I’m creating a presentation for our student staff for our annual fall kickoff event this Saturday. It’s a half-day retreat/workshop to get our team reconnected with each other and to our mission as we begin a new school year. This is easily one of my favorite work days of the year.

We’ve got our agenda set, and now I just need to finalize my opening presentation. I’ve had ideas about this for a couple of months, and I’ve dumped slides into a Keynote document throughout the summer. But I’ve only just this week begun putting it together and sorting through the ideas. I discard, rearrange, tweak, and fine tune the ideas to get to some sort of narrative flow. I want to take the audience on a journey from “Why?” to “How?” and spark action.

I borrow ideas and slides from other talks I’ve done recently. Key themes seem to pop up in my life every year, and I stick with them even across different presentations and formats and audiences.

Below is a screen shot from Keynote showing my “light table” view. I live in this view when I’m working on a presentation. It’s such a great way to see everything at once and put some order to what otherwise would be a choppy, disconnected collection of ideas. Not everything on a slide is meant to be projected. At this point in the process, I use slides like note cards.

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 5.28.27 PM

I had been dragging my feet on this all week, but something clicked this afternoon when I plunged in and started working on it. I got into a flow and ideas and connections started clicking. That state, when time falls away and focus is sharp, is a delight. And it’s when my best work gets done.

Flow seems to follow action rather than the other way around. Waiting for the state to somehow arrive is futile in most cases. Action does not always lead to flow, but it’s the only way I know to attempt to summon it.