A poet said, "April is the cruelest month," but maybe he meant February… anyway, the days are getting a little longer, there’s plenty of work to do indoors, and spring is coming… isn’t it?
If you like this e-bulletin, you’ll also like my new Creativity Rocket podcast. You can find it at firstname.lastname@example.org or the podcast section of the iTunes store. Be sure to subscribe because there are plenty of interesting and useful episodes coming up. The first one features creativity expert and broadcaster Nellie Jacobs and is co-hosted by my faithful manservant, Arthur.
Now, here are some ideas to help you be more creative and productive.
1: Use your Inner Google Internet guru Robin Good recently talked about how he uses what he calls his "Inner Google." It’s a new name for an old phenomenon — that if we give a question to our subconscious mind, often it will come up with the answer. It may not be as fast as Google, but it works. Here are the three steps:
a. Ask yourself the question in a constructive way. (For instance, "What’s a creative way for me to market my product?” or "Why isn’t Act II of my screenplay working?")
Forget about it. Don’t keep going back trying to solve the problem. Instead, sleep on it or give yourself a specific time when you’ll go back to it.
Be alert for inspiration because the answer may pop up when you least expect it – while taking a shower or exercising or in a dream.
Action: Is there a problem you’d like your subconscious mind to solve? Give it the raw material, wait and notice the results.
2: Variation: Give your Internal Google some stuff to munch on Sometimes (especially when you need results fast) instead of letting your subconscious mind ruminate on its own, you can set a specific outcome and engage in a period of brain stimulation.
For instance, at the moment I’m trying to come up with some fresh ideas for promoting a new project that relates to fitness and health. I might set myself this outcome: "In the next 30 minutes, brainstorm as many ways as possible to promote this project, using Google images as the stimulus." I would then set a timer, go to Google images, and type in a random word (nothing to do with fitness and health) and jot down any ideas that come up. No judging during this phase – the evaluation of the ideas comes in a separate session later.
If nothing comes up or the ideas coming from one set of images runs out, go to another word. If you have a newspaper or magazine handy, just use the first word that meets your eye.
Action: Need fresh ideas now about a challenge? Get a magazine, a timer, access to Google images www.google.com/images and go!
3: Twenty-four hours to save yourself The city of Winchester, England, is getting together six teams of people, including architects, planners and engineers, giving each of them a part of the city to examine and asking them to come up with fresh ideas for improvements. They have 24 hours for this process and will report their recommendations to the public the following day. Their emphasis is on housing, transport, local food production and so on. They are calling it "24 Hours to Save Winchester."
It occurred to me that it would be a very useful exercise to do that with your life once a year. Twenty-four hours to consider your health and fitness, your finances, your relationships, etc. — maybe involving a team of real or virtual experts (which could include your doctor, accountant, spouse or partner, and so on). By taking a step back and looking at the big picture with new eyes, we might discover some breakthrough ways to improve our lives.
Action: If you like this idea, schedule a day for it. I have put together a brief guide on how to do this and I’d be happy to send it to you, no charge, if you send an e-mail request to BStormUK@aol.com. Write "24 hours" in the subject line or the body and we’ll know what you want and send you the PDF!
London area readers: On Friday, March 18, from 9a.m. to noon, I’m presenting a workshop called "Caffeine for Your Marketing Brain" for the Small Business Network. You’ll get low-cost, practical ideas for marketing your product or service. The location is Sable D’Or in Muswell Hill and the fee is GBP 30. Space is limited, so to book or get more information go to www.northlondonnetwork.com/wordpress/?p=192 or email: email@example.com or phone 07863 544036 or 020 8883 7210.
4: Be proud to be an amateur In their Psychology Today blog, Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein write that having a hobby is somewhat suspect these days: "In a culture obsessed with work, it is difficult to carve out time for play; in a society focused on competitive edge, it is difficult to justify common achievements; in a world increasingly dedicated to technological simulation, it is difficult to experience things first hand."
They say there’s nothing wrong with doing an activity for its own sake but then go on to justify it by pointing out that it actually does have other benefits: to relieve stress, to develop skills that may come in handy in your work, to keep your mind sharp as you continue to challenge yourself.
Action: Is there some interest you’ve had but have given up or something you’ve always wanted to explore but haven’t because it seemed to have no practical purpose? Here’s your excuse (not that you need one).
5: Get off to a strong start It’s difficult, especially on dark winter mornings, to get your day off to a strong start. Here are five ways to do it:
Drink a glass of cold water with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice in it (some people prefer warm water, but I find cold wakes me up better).
Do five or ten minutes of yoga or some other exercise. Even just waving your arms around while stepping in place helps gets the blood flowing.
Jot down six things you’re grateful for in your life. You can write them on an index card and throw it away right afterward, but this will point your brain in a positive direction.
During breakfast don’t listen to the news or read the newspaper. Instead, remember one thing that went right yesterday and think about what you’d like to achieve today.
Do at least one important task before you check your e-mail.
Action: If doing all five of these seems too difficult, pick one to start with. Which one do you think would have the most positive impact? Jot it down on a sticky note and attach it to your bathroom mirror so you’ll see it first thing in the morning.
6: And a quote to consider
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." – Winston Churchill
Until next time,
PS: The next 60-day session of the “BreakThrough Strategy” starts next month. It’s a great way to get support and guidance for achieving the goal that means the most to you. For details see www.jurgenwolff.com. Space is limited.
If you haven’t looked at my blog lately, you’ve missed posts on how to overcome your excuses for not writing, a great site that features fascinating letters, the power of flattery (but you’re so smart you probably already know that), J. K. Rowling on the benefits of failure, why I like making mistakes (I’m lying), whether to choose focus or flair, long distance collaboration, when it helps to be stupid, the two sides of creativity, and much more. You can find all those right now at www.timetowrite.blogs.com.
If you want to a free course (8 mini-lessons, one per week) on overcoming procrastination, just sign up at www.tameyourinnercritic.com.
You’ll also find a wealth of ways to be more creative and productive in my newest book, "Creativity Now!" There are a big bunch of bonuses to the book at www.jurgenwolff.com. Yes, you can access these even without buying the book (but do buy it).