This is part 1 of a 3-part review of Scott Belsky's book Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the obstacles between vision and reality.

Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration - Thomas Edison
Ideas are only successful if they become reality. 

I never fancied myself much of a reader but over the years I’ve developed an undeniable interest in self-development books. No, not the kind that “pat you on the back and say you’re doing a good job” books, the ones that teach you efficiency, self-motivation, and how to organize the bigger picture.

At the 2014 Adobe MAX conference, Behance founder, Scott Belsky spoke in detail about the importance of community. Building a reliable circle can not only hold you accountable to your “Big Ideas,” but also improve your creative and technical skills Belsky said. As an independent designer, I realized I needed a creative community.  I decided then that 2015 is going to be my year for self-education, motivation, and connection.

I started on my self-education journey with Belsky’s book Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the obstacles between vision and reality. The book is structured in 3 parts, covering organization and execution,  forces of community and leadership capabilities. This review, much like the book, will be in 3 parts, each part breaking down the core takeaways you should remember while making your ideas happen. Here are my thoughts on organization and execution and how they will help you develop mental loyalty to executing your ideas. 

1.     Creativity is about making an impact with your ideas. In order to sell those ideas to the public, your thoughts must be organized. If you think of a person's creativity in terms of percentages:

  • 100% creativity + 0% organization = little to no impact in reality. They may inspire others to bring their ideas to life, but they themselves will never see it through.
  • On the contrary, 65% creativity + 35% organization = concept-driven ideas with action steps to make them a reality.

2.     For each idea, you must capture and highlight your “action steps.” This method of project management will allow you stay engaged, connect with your end result, and delegate responsibility when possible. These two things will help you maintain momentum:

  • As a creative thinker, use “design-centric” methods to stay organized; something that is visually appealing and will be fun for you to use. I personally like Evernote for my note-taking and To-Do lists but there are many other apps that can help you stay on top of your idea planning.
  • The context of projects is more important than the location they are being completed. Don’t focus on any one physical place to stay organized. Make it a habit and you’ll be able to create anywhere.

3.     Question and separate your thoughts into productive lists. Filter your thoughts by questioning their level of importance to you in the present and/or how it can benefit in the future. This “Backburner list” will become a tool for you to revisit and pull from later.

4.     Become a “sequential-tasker” instead of a “multi-tasker.” Email is a necessary part of everyone’s workday, but important, actionable tasks can be buried by reference material and reactionary work (quick tasks). Be patient and process your To-Do list according to importance, no matter which email you received last. 

1.     Visualize your projects across an immediacy spectrum. (extreme to idle)

  • Creator’s Immediacy – an instinct to take care of every problem and operational task, no matter how large or small. We all want to start with the small quick fixes in order to check things off the list, but in reality the most important tasks often require the most focus so do those first and relax through the quick fixes.

2.     Don’t let the anxiety of urgent items effect your efficiency. You know your most creative time of day better than anyone. Build your To-Do list/focus area around that time.

  • Keep 2 lists: an urgent (5 to 6 items) and an important list. Focus on the urgent throughout the day and actually complete those items.

3.     Limit the amount of “insecurity” work. Often when we hit the proverbial wall of our creativity, we drift off into social media, other websites, or personal projects. Take a physical break; go for a walk, the gym or even nap. Do something that will still be productive and also fuel you to finish out the day without distractions. 

1.     Committing to early action will help ideas materialize. Every project will go through a “project plateau” where it loses momentum. Stay on task and reference your original idea as often as possible. Don’t let a new idea derail your current project just because it’s exciting and new, put it on the backburner list.

2.     To meet or not to meet. Managing meeting time is key to a projects momentum. Four keys to a successful meeting:

  • Don’t meet for the sake of meeting. Worthless meetings are a waste of time for all parties and will undoubtedly cause your team to lose focus.
  • Give the meeting an estimated time to show efficiency. Don’t just say an hour for the sake of an hour, if you think what you need to discuss will only take 20 minutes, then you will have your teams focus for that time.
  • Make sure you manage the meeting with action items. Always measure the success of a meeting but the action items they yield.
  • Offer an alternative to a sit-down setting. Time of day, location and number of attendees will affect this but for quick meet ups, suggest something outside the boardroom. Go to a coffee shop or have a standing meeting to maintain alertness.  

3.     Commit to the follow-up. Follow up with your team and/or clients will show your ability to manage your time, project-specific deadlines, and establish structure.

4.     Visualize your successes in order to maintain motivation and your project's momentum. Create and nurture a creative space, i.e. think tank room or inspiration board.

5.     Work ethic alone can fuel your creativity. When it comes to competition, it’s simple: Out-Work them, Out-Think them, and Out-Passion them.

To envision what will be, you must remove yourself from the constant concern for what already is. Creative pros are often their own worst enemy. Get out of your own way and make things happen!  The question is no longer how, it’s when.

I highly suggest reading the book in full for specific details, suggestions and insights. Check back for Part 2 of this review on January, 15th!

Happy Creating!!