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Insights & Articles

What we've learned along the way.

Bottled Lightning believes in being of service, and we are intent on lighting the way for those who are coming behind us. We share the insights and techniques that have demonstrated success (and failures) so that you can make big leaps. This is where you’ll find the methods behind the magic.

A Better Way to Get Things Done: Ditch Your To Do List

Sometimes a list doesn’t actually help you get things done. 

When there are a LOT of conflicting needs, the mess of it can impede you from actually making progress.

Next thing you know, you’re overwhelmed and retreating from the tasks altogether, or spinning your wheels on low-impact tasks.

Don’t worry, it’s totally normal. Happens to the very best of us, as I like to say.

When you are trying to juggle a lot of tasks at once, what is most important and valuable can get lost in the act of “making progress” on your standard to do list.

Here’s an exercise that I use to help me focus when I want to do ALL THE THINGS but am actually doing NONE OF THE THINGS. 😬

This exercise is a Human Centered Design tool called What’s On Your Radar. 

Here’s how it works:

  1. Grab some sticky notes and a sharpie. 
  2. Using a sharpie, writing big, and putting one item per sticky, create a sticky for each item on your mind.
  3. Do this next step on a big piece of paper or a whiteboard, if you’ve got it. Draw 3 concentric circles, the smallest inner circle is only big enough to hold 4 stickies (no more) and the outer circle as big as you need.

    The inner circle represents RIGHT NOW, the middle circle is THIS WEEK, and the outer circle is Later.
  1. This is an optional step. If you want to further group your tasks into topics, add two lines to divide your circles into quadrants. In each quadrant (or slice), indicate the theme (for example, client getting activities, online presence, client work, business admin). 
  2. With your radar set up, go through each sticky and pace it on the radar map. Prioritize, move and place them visually for yourself. The four (only) in the middle are your highest priority. 

    Relative to your time and available energy, place the stickies you can prioritize for the rest of the week.

    The outer circle is for things that reveal themselves as lower priorities. As stickies get done, you can push them closer to the middle as they become next priorities.

I like this exercise to sort my list into natural priorities, and to have a clear visual of what I can accomplish & what is most important to me at this moment.

This helps me honestly assess what I am capable of, while doing more than “writing a list and chipping away at it forever”.

What’s On Your Radar helps you visualize the real priorities against the reality of your time. 

Must Answer Questions to Define Your Purpose + Clarify Your Vision

The world needs you. You keep getting the call. 

The inspiration flows, the idea and passion behind the vision expanding in your mind… 

But when you sit down to start putting it into order – the fire quickly fizzles. 

The good idea gets lost in the next steps and unclear priorities; all momentum comes to a halt. 

“I need to get focused! There’s too many moving parts and I keep losing my excitement about this project and googling for hours. Where should I start?” 

For creatives and the intuitive, this is a delicate time in the growth of a new idea. It’s still forming as an idea – but you haven’t encountered the right questions to draw it out into something tangible and authentic without squishing it under too many details. 

For analytical types, it’s tough to connect the big visionary parts to the prescribed to-do list that goes along with “putting your business online”. You keep trying to make progress on the checklist – but the purpose and heart that keeps you interested and motivated to “do the social media” isn’t there.

“A ship that sails without a compass will get lost at sea.”

Matshona Dhliwayo

You’ve gotta go within.

It’s time for some focused and guided introspection; orienting the map of your to your inner compass once again. 

A clear compass of purpose aligns the ship on its course, and ensures everyone involved pulls the ship in the same direction.

This series of questions are designed to pull the essential details out of you, and put them on paper. 

The pressure is off during this process – you’re not required to write a final manifesto, we’re going for a “shitty first draft”. 

The goal is to get the non-negotiable essentials out of your heart & head, and onto paper. 

With the big idea on paper – you can craft a course of action, get useful help, and solve the other obstacles you keep running into. 

Without a clear vision – projects get caught in a cycle of building the ship while trying to sail.

First, Get Centered & Observe the Vision

Set aside some time for yourself. Make a tea, put on something relaxing, and look within for the answers. 

Before you put your pen to paper, or start typing away, or recording your voice (I love using Otter.ai to transcribe my voice notes when I am needing the flexibility of walking around & speaking), I want you to take a moment to focus your intention.

Drop your shoulders, Take a deep breath. Take 3 deep breaths. Let yourself feel your energy being gathered Into you, drawing up from the earth into your body, filling and cycling through every part of you. 

When you are feeling centered… spend a few moments thinking about your project, as you imagine it with ideal in 5 or 10 years. What does your life and business look like? How do you spend each day? What has been the impact of your work all these years? Who is in your community? Who surrounds you and supports you? Who are you serving? 

Spend a bit of time observing this vision of yours, making note of any important details. Free writing here is encouraged! Spend up to 15 minutes imagining.

1. What is your big why?

If you haven’t read Start with Why, or seen Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on how great leaders inspire action, now is a good time to pause and watch. 

Your personal “big why” is more than an outcome (like a lifestyle), it is what relentlessly compels you into action – even when the going gets tough.

What is your purpose and intention with this project? WHY are you compelled to put yourself into the world? What will be true about you, regardless of this project or any other?

We’re not asking about the tasks you’ll be accomplishing, or how you’ll do it – we’re looking for the mission that you feel you have in the world – regardless of WHAT you’re doing. What is your big why? 

Pro Tip: Sometimes the answer to this question comes after a bit of digging, so feel free to start with a bit of free writing before transitioning into your inner voice. 

2. What is always a HARD pass?

Where will you always say no and refuse to compromise? Let’s put your chalk mark on the wall. Healthy boundaries begin here. 

This is how you start outlining the boundaries that will keep you, your community, mission and vision healthy. In order for this project to align with you, what is definitely NOT included, interesting or desired? 

What’s not included in your vision for good reason?

Pro Tip: The opposites of this list are often your non-negotiable values. “Being fake” a hard no? Authenticity is clearly an important value. Review your list of answers for any notable values. Add them to your notes.

3. What are your MUST haves?

Let’s bake in your version of success. How will you know that your business is doing what you built it to do? When it stops doing this, you won’t do it anymore.

If you’re going to design a business for your mission, let’s make sure it’s on that brings you joy & fulfillment. Spend some time completing this statement for yourself. 

“My business must ________________________ or I don’t want to do it.”

Pro Tip: Consider the question from many angles, from your time and busyness levels, to time off, and relationship requirements versus how you’ll spend each day. 

4. Who do you love to work with?

Let’s surround your vision with people you enjoy to spend time with! 

In your personal and professional history, who are some of the people you’ve deeply enjoyed working with? Maybe they were clients, or coworkers, or people you aspire to work with. 

Consider your ideal clients as well. The goal is to write down their qualities. What do all of these people you’ve enjoyed working with have in common? 

Expand your list to include common interests, personality qualities, demographics and occupations that these people have in common with EACH other. Even though they may not know each other, you know them.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have a specific example for this, it’s okay to imagine your ideal scenario & ideal customer. You will refine this later during customer research, so include whatever qualities that come to mind – at this stage more is merrier. 

5. What are your strengths?

What do you bring to the table? This is your vision, where can you bring the heat? Don’t be shy. This is where you define your lane, and where you feel most at home. 

6. Where do you need help?

The flip side of the coin – where do you need support? Where are your weak points? This list helps draw the line between where you’ll be running the show, and where you’ll be relying on others. If you *hate doing it, you can add it to this list too. 😉 

7. What will you commit to accomplishing?

Put some milestones on the map. These should be specific, measurable and actionable. 

Define 5-7 tangible goals; these might be a number of clients, people helped, community members, an income level, books sold, an audience size… These goals should be measurable, specific, attainable & focused.

You can write and revise a few times here, but you should have at last 5 goals for a 3 year timeline. 

8. Clarify the vision

Take yourself back to this imagined future vision you have for your project. Your mission has been successful. Your project is reaching the people it’s designed to reach, and transforming the world the way you’d imagined. 

What has changed? How have the people you serve changed? What has been transformed in the people you serve? How has your life changed? 

Spend a few minutes considering this question from many angles so that you build a long list of impacts that range from the tangible, to the emotional & deeper, spiritual transformations.

Wrapping Up: What did you learn?

Give your notes some time to breathe. Let yourself mull things further, making additions or clarifications as they reveal themselves to you in the following couple days. 

Then, come back to edit, curate and refine the details in these questions. 

  • Where is your existing work & presence in or out of alignment with your vision? 
  • What no longer belongs on your “digital business” checklist? What is no longer a priority?
  • What opportunities on your horizon will help you steer the ship towards your goals?
  • Where do you need to take action?