Creative mapping is composed of two stages: 1) composing your master list and 2) making your maps.

Master Listing

1. As mentioned in the previous post on creative time management, frame your intention like this: I am going to create ________________ by _________, the first blank being what you are going to create, the second the date by which you will have made it. 

2. Again, visualize your intention and take care in writing it out. Do a more detailed paragraph. Write as if you are placing an order for the intention to be manufactured by somebody who doesn’t know you, and doesn’t quite understand what you’re talking about, but will deliver it, if you only ask properly.

Make your description as clear and as detailed as you can. Visualization is a hugely important part of the process. The more clear, vivid and exciting to you, and the more emotional energy you bring, to this intention, the better.

Cultivate the feeling of already having what you’re creating. A mental picture of what you want, combined with an emotion around how it would feel to have it, has a deep impact on your imaginative and creative capacity.

3. Identify your challenges. Why haven’t you created this already? If you find all your answers to this question involve other people, you need to turn your attention around to yourself. You may find it easy to see how others don’t help, or outer circumstances get in the way, but at least 80% of the reason is actually you. Some changes you need to make. Always start with you.

TRY THIS: Give Your Creation Its Own Voice

The thing you want to create: give it a voice. Let it F-R-E-E-Write a letter to you, telling you what it thinks of you, what it needs from you.

4. Identify the knowledge, information and skills you are going to need. Research your memory – have you ever done anything like this before? Research your imagination – what might you need? Research anywhere that might give you information on what you want, from Google to your local library. List everything you’ll need to make it. Think in terms of work, rest and play activities. What is the ideal combination for you, as you set out to create this new thing. How will you fit it, and the supports you need to make it, into your life?

5. Identify two support practices that will accompany your creation: one flow-practice [play], one release-practice [rest].

6. Identify supportive others who can help. Family, friends, colleagues, customers… anyone who is likely to support you. Ask yourself also: what can you bring to them? Creation is reciprocal. What goes around comes around.

7. Make a master creative list from all you’ve gathered. Take a blank sheet of paper and divided into three columns: work, rest and play. Now gather everything you’ve researched above – the knowledge and skills, the outer requirements and the inner work, what you’ll be asking of yourself and other people – all into one master list.

Creative Mapping

Life mapping is best done by pen. Each map is available as a blank PDF map which you can print off and write on. You’ll find them here:

Creative Life Map Downloads

i. Read back over the master list with two highlighter pens, orange and green.

• Color those things that are most desirable, most pressing and would make the most difference in orange.

• Color in green those things you know to be nice-to-haves, sometime soon, least impactful.

ii. Choose the seven most important.

How many do you have in the orange category? You are aiming to isolate the seven most important things you can do in the short term to achieve your intention, to transfer across into a making-map. Decide on priorities by asking yourself: “If I could do just one thing today to further my creative intention, what would it be?” Find number two by asking, “If I could do only one other thing, what would it be?” And so on.

iii. Include at least one flow-practice [play] and one release-practice [rest]. This is the difference between creative mapping and other productivity plans. Just relying on con-state, willed activities is not drawing on the full range of your creative powers. Intentional rest and play are not breaks from the creative process, they are the creative process.

iv. Map Your Intention. Transfer your top seven into a Take Off [Monthly] Map. Alternatively, if it will take longer than a month, you may prefer to use the Bird’s Eye View Map. The point is to isolate the seven most important things you need to do if this intention is to be realized over the time-frame you’ve allowed. Keep it small and manageable. Include your support practices in your map, under rest and play.

v. With your Take Off Map [the month] in hand, create a Flight Map for this week, by dividing each of the seven activities across four weeks, and deciding what must be done first. Break these down into daily, bite-sized bits.

Again, decide on priorities by asking yourself: “If I could do just one thing today to further my creative intention, what would it be?” Place the number one in the small cloud. Find number two by asking, “If I could do only one other thing, what would it be?” And so on. Again, the landing log provides for seven activities a day, at least one in each category of rest and one play. You can do fewer than seven tasks if you wish. The day’s activities should be small, manageable and feel like fun.

vi. If at any point, you’re feeling overwhelmed, either drop something, or go back and break the tasks down into smaller steps, or give yourself more time. An intention dropped is as satisfactory as an intention realized. Both are necessary to flow.

vii. At the end of each day, fill out your Day: Landing Log for the next. Look back over your Flight Map for the week to ensure you’re staying on track. Each day, reaffirm your creative intention. Meditate on it. Rest for it. F-R-E-E-Write it. Keep it central to your creative focus.

Creative Life Mapping

  • Keep the week’s Flight Map and the Landing Log in the place where you’ll see them most often – your desk? your fridge? – and as the challenges of life, family, social media and so on come into your day, return to the maps to remind you to focus on what’s most important to you.
  • Never have more than seven tasks on any map. If you find yourself filling in spaces between the clouds, start again. The fewer tasks, the better. And leave plenty of time around them.
  • When you finish a task, don’t tick it off or delete it. Use a colored highlighter pen or marker and color its cloud in your favorite color. Hold the pleasure of having done it, and keep its achievement in your awareness.
  • Unlike productivity systems, creative mapping assumes you won’t stick rigidly to what you’ve outlined. It is a guide, a support to help you, not a stick with which to beat yourself. Always feel free to change, drop, swap, dissolve or combine any intentions or activities, if it moves you closer to any of the essential desires.
  • And always remember that an intention consciously dropped is as good as an intention consciously fulfilled.

The only non-negotiable is that you get yourself into the creative state to map, so you map from full empowerment.

When working with maps, do lots of flow-practice and release-practice. This will elevate your energy, help you to enjoy the process and bring about all sorts of outcomes beyond your conscious envisioning.