Were you bombarded with emails in the last week all about coming up with your special focus word, personal exploration, or individual success plan for the new year?

EVERYONE seemed to be on the same program based on our anxiety about hitting the ground running with the simplest way to focus our attention throughout the year. One email even offered an automated word-of-the-year generator, just in case you are unable to imagine a word to shape the next 12 months.

creative thinking questions can target your focus areas for the year

The reason I don’t immediately unsubscribe from these emails? When it comes to focus and preparation exercises, it’s a numbers game. You look at a lot of them, a couple resonate, you follow up on maybe one or two, and you hope that something sticks from the reflection you do. The more of them you have hitting your inbox, the more likely you are to do SOMETHING beneficial, even if it’s basic.

How about Creative Thinking Questions?

What are we suggesting for looking ahead this week to map your professional horizons for the year?

Planning we did in December for Idea Magnets helped identify what I thought might be valuable. Since it’s tough for planners to do their own planning, I turned it over to Tara Baukus Mello to pick the approach we used to plan.

To prepare for the in-person planning, Tara forwarded creative thinking questions that looked out from today to more than a decade into the future. It was twenty pages of questions. While the document was daunting, working with a fresh set of questions forced me to think about completely new opportunities and issues. And that’s always the goal with strong set of creative thinking questions: to push you to explore important (often overly-familiar) areas more deeply and with fresh thinking.

8 Creative Thinking Questions to Focus Your Year

Tara’s exercise prompted me to adapt the eight questions below from our free eBook, 49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Amazing Ideas. This subset provides a helpful way to focus in particularly on what’s important for the year ahead.

Spend a few minutes with the questions and record your initial thoughts. Come back to them early next week to see if you’d expand or modify your answers.

  1. If I’m always working with the same people, what can I do each day to increase the diversity of individuals I interact with to stimulate new thinking?
  2. What is something that everyone in our industry has known for years would provide great value for customers that nobody has ever done that we can do in 2019?
  3. What are the boldest moves I can imagine challenging ourselves with in 2019? (Are they bold ENOUGH? Just checking.)
  4. What can we do to reduce by 1/3 or 1/2 the list of projects and activities that seem important but are genuinely blocking greater future success?
  5. What’s stopping us from asking for favors and help from people that we have no business trying to talk to?
  6. How can I better address a big problem by undoing the problem instead of putting another fix on a previous fix?
  7. What scary and risky things did we say Yes to in 2018? Which ones do we need to say Yes to in 2019?
  8. If I wrote the year-end recap for 2019 right now, what dramatic expectations would it point to that we need to address this year?

What's Next?

After you’ve completed a couple of passes through the questions, then what?

That depends on what will work best for you to stay on top of goals and strategies.

I recommend placing the list in as many places (physically, electronically, and/or mentally) as necessary so that you regularly and frequently see your answers for a quick read. Doing this helps to refresh your memory without trying to be overly beholden to early January thinking that may very naturally need to change over the course of 2019. Yet even if it does, you’ll have a sense of the direction you started with at the start of the year!

If you want the OTHER 41 questions, grab your free copy of 49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Amazing Ideas for questions you can use and return to throughout the year. – Mike Brown

FREE Download 7x7 - 49 Questions to Generate Extreme Creativity