The Systems I Use to Create More Freedom and Inspiration in my Life + Business. And, the Tools That Support Those Systems
When you hear the word “Systems” (or, yes, in this case, read it, for all my smart asses out there) I bet words like “Creativity” + “Inspiration ” aren’t the first ones to float to the surface of your mind in response.
Actually, if you’re anything like me a year ago, it’s probably more likely that something like “straight jacket” or “restrictive” are the words that come to mind.
“You can’t cage us wildly whimsical freedom seekers with systems! We are the flow-ers with the go-ers! Am I Right?!”
Actually…I was wrong. And, let me tell you why.
- It turns out, “Systems” is not synonymous with “Creative Straight Jacket”.
- Systems actually create more freedom, rather than take it away; They make space (in your mind and life) for creativity, for inspiration.
Believe me, I get it. Me a year ago would have aggressively eye-rolled at being told that I should implement systems. Now…not only do I think they’re straight-up sexy, but I see them for what they actually are: freedom creators and creativity enhancers.
You’re probably thinking something like…”Nuh-uh. Not for me, you weirdo”.
Well, let’s start with the fact that no one system is going to work for everyone and there is no one way to define what a system even looks like.
What I’m going to share with you are the systems that are currently working for me, in the hopes that it’ll inspire you to implement some of your own, but your needs and goals are going to require systems of their very own.
You need to have fun with it. Experiment. Play around with what leaves you feeling the most lit up and flowy in your own life…and, honestly, leaves you feeling like the version of you that has their shit together 🙂 Because, let me tell you, feeling like you have your shit together leaves more room for that creative magic.
Here are the 5 systems that I have implemented in my life and the tools I use to support them). Making an effort to follow through in these 5 areas has not only given me peace of mind but it has given me space to create more and has equipped me with a constant stream of inspiration.
STEP 1. FIND A WAY TO GET YOU TO-DO LISTS OUT OF YOU HEAD AND ONTO “PAPER”.
Our brains try really hard to hold on to all the information we ask it to. The problem with that is that we spend so much time focusing on “Not forgetting to call that human later” that we don’t leave room for fresh ideas to pop in.
So, create a system around getting your to-dos out of your head and down onto paper.
For me, that looks like writing out a list every morning of ALL the things I need or want to do (absolutely anything I can think of). It can be for that day, that week, that month, whatever.
Once I am sitting at my computer for the day, I put them into my ASANA Brain Dump folder (named as such because you dump the things on your brain into a folder).
Now my brain knows that my to-dos are in a safe place and I can go about checking them off as I see fit and when I see fit.
This alone makes room for you to focus on the moment and clear out the clutter from your brain so that there is more space for creativity and innovation.
FOR THE THINGS THAT POP INTO MY HEAD WHEN I’M OUT AND ABOUT: I use Google Keep or Voice Notes (for those extra juicy ideas or to-dos) and then transfer them over to ASANA when I have the chance (So that they’re all in the same place and I know where to go to find them).
*FYI: ASANA is a freaking kickass project management tool.
STEP 2. MAKE SPACE FOR YOUR TO-DOS AND IDEAS
Now that you have your tasks and to-dos out of your head, it’s time to make room for them in your life. The key here is to become the best version of who you are and, I don’t know about you, but the best version of me no longer wants to feel like she’s not sure when she’s going to get what done.
Once again, systems and schedules aren’t evil and they are not synonymous with “restriction”. Giving your priorities a space in your life means you can start your day knowing you can do your morning routine, shower, have a dance party and then flow through finishing whatever project you have on the go (because you made space for al of it).
I use Notion to make sure that I have my daily, weekly, and monthly life together. To me, this looks like having my intentions laid out, my priorities listed, and the to-dos that I brain dumped in Step 1 allotted to the appropriate space.
Then I go into Google Calendar and actually schedule them in. This puts my mind at ease and allows me to focus on the task at hand because I know I’ve made space for the things I need and want to do. I make space for creativity by literally scheduling myself time for creativity.
IMPORTANT: You need to know your non-negotiables and pivot from there. In other words, schedule in your life before you schedule your work. When are you going to move your body? When do you want your workday to end? What do you want to do for fun every day?
STEP 3. CREATE A HOME FOR YOU IDEAS/LESSONS/INSPIRATIONS
Creating a space to house all of your ideas, lessons, and inspirations gives you the freedom to know that when the magic just isn’t flowing, you have a space you can turn that is just full of it.
For me, my inspiration bank system is two-fold.
A) My Commonplace Book (WHICH I HOUSE IN NOTION).
For those that don’t know, a Commonplace Book is ultimately a place (physical or digital) where you put all your favourite quotes, the lessons you learn from the books you read, and the inspirations you gather from life in general.
Before I had a Commonplace Book, I often read to finish a book, rather than sit back and really reflect on what I had learned. Now, I highlight what inspires me and take notes on what I think of the book as I’m reading it. Then I set aside time after finishing a book to reflect and look back on the notes I took.
Not only has this changed the way I read, but it has created a space for all the inspiration and ideas I glean from what I’ve read and what I consume in general. Whether it’s an inspiring YouTube video, a particularly interesting fact from a podcast episode, or an anecdote from my own life…
You’ll find it all in my Commonplace Book. So, whenever I am creating content or am in need of some extra inspiration, I know where to go.
Giving a safe space for your ideas also allows your brain to move on to creating more of them. You literally create more space for creativity.
*EXTRA CONTENT CREATION TIP: Make a habit of writing down 3 personal anecdotes each day. It could be an interesting conversation you had, something you learned, a moment you feel will relate with your dream peoples, etc. House these in your commonplace book, as well. It is the perfect way to associate the lessons you learn with moments from your own life. The daily ritual of it allows you to reflect on your day as well as see it through a creator’s lens.*
A commonplace book can of course also be physical, if that’s what suits you best. In fact, it would be an extra creative outlet.
B) My Copy Bank
This will look different for everyone but, as a copywriter, my Copy Bank (a Google Drive Folder) houses all of the copy I come across on the internet, on Instagram, in real life, that I find particularly interesting or…well…extra good. It could be a cool word, an interesting webpage layout, interesting subject lines, etc.
Again, having it all in one place allows my brain to know where I need to go whenever I need an extra boost of inspiration.
Other ways you could use a Copy Bank (or, whatever is appropriate for you):
- Instead of bookmarking, create a Google Sheet with links to your favourite articles and websites.
- Or, maybe a Google Sheet doc with links to your favourite YouTube pep talks and inspirational videos.
- Create a file with cool words you’ve come across.
- Create a folder with cool graphics and pictures that inspire you.
Just make it your own, dudette. This is YOUR inspiration bank after all. So, decide what inspires you and put all kinds of that in one place, so you know where to go when you need it.
My Copy Inspiration Bank is a Google Drive Folder, but yours can look whatever way makes your heart happy.
STEP 4. COMMIT TO YOUR IDEAS AND PLANS
Ok, so you’ve made space in your brain for new ideas, you’ve made space for your ideas in your life, and you know where to go when you need that extra boost of inspiration. Now, it’s time to follow through on it all.
Honestly, this is the hardest part. It is one thing to plan, to organize, and to systemize, but if you are not taking action on any of it, it’s just procrastination. #sorrynotsorry
So, decide you are the type of person that does the things on her to-do list and commits to her, oh so beautifully colour-coded, calendar, and then…be her.
“Discipline Equals Freedom”JOCKO WILLINK, EXTREME OWNERSHIP
A) Create Accountability
- Set up a weekly or monthly call with a business bestie or mastermind to keep yourself accountable for your business goals and to-dos.
- Pre-register for classes or events and let people know you plan to go.
- Create a shared Asana Board with your bestie where you both list your goals and plans for that month (and hold each other to them).
- Hire a business coach or join a group coaching program.
B) Auto-schedule your content (I use Planoly)
- Helps you to maintain consistency in your content. In other words, pushes you to be creative on a consistent basis.
- Makes so much space in your brain to create whenever it strikes you, rather than always in the moment.
STEP 5. LEAN INTO WHAT YOU DO BEST, “OUTSOURCE” THE REST
Look, we all have our non-genius zones (It’s just a fact). And, the time we spend fretting over that zone is time lost from doing the things that really light us up, that really allows us to thrive in business and in life.
For example, zones involving visual aesthetics aren’t my strong suit. So, graphic templates and a photography mentor are my absolute best friends when it comes to creating killer visual content. Using Canva and Creative Market templates leaves more room for me to spend time creating in my zone of genius…writing words.
The same goes for your copy or general word nerdery. If words are your non-genius zone, you could hire a copywriter (I happen to know a pretty cool one) or you could buy templates like I do for graphics.
It’s about putting our ego aside and embracing support from those that are..well…just better than us at some things. Plus, it usually means supporting them in return, which is pretty freaking cool if you ask me.
So, whether it’s investing in templates, exchanging services with someone, or hiring someone…just remember there are people out there who are willing and able to support you.
It is so easy to fall into the vortex of feeling like we need to do it all ourselves. But, the fact is, there are endless resources and people out there just waiting to help you live your life to the absolute freaking fullest.
So…you know…let them…
Life is yours to create, so write the story of your damn dreams.