When inspiration strikes. My ‘Clarity Klaxon’.

The clarity klaxon can sound at any time of day or night. It sounds when the fog clears and inspiration strikes.

It’s that moment when you jolt upright with the realisation of a fresh idea or a new solution to a problem you’ve been wrestling with. It’s a wonderful feeling.

And when the klaxon sounds, it’s as if blue skies replace clouds, optimism replaces doubt. I can clearly see the path ahead. I know what I need to do or where I need to go next.

It might be one of my own headaches I’ve been wrestling with, or it could be a breakthrough on a client project.

It can sound anywhere — on the train, in the shower, or on the street. It has no regard for the parameters of ‘the working day’. It’s more likely to go off at 9am on a Sunday, or at 2am in the morning than it is between 9 and 5 Monday-Friday.

And when it sounds, I know what I must do. I mustn’t let that clarity escape. I have to write my thoughts down immediately (yes, that can be difficult mid-shower).

Here are six things I do to increase my chances of getting the klaxon to sound:

  1. Go outdoors. Fresh air and a change of scenery often unlocks ideas. So I’ll try a lunchtime run, a walk instead of a tube ride or a swim at my local beach.
  2. Take a shower. The shower is a constant source of ideas and clarity. There must be something about that steam and water. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin says he sometimes takes up to eight showers a day to revive his creativity whenever he’s suffering from writer’s block.
  3. Switch off. When I switch off from thinking about work, clarity tends to arrive. In the garden at the weekend or whilst I’m on holiday.
  4. Go on a journey. I love a plane or a train ride. It’s not just the change in scenery, it’s being in motion that seems to do the trick. A day-dream out of the window is wonderful for ideas generation.
  5. Read a novel. I spend a lot of work time reading. There are articles, briefs, blog posts and reports to consume. I also read business books. But when I pick up a novel, it takes my mind to a different place. That detachment from my to-do list seems to work wonders for bringing me clarity.
  6. Talk to an outsider. It can be hard to get clarity when you’re too close to the matter in hand. Sometimes you need that wide-angle view or just a different perspective. I talk to an outsider, someone who isn’t in the same field as me who might see things differently.*

I just make sure I have pen and paper to hand. There’s nothing more frustrating than the clarity coming but having it slip through your fingers!


*If the shower isn’t working for you/ your clarity klaxon has fallen silent, and you’ve got a career, business or work life question to crack, come on one of my London walk n’talks. I’ll ask the questions you can’t ask yourself and bring you clarity. Get an outsider’s perspective — give me a shout. For a limited time, I’m offering my one-hour London lunch-break walk n’talks at £120 including VAT. Email hello@iansanders.com and we can fix a time.

“Those of us working on ‘doing the thing’ can lose sight of why we’re doing the thing, and what is it that matters of the 22 things you’re doing. Everyone needs help to periscope up to the horizon to help see the horizon again, so you can find the fuel to keep going in the right direction. Is it possible to do that alone? Maybe. But I’d rather not risk it. I’d rather get the kind of help that helps hit the goal and do more meaningful work as a result. Ian Sanders certainly can do all of that by insightful questions, and deep listening.” Nilofer Merchant, author & speaker

Ian Sanders is a creative consultant and storyteller who helps brands, organisations and people get heard and grow.

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