Obtaining a bird’s-eye view – ‘reset your mind’ for better project results
Closing your eyes for a bird’s-eye view
Have you ever started a project with your eyes closed? No typing, no writing, just sitting with closed eyes for a few minutes and letting your thoughts flow. My guess is you haven’t. Why would you? Sitting still while there is so much to do seems ridiculous. However, if you really want to tap into your creative potential and make the most of your next project, you should give daydreaming a try. Paradoxically, closing your eyes will generally give you a much clearer view of your situation.
An insight in Paris
Six years ago, I visited Parc du Champ-de-Mars in Paris. Figuring this would be an appropriate spot to read my new book, Keri Smith’s ‘How to be an explorer of the world‘. I lay down in the grass and after a quick glance at the Eiffel tower, I started reading. Not for long though. Just one page. In the book, the writer told me to stop reading and to close my eyes for five minutes instead. After these minutes, I was to write down all that I’d heard (and thought).
That day in the park made me realize that you can reset your mind. I suddenly was completely aware of my surroundings. Near me was not only the Eiffel tower, but also barking dogs, rustling leaves, planes flying over and people from all over the world walking by while speaking in countless different languages. Usually, we all tend to focus on the obvious. While perfectly natural, this tunnel vision makes us miss countless details. Most of these details are arbitrary, but some might be important.
Obviously, failing to pay attention to the little details is no big deal if you’re chilling at the foot of the Eiffel tower. However, in an important project, this lack of a bird’s-eye view can be disastrous.
Preventing tunnel vision
Most people start a new project enthusiastically (or a little rushed because of approaching deadlines) and dive right in. This is great, as it means you get the ball rolling, but it can also be a little risky. When you start right away, you’re missing the bigger picture. Beginning a project without a clear overview puts you at risk of misjudging situations and making costly mistakes. At the very least, you’re likely to get caught up in fixed patterns. Unfortunate, as these errors are easy to prevent. As you will know, every project is unique. Consequently, each new project requires a unique approach.
But how do you prevent this understandable tunnel vision? How do you keep track of all the details in the midst of your race to meet the deadlines?
Pause to speed up your process
Diving right in and rushing the implementation is counter-productive. To efficiently go through your project, start by resetting your mind.
Simply pause for a few measly minutes at the start of your project. A few minutes of intentional daydreaming will increase your chance of success and will save you a lot of trouble later on in the project.
The effect you’re after is very similar to ‘incubation’, the process of intentionally leaving the problem to your unconscious mind, masterfully described in ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’ by James Webb Young.
I’m sure you recognize it; you are taking a shower, sitting on the toilet or driving home when you suddenly get a brilliant idea. This happens because, at these moments, your brain is least cognitively burdened. Just closing your eyes for a few minutes and letting your mind drift will help you think more creatively, get that bird’s-eye view and ‘see’ important things you otherwise would have overlooked.
So, next time you’re about to start a daunting project, stop for a second and follow these steps to reset your mind:
- Step 1. Set a timer for five minutes and close your eyes
- Step 2. Visualise what your project will look like. Let your mind wander through the journey you’re about to embark on and visualise the route towards your goal. Zoom out and take a look at the project from a bird’s-eye view. What stands out?
- Step 3. After five minutes, open your eyes and write down everything that’s on your mind. Don’t overthink it. Start writing and only stop when you feel you’ve written it all down.
Key details are sometimes practically invisible just because they are ‘standard’ or ‘normal’ to you. We tend to ignore the things around us that are unremarkable.
The simple exercise above will help you get a clearer picture of your project before you start. Being aware of the different details puts you in a position to anticipate challenges and to come up with the creative solutions your project needs.
So, turn off that computer screen, put down your pen, mute your phone and close your eyes. Let your mind run free, daydream for a while and reset your mind. After that, continue working with a clear head and make your project a success!
While the exercise I’ve described above gives you a head-start by giving you a clearer picture of the situation, it is obviously only a start. A five-minute exercise is no guarantee for a flawless project without hiccups. To fully prepare yourself for any trouble that might be thrown at you, there are more elaborate methods you can use: