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Build the Plane While Flying it: Creating an ADHD-Friendly Goal-Setting System

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Hello, fellow creative souls. So in the previous posts (here and here) I’ve talked about the need to build a productivity system to help me build my creative business, and my plan is to use Notion to build that system.

In the last post I laid out the basics of the framework for my setup I am creating. And today I want to talk about what needs to be done in order to get the system started. I have to figure out what I want to accomplish and how. I need the actual DATA, the nitty gritty details of MY core areas, big vision dreams, goals, projects, tasks, habits and routines. And yes…this is usually the part of the program we want to skip over, but I learned the hard way that it must be done.

I want to make planners & calendars my "friend"

I’ve spent most of my life flying by the seat of my pants with what I thought was a laissez-faire attitude towards calendars and to-do lists. Long before I realized I had ADHD, I had lots of coping mechanisms to help me get by. And I got by, mostly. I didn’t thrive. I started a lot of projects I never finished. I didn’t pursue a lot of the dreams I wanted. So I just got by.

Fast forward to menopause and having to work for myself because a job dried up under my feet, which forced me to go freelance before I was ready, and all those coping mechanisms I had relied on for so long fell away one by one. 

So yes, I understand (painfully so) that this part of the process is icky, boring and scary. But it’s the part that must be done in order to use it, sustain it and make certain it is useful to our lives.

But you don’t have to have it all figured out before you get started. THIS IS IMPORTANT so let me repeat it another way.

You will not have it all figured out, so don’t even try. Just get started! On that note I want to take a brief pause to share one of my favorite commercials from several years ago. I’ll explain why after the video.

Start flying that damn plane before it's built

Since there isn’t a machine churning out the data I need for my system, I’ve got to do this myself. But the good news is, metaphorically I can fly the plane while I build it. I don’t have to complete this part 100%. I don’t have to do it perfectly. And I don’t have to know all the answers to move forward. In fact I WON’T have all the answers. They’ll reveal themselves as I move closer to my goals and big vision. I can correct or add to the system as I go. 

Create a brainstorm list

The best way to get started is to create a brain dump or a brainstorming list each of the components of the system. I’ve included the list again below to remind you what they are.

You can do this part in Notion or any digital app, or on a piece of paper. It doesn’t matter. Start at the top of the list below and work your way down but don’t get hung up or frustrated on one thing. I find that while working on one section I might have an idea for another section I was previously stuck on. 

And remember: we’re trying to come up with enough data to jump-start our Notion goal-setting systems. We just need enough to start; we don’t need enough data (fuel) to fly all the way to the moon and back. So with that in mind, I am only going to focus on my business and not personal goals or projects right now. I can add those later.

Also, to make getting started easier, even though I might include them in my brainstorming list, I will focus only on 1 core area, 1 big vision dream related to that core area, 1 goal related to that big vision dream, 1-3 projects and the tasks needed to get started on those projects. 

I can add additional tasks to these projects later, add more projects as I go, and more goals, big vision dreams and core areas. In other words I don’t need to have it all figured out right now. I just need to start.

The list for my brainstorming session

  1. Core Areas – the segments, zones or areas of your life that have no start or end date. You will always manage and try to improve these areas. You can break them up into personal and business core areas. Example business core areas include: illustration and design, website, blog, portfolio, social media, marketing, finances, etc.
  2. Big Vision Dreams are directly related to your core areas. Think of the things that you dream of for your life, 1-5 years into the future. They might be vague and fuzzy because you don’t quite know all the steps to getting there. That’s okay.
  3. Goals are directly related to your core areas and big vision dreams. Break your big vision dreams into smaller more manageable goals. Goals are more tangible and specific. A big vision dream might be 1-5 years into the future and a goal might be things you work on in this month, this quarter or this year. 
  4. Projects – each goal is broken further into projects that will help you achieve that goal. A project is broken down into the daily action steps or tasks that you will take to complete that project.
  5. Tasks are the small manageable action steps you take to complete a project. They are very specific and organized by the order needed to complete them
  6. Daily Habits & Routines are always tied to a goal and/or big vision dream. They may or may not be tied to a project. They are the daily practices and routines you need to do to bring success. 

Some examples, if you need inspiration

Remember, I am only going to focus on my business right now, but I’ll incorporate personal dreams, goals and projects into my system once I can gain some momentum and get into the habit of using it to help me stay productive.

Core Areas related to my business

Illustration and design, website, blog, social media, marketing, etc.

One of my "Big Vision" dreams

Related to the core area of illustration and design: become a highly regarded surface pattern designer with a signature style, recognized in the industry for creativity and innovation.

Some "Goals" that support that dream
  • Develop and refine a distinctive style that sets me apart
  • Create a portfolio showcasing my unique patterns
  • Connect  with fellow designers and potential licensing partners online and at in-person events
  • Engage online with fellow designers, potential licensing partners and future customers
"Projects" to help me achieve one of my goals

Focusing on the goal “Create a portfolio showcasing my unique patterns,” these are some of the projects I might need to complete to achieve that goal.

  • Create a home decor pattern collection consisting of at least 6 different patterns, 2 colorways each and 2 spot illustrations
  • Note: I want 4 collections in my portfolio so I’ll repeat that project three more times.
  • Create mockups of the patterns
  • Create a web version of my portfolio
  • Create a PDF version of my portfolio
"Tasks" to help me complete one of my projects

Focusing on one of the projects of “Create a home decor collection…”

  • Research current trends in home decor
  • Decide on a theme or topic for my collection
  • Gather inspiration for the collection on Pinterest
  • Collect any illustration resources needed like photos, actual objects
  • Sketch pattern motifs on paper, Procreate and/or Photoshop
  • Scan and digitize any hand-drawn or painted images
  • Bring all the sketches, illustrations, doodles, etc. from scanned items, Photoshop and Procreate into illustrator, and vectorize using either the Image Trace tool, Pencil Tool or Blob Brush
  • Combine the motifs and add more if needed into one Illustrator document
  • Drop a color scheme onto the motifs even if it’s not the color you’ll end up using
  • Play around using straight drops, half drops, bricks, and scatter patterns to figure out how you want to layout your first pattern.
  • Practice the “rule of five” and do the last step four more times. Choose a pattern you like the best and continue refining it into a repeat pattern. This is your first hero, secondary or blender pattern for the collection.
  • Test the pattern swatch and refine as needed to make a seamless pattern.
  • Etc.
"Habits" that support a project or goal

I want to track a few habits that will help me be more productive in my business.

  • (Daily) Get out of bed by 8am
  • (Daily) Meditate at least 15 minutes each morning
  • (Weekly) Perform a weekly review every Sunday to look at my projects and schedule the next week.

Use Notion to help create your brainstorm list

If you’re following along to create a system for yourself, all of the steps below can be done on paper or on a digital page inside Notion. If you don’t have a Notion account you can sign up for a free one here.

If you want to start brainstorming in Notion rather than on paper, you don’t need to create a fancy schmancy database to get started. Just create a regular page in Notion and start typing the information you’re gathering and creating on that page.

If you need some tips on how to create headers and bullet lists on a Notion page, you can find that information here.

That's it for now

Whew! That’s a lot. But I’m excited to get thing thing up and running. See you next time.

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Hi, I'm Kerry

...of Curiously Designed. This blog documents my journey as I figure out how to finally pursue a long-held dream of being a working illustrator and designer.

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