June brainstorm

2011

I love the long evenings we're starting to get now and even here in London the sun has been making more appearances than usual. I hope you're also enjoying the time of year and feeling creative and productive.

1: Have a problem to solve? First, have a laugh
A study at Northwestern University found that people were better at creative problem solving if they watched a comedy video first.

ACTION: If you feel stuck on a problem or experience a creative block, take a ten minute break to watch something funny on YouTube or a DVD, or read an amusing book (Dave Barry's essays work for me).

2: Get a flow of new ideas with a matrix
If you're trying to solve a problem or come up with a more interesting or useful version of a product or service, I've developed a matrix that might be useful. Your version should be bigger so you can easily write in the blanks.

 

bigger

smaller

slower

faster

more fun

Task/product/

service A

 

 

 

 

 

A1

 

 

 

 

 

A2

 

 

 

 

 

A3

 

 

 

 

 

Let's say that goal is to come up with a better way of generating blog posts. That's what I'd write in the space that now says "Task/product/service A." Then I'd go across and quickly brainstorm ideas for each of the prompts.

"Bigger" makes me think that I could tackle bigger topics, maybe ones I've written about in my books, and present them in daily chunks. Smaller: focus on one-minute action tips—things readers can do very quickly. Slower: link posts to fuller explanations—so people who want to go slower and deeper could do it. Faster: do audio posts—it's faster than writing. More fun? Add cartoons.

You then take the one of these you like best and write it in square A1 and go through it again, again using each of the terms to prompt another idea. You can repeat this twice more (or until you hit an idea you think is great).

ACTION: Try using the matrix. You can also change the terms to ones that better fit whatever you do.

3: Let your phone help you get more done
I'm kind of a late convert to a smart phone but I'm finding it very useful for greater productivity. Here are my top 10 functions and programs, but you have many similar options:

  • A book (via Kindle or iBooks)- it'll never replace paper for me, but on a crowded train it's useful to be able to turn virtual pages with one hand
  • A file for noting ideas (Evernote)
  • An audio memo program (Audio Memos SE)
  • Dragon Dictation (turns audio you record into text you can then email—not 100% accurate, but fairly impressive)
  • A timer (Min to Go)
  • A maps program (Google Maps)
  • Podcasts to listen to (iTunes)
  • Wikipedia (research on the go)
  • Calendar for appointments (Planner – trying this one out at the moment)
  • Skype (for free Skype to Skype phone calls)

ACTION: I'm aware you may be way ahead of me with useful apps, but if you've been hesitating, jump on in. OK, I've obviously been brainwashed…but if I turn into one of those people who text while they walk and pay no attention to where they're going, or if I start checking emails or Facebook in the middle of a conversation— please shoot me. 4: Want to reach a goal? Increase your chances with Stickk
Research has shown that you are more likely to achieve your goal if you make it specific, set milestones, are accountable to someone else, and have people cheering you on. Now there's a free online program that combines all those elements.

It's at www.Stickk.com. You sign up, pick a type of goal from their menu (e.g., healthy eating, money & finance, education) or make up your own, set a target date and rate of progress, and name a referee to whom you'll be accountable who will measure and confirm your progress, and some people who will act as your cheerleaders with periodic encouraging messages.

You can even put some money at stake. For instance, if you have a goal of losing 10 pounds in 10 weeks you can make each weekly milestone worth a set amount of money.

If you miss that week's target, Stickk charges your credit card; when the contract is over, they send the money to whoever you designated (if it's someone you really would rather not give your money, you'll be more highly motivated).

ACTION: If you have a goal you've not reached so far, give Stickk a try - you can customize it (instead of a referee you can use the honour system, for instance) and also decide to keep it totally private.

5: Never too late department: Charles Bradley
Over the years soul singer Charles Bradley made his living doing a variety of jobs and sang on the side. Then Daptone Records found him and he recorded his debut album…at the age of 62.

ACTION: Keep on keeping on.

Ps: If you like classic soul music in the vein of Al Green and Curtis Mayfield you might enjoy Bradley too; here's a link to him singing "How Long":

6: And a quote to consider:
"You are the storyteller of your own life, and you can create your own legend or not." - Isabel Allende

more articles

About The Author

Jurgen Wolff
Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and hypnotherapist. His goal is to help individuals liberate their own creativity through specific techniques that can be used at work as well as at home. His recent books include "Focus: the power of targeted thinking," a W. H. Smith best-seller, and "Your Writing Coach".