This guest post is by Jo Gifford of Cherry Sorbet Creative.
Keeping fresh and creative is key to keeping on top of the game when writing different blogs across various sectors, and for various clients. Working with efficient workflows, time management and organization all help to keep that valuable information harnessed to be used when you need it, but how about making sure you can produce great content on time and on demand?
Keeping creative and informed means you are working efficiently to produce content that’s engaging, informative, and, of course, profitable for you. After all, time is money when you are managing a number of blogs and clients.
Here are my top ten tips for fueling that creativity, generating ideas, and managing your time and resources.
1. Make the info come to you—start mass reading
Working smartly is such a key part of working creatively. The brain loves to shoot out those genius ideas when it is free to do so, but cluttered working habits, information gathering, and idea dumping leave little space for those Einstein moments.
So, my first tip for working across blogs is to make the information you need for your different blogs or publications land on your doorstep with minimal effort. That means setting up Google alerts on your subjects of interest which are emailed to you as they occur.
Set up journo request callouts on databases like Gorkana to allow PR pros to do some groundwork for you, and of course use #journorequest and #bloggerrequest on Twitter.
Use your groups on Linked In to source info, and set up specific RSS feeds grouped together in Feedly to get the blog posts and info you need at source. And of course, the old-school way of signing up for email updates from the right resources will see you right.
Speed up your fact finding, and you can concentrate on fueling great post ideas.
Okay,so now we have info flowing in, but an inbox filled to the brim. Well let’s sort that out too.
2. Filing it cleverly: Other Inbox
If you power your mails with gmail like I do, Other Inbox is your new best friend. I use gmail to ensure all my emails across blogs I write for and my design agency to come together in one place so I don’t miss anything.
OIB is an intuitive add-on app that actually learns where you file things over time, and does this for you. You can set up smart filing to send alerts and emails from certain sources, or containing particular keywords, to go where you wish. In this way, OIB makes that overwhelming inbox panic dissipate.
No creative genius can be cooking with gas when there’s a load of emails looking urgent. Get your inbox filed for you, check it when you need to, and carry on with the magic-making.
3. Dump it! Brain dumping for multiple sources
A wonderful part of working creatively to generate great posts is that those ideas can be trained to come. The problem is that we can’t always tell when they’ll hit.
Finding a brain dump system that works for you is key to keeping your ideas to hand for those moments when you can sit down and crack out the post that you need to.
Designing a workflow that’s intuitive and works to your strengths makes life at work and—in the time away from it—so much more fun and a lot less stressful.
4. Getting creative
One of my favorite books around creativity is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The book provides a 12-week, step-by-step process to unblocking creativity, and includes some fantastic tools and techniques for putting that grey matter to work.
I have gone though the process twice, both times with amazing results which have sent my business in unexpected directions that are aligned with my real aims and goals. Dip into the book. Even if you don’t do the whole thing, I’m sure you will find some of the daily tasks really useful to kickstart your creative thinking. Remember, innovation is just creativity and we can train it.
5. Find your zone and stay in it
In addition to getting your creative juices going, finding your zone to work in is so important. I wrote a post about it, the basic message being: whatever works for you, do it.
If you know that eating a banana and having a cup of coffee gets you in the zone, great, off you go. If it’s a run followed by two hours of great writing, replicate that and there you have a successful recipe. For me, it’s Daft Punk on the headphones, a coffee, and a set time limit to write with the reward of a run at the end. Find what works for you and use it to your advantage.
6. Map it!
Mindmapping is one of my favorite ways to get ideas out in a non-linear way that best expresses my thoughts. I use Mindmeister on my computer and iPhone to brainstorm business ideas and blog posts using imagery, colored segments and links, and all sorts of fun things.
I am even happier when brainstorming in real time with other colleagues or associates—it’s amazing to see ideas develop visually in a way that can be shared and presented so well.
7. Reach out
So often bloggers and freelancers work in isolation—in the ubiquitous PJs, of course. Make a point of having a few friends, colleagues of associates that you can brainstorm with, over a coffee in the big wide world, or using Facetime or Skype if you need to be surgically removed from your dressing gown.
Every genius needs to bounce around some thoughts from time to time and it’s a healthy way to get perspective, see things from a new angle, and just to ensure some human contact.
8. Step away from the machine! Illumination needs you
One of the best ways to let ideas flow is to step away from the screen. Illumination, one of the steps in the creative thinking process, needs space to happen.
I often have ideas when I step away to make a cup of tea, or to do some cooking; a process that isn’t taxing your mind or filling it with yet more information will let the ideas come for the next brilliant post you can write.
9. Unblock yourself on time
Despite our best efforts sometimes that white page or screen just catches out out. The cursor blinks, you try your best workflow habits, but nothing.
A good technique for creative thinking in a time managed manner when a deadline looms is to slice that time up into chunks of 15. Set your phone timer or computer gadget to a 15 minutes and make yourself write just a little.
You will often find if you start off, however clunky the writing is, you will get there. I wrote my MA thesis in a similar way, making myself do 500 words a day whether I felt like or not, was tired, slightly tipsy after work drinks, or just plain not in the mood. Slice it up and it will stop the panics from setting in and quashing any creativity even further.
10. If you are really stuck, go outside the box and freestyle
Try some creative thinking techniques such as random word association: auto-generate a word online or pick a dictionary page and see how that word or object makes you see your brief in a different light.
For example, a car: think of wheels, motion, driving, journeys … do these spark any ideas for your subject? Keep some tricks up your sleeve for the days when your genius is running a little slower than usual and you won’t fail to deliver.
Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger, and founder of Cherry Sorbet Creative. Working primarily in the beauty, fashion and lifestyle industries her work spans graphic design for print and web, social media management and training, copywriting and editorial for on and offline publications. You will find her blogging as Dexterous Diva, and on Twitter bot ahs Dexterous Diva and Cherry Sorbet.