This is a guest post by Stephen Smith of HD BizBlog 1.2.

Being observant of the way that we Get Things Done is a skill that is often undeveloped. Put this on your Next Action list: Pay attention to the steps I take when inspiration strikes.

“Your brain’s pattern-recognition mechanism is triggered by the images you identify with and the focus you hold. You see the outcome first, and then you are unconsciously made conscious of information.”

~David Allen, Ready for Anything (aff)

What do you do when you get an idea for some new undertaking? What steps does you mind follow in order to create this vision? One thing that we can all do right now is take the time to look at our own thought patterns and analyze the pathways in our mind that take us from the beginning of an idea to its conclusion.

Operate in terms of goals and end results

When I first developed the idea for the Strategos columns, I was reading a book on Management (aff). I didn’t think initially about writing a series of blog posts, the first thing that I thought of was that it would be cool to do this same thing with a focus on productivity. My next thought was that this was a good excuse to go buy a new notebook to jot down all of the notes. Finally it occurred to me that this would make a good Project, and I needed to stop and take a few minutes to consider what I wanted the end result to look like.

I thought that what I was really envisioning was the final product, a personal reference notebook with all of my notes and a complete outline of my productivity philosophy. Next I considered what steps I should take to get there, and how those steps could be incorporated into blog posts and an online reference that I could share with my readers.

Be mindful of what attracts your attention

Everyone has their own personal interests and hobbies. Consider your own, and what sort of cues or triggers spark your interest. A few of my friends that are into crafts can hardly go into a store without seeing something that could be re-purposed for a project that they are working on. “Look at this“, they might say,”if I turned it sideways, took out the filler, and made a couple of cuts here and here, this would be the perfect base for my widget!

I was with a friend in a home decor store and she saw a set of dishes that matched her living room. Of course, she didn’t eat dinner in the living room, but when we left she had a soup bowl and a salad plate that were destined to become the base for a big pillar candle. Knowing how this process works, the mental steps that we take, can make the process of inspiration much more productive.

Action steps versus autopilot

Everyone has had these moments of inspiration, how often do we take the time to analyze how they happened? Some of our best ideas seem to come to us from “out of the blue”. Yet we suspect that there must have been an unconscious trigger, some observation that brought a new idea into our mind fully formed.

Take some time and consider the following over the course of a day: What have you been noticing a lot of lately? What type of related interests might have sparked these observations?

  • When inspiration strikes, what are you doing?
  • What were you thinking about?
  • Where had you been most recently,
  • and where are you headed next?

Write down your observations in a notebook, and keep track of the answers to these questions. You may be surprised by some of them. You can definitely learn something from all of them, becoming more intentional about your inspiration.

Stephen Smith writes about Productivity and Web 2.0 at HD BizBlog 1.2. Recent interests and articles are focusing on creativity, innovation, and the design of the next generation of productivity system. He is currently working on a productivity e-book based on The Art of War. In the real world he works with a retail sales team to manage internet customers and ponders the future of work.