Mining for Gems

Over the weekend I started listening to the audio version of “The Five Elements of Effective Thinking” (click here for the non-audible version), which I highly recommend. There is a ton to digest, but I’ve already started to implement some of their techniques into my life.

One of the techniques that really stood out to me was how to get started on projects. I find myself facing this kind of situation fairly often. Where there is a blank page (or something similar) staring me in the face and I’m trying hard to come up with the perfect version of whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish. But there is no way to get that perfect version out on the page from the start. You have to write the first draft. All of this is pretty simple, but having it reframed in a new way helped me to see it in a way that really made sense.

They suggest starting with just writing out anything and everything about what you’re trying to complete, knowing that it’s going to be wrong, or not make any sense. But it doesn’t matter, you’re the only one that’s going to see it in it’s imperfect state. Once you have that down, you start categorizing those things on the page into two camps: things that are correct, and things that are incorrect. So you eliminate things that are clearly not going to work, and start collecting the things that will. It turns trying to create something perfect out of thin air, into a mining expedition where you just uncover the gems. While the idea of writing a first draft and then perfecting it isn’t really a novel one, the way they framed it really made sense to me.

I’ve been having a hard time continuing to blog (one of my four goals currently being worked on). I can’t seem to come up with new ideas, or flesh out the old ones I’ve come up with. I want to have a good blog post to appear as soon as I sit down to write it. But, using this technique, I just write down any and all post topics that come to mind and then start the triage. Once I’ve whittled it down, I can take one of those topics and start writing badly about it. Once I have something (anything) down, I can start mining for gems, slowly improving it until it takes the shape I want.

This technique is widely applicable and I’m excited to get it implemented in other areas of my life. Try it out, and let me know what you find.