
With those insights fresh on my mind, I make a new projects list for the next year.  (I copy last year’s list and delete everything that got done or is no longer relevant, add new items but be careful not to add an unrealistic number, and prioritize them.)
What plans will you make for your creative life now?
Learn more about creative planning and goal setting here.
Learn more in my creativity and digital photography workshops.

Planning Your Creative Success


Plan for success.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I make those kinds of commitments at any time of year, whenever it becomes clear they’re necessary. But I do make plans at the beginning of every year. I review my Mission, Goals, Projects, and Actions lists. While I do this at the beginning of the year, this isn’t the only time I do it. I also do this every time I find something significant has changed in my life. Doing this helps me clarify where I want to go, make sure I’m on the path to getting there, outline the steps necessary to get there, and set realistic timelines. Doing this consistently has helped me more than double my productivity, in a meaningful way. It has also helped me make tough decisions when I’m faced with too many choices. It’s not that I didn’t have a life’s calling before I wrote my mission. It’s just that I wasn’t clear about it. Now I am. As a result, I feel personally empowered. To find my mission took a lot soul-searching, a little time, and it’s still a work in progress.
Make your plan.
Whether you’re engaged in your creative life professionally or simply as a vehicle for personal growth (an important distinction to make), I recommend you make a creative plan. If you do this, you too will find both your productivity and fulfillment will increase, in a way that’s meaningful to you. Having defined what you need to accomplish, your unconscious will go to the work of fulfilling it, generating many ideas over time. You’ll find yourself ready to make the most of unexpected opportunities as they arise. Put this all in writing using your own words. Writing increases retention 72%. If you write something down, you’ll be 75% more likely to take action on it. Remember, while other people can help you discuss and refine your plan as it develops, no one can do it for you. For you to truly understand and benefit from it, you have to do it. More importantly, for it to be right for you, it has to be yours.
Break it down into clear manageable pieces.
Set a mission (why you’re doing it), goals (what outcomes you want), projects (the big things you do)(set goals for 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years, and end of life) and actions (the small steps you take to getting your projects done)(detail your 1 year next actions list) for your creative life. You’ll have one mission, several goals, many projects, and innumerable actions.
Many people use a metaphor of varying altitude to describe the relationship between these parts; the mission is cruising altitude where you see the big picture while the actions are on the runway where you see more specific details. Moving from why to how to what, the higher levels are inclusive of all the lower levels, while the lower levels point toward achieving the prime directive. The specific words you choose for the higher levels are often more important than the words you choose for the lower levels, so it’s likely you’ll revise them many times. As you drill down, the items get more concrete, specific, timely, and numerous. For this reason, many people find that the most difficult part of the plan to do is the simplest, least detailed, but most abstract portion – the mission. Some like to work bottom up, rather than top down, because they can sink their teeth into something more concrete. You can work it either or both ways – top down or bottom up.
However you get there, make sure that when you arrive that your mission really resonates within you and is something that you would consider an inner calling, not something generated out of today‘s particulars and practical realities. A mission should call you to a higher ground of your own choosing and activate new inner resources along the way. Many find that by aligning their efforts with something greater than themselves (i.e. service to others), they do better work and derive more satisfaction from it than they could have first imagined.

I review my past year’s progress before I set a new year’s projects and action lists. Over time, I’ve found I’ve become more realistic about how much to take on and how long it will take to get things done. (But don’t be afraid to dream big! Blue sky thinking is important for connecting with your deepest values.) I always find a few things on my list that have been postponed (and I ask why) and a few get dropped altogether – because I decided to prioritize even better opportunities along the way. I also find that things get added to my past year’s list that weren’t on it at the beginning of that year. It’s important to be open to new opportunities along the way. For that reason, I recommend you review your lists periodically, especially when new major projects are considered. You’ll find this process gets easier every time you do it. The first time you do it is always the hardest; it requires a lot of soul searching and some setting up; once you find your answers and you set up your system it’s much easier to do the next time. A plan is a work in progress. The best plans are be flexible and evolve over time as you grow your vision with new information and perspectives.

The plans you make are there to further your progress. But if you don’t make plans, life just happens and you may not make the time for the things that matter to you most. Make that time.

What plans will you make for your creative life?
Start now!
Read more in my free PDF ebook Make Plans.
Learn more about creative planning and goal setting here.
Learn more in my creativity and digital photography workshops.
David Allen does an excellent job of describing this process in his books Getting Things Done and Making It All Work. I highly recommend them. They changed the way I live my life. And they’ve helped me be even more effective and fulfilled. But don’t wait to read his books to get started! Just get started!

28 Great Quotes On Open-Mindedness

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Enjoy this collection of quotes on Open-Mindedness.
“We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous. The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned. Most people, unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode.” — John Cleese
“Minds are like parachutes — they only function when open.” — Thomas Dewar
“Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.” — Charles F. Kettering
“One change always leaves the door open for the establishment of others.” — Niccolo Machiavelli
“When one door closes, another opens. But we often look so regretfully upon the closed door that we don’t see the one which has opened for us.” — Alexander Graham Bell
“Creative experiences can be produced regularly, consistently, almost daily in people’s lives. It requires enormous personal security and openness and a spirit of adventure.” — Steven Covey
“One never goes so far as when one doesn’t know where one is going.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“It’s amazing what ordinary people can do if they set out without preconceived notions.” — Charles F. Kettering
“Without an open-minded mind, you can never be a great success.” – Martha Stewart
“I’m looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.” — Henry Ford
“I consider it my job to nurture the creativity of the people I work with because at Sony we know that a terrific idea is more likely to happen in an open, free and trusting atmosphere than when everything is calculated, every action analyzed and every responsibility assigned by an organization chart.” — Akio Morita
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” — Aristotle
“I had an immense advantage over many others dealing with the problem in as much as I had no fixed ideas derived from long-established practice to control and bias my mind, and did not suffer from the general belief that whatever is, is right.” — Henry Bessemer
“Science at its best is an open-minded method of inquiry, not a belief system.” – Rupert Sheldrake
“At the heart of science is an essential tension between two seemingly contradictory attitudes–an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new.” – Carl Sagan
“Anthropology demands the open-mindedness with which one must look and listen, record in astonishment and wonder that which one would not have been able to guess.” — Margaret Mead
“Sit down before facts like a child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.” — Thomas Huxley
“I had an immense advantage over many others dealing with the problem in as much as I had no fixed ideas derived from long-established practice to control and bias my mind, and did not suffer from the general belief that whatever is, is right.” — Henry Bessemer
“The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness.” – Niels Bohr
“If your everyday practice is open to all your emotions, to all the people you meet, to all the situations you encounter, without closing down, trusting that you can do that – then that will take you are far as you can go. And then you’ll understand all the teachings that anyone has ever taught.” – Pema Chodron
“If we open our hearts, we will also find open hearts – it is always mutual.” – Abbot Leo von Rudloff
“Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film.” – Ansel Adams
“An artist’s duty is rather to stay open-minded and in a state where he can receive information and inspiration. You always have to be ready for that little artistic Epiphany.” – Nick Cave
“The spirit of jazz is the spirit of openness.” – Herbie Hancock
“I’m someone who is open-minded to new experiences because they teach you new things.” – Marilyn Manson
“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” — Terry Pratchett
“Now there’s a man with an open mind — you can feel the breeze from here!” — Groucho Marx
“By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.” – Richard Dawkins
Read more in The Essential Collection Of Creativity Quotes

55 Great Quotes On Poetry

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Enjoy this collection of quotes on Poetry.
“Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement.” – Christopher Fry
“Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable.” – Carl Sandburg
“Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.” – Samuel Johnson
“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” – Plato
“When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.” – John F. Kennedy
“The distinction between historian and poet is not in the one writing prose and the other verse… the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be. Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars.” – Aristotle
“Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.” – Aristotle
“Poetry is the key to the hieroglyphics of Nature.” – Augustus William Hare
“Reality only reveals itself when it is illuminated by a ray of poetry.” – Georges Brague
“The sources of poetry are in the spirit seeking completeness.” – Muriel Rukeyser
“Poetry is man’s rebellion against being what he is.” – James Branch Cabell
“I don’t create poetry, I create myself, for me my poems are a way to me.” – Edith Södergran
“Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.” – Salvatore Quasimodo
“Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows.” – Edmund Burke
“Poetry is life distilled.” – Gwendolyn Brooks
“Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.” – Thomas Gray
“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” – Robert Frost
“Poetry is not a civilizer, rather the reverse, for great poetry appeals to the most primitive instincts.” – Robinson Jeffers
“A poet looks at the world the way a man looks at a woman.” – Wallace Stevens
“Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.” – Novalis
“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” – Emily Dickinson
“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.” – Khalil Gibran
“If my poetry aims to achieve anything, it’s to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel.” – Jim Morrison
“A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.” – Salman Rushdie
“I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean.” – Socrates
“The poet is the priest of the invisible.” — Wallace Stevens
“Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.” – Percy Shelley
“Poetry is an act of peace.” – Pablo Neruda
“Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.” – Lawrence Ferlinghetti
“There is often as much poetry between the lines of a poem as in those lines.” – Alexandre Vinet
“It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things.” – Stephen Mallarme
“The poet doesn’t invent. He listens.” – Jean Cocteau
“If you know what you are going to write when you’re writing a poem, it’s going to be average.” – Derek Walcott
“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” – Robert Frost
“I’ve written some poetry I don’t understand myself.” – Carl Sandburg
“A poet is a man who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times.” – Randall Jarrell
“The poet illuminates us by the flames in which his being passes away.” – Alexandre Vinet
“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” – Leonard Cohen
“The poem… is a little myth of man’s capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see — it is, rather, a light by which we may see — and what we see is life.” – Robert Penn Warren
“To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.” – Robert Frost
“In poetry and in eloquence the beautiful and grand must spring from the commonplace…. All that remains for us is to be new while repeating the old, and to be ourselves in becoming the echo of the whole world.” – Alexandre Vinet
“The poetry of the earth is never dead.” – John Keats
“Poetry is everywhere; it just needs editing.” – James Tate
“I write poetry in order to live more fully.” – Judith Rodriguez
“If you’ve got a poem within you today, I can guarantee you a tomorrow.” – Terri Guillemets
“Always be a poet, even in prose.” – Charles Baudelaire
“If you can’t be a poet, be the poem.” – David Carradine
“Every single soul is a poem.” – Michael Franti
“Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry.” – Muriel Rukeyser
“I am looking for a poem that says Everything so I don’t have to write anymore.” – Tukaram
“God is the perfect poet.” – Robert Browning
“A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” – Paul Valéry
“Poetry is not always words.” – Terri Guillemets
Read more in The Essential Collection Of Quotes On Creativity.