July brainstorm

2011

Can you believe it - the year is half over! If you made some resolutions back in January and they seem to have disappeared, you get another chance on Sunday, July 10. That's the date of our next MAD - our online Massive Action Day.

You can set a goal for the rest of the year and also for the day. You join us for a few hours or all day and check in every hour to declare a goal for the next hour.

OK, on to some great tips for being more creative and productive in the second half of the year:

1: How to be creative while you wait
We spend quite a few hours waiting for something or other - the bus, the train, the check-out clerk, the doctor, etc. If that's a good time for you to space out and think about nothing in particular, by all means do that. But if you get frustrated, you can use your surroundings to prompt some creativity.

For instance, if you're a fiction writer you can look around for likely models for some of your characters. If you're a marketing person, you can watch consumer behaviour. If you're a non-fiction writer you can try associating something around you to your subject.

ACTION: The next time you start to feel frustrated while waiting, use that as a signal to think, "How can I use this time creatively?"

2: How to cultivate and confirm a new habit
Experts disagree on how long it takes to confirm a new habit - traditionally they have said 21 days, more recent research suggests it takes longer. The key, though, is ACTION, not just setting the intention.

So if you want to establish a new habit, make the process physical and unavoidable.

For instance, let's say you decide to do ten minutes of exercise first thing every morning. Generally that goes well for about 6 days, then something comes up and we miss a day or two, then we forget about it totally for a while, then we remember and feel bad.

Better: Make a big sign that says "Exercise for 10!" and make something else contingent on doing that behaviour. For instance, resolve that you won't eat breakfast until you've done your ten. Put the sign on the door of the cabinet that holds your breakfast food. A sign makes it visible, the contingency makes it unavoidable.

ACTION: What's one habit you'd like to establish (maybe to replace one that's not in your best interests)? Figure out how to make your commitment visible and unavoidable.

3: Is it time to reinvent yourself?
It's useful to stop every once in a while and look at our lives and decide whether anything needs to be reinvented. Inertia is such a strong force that it can be hard to do this, and another strong force is the "sunk costs fallacy" that says if you spent money or time and energy on something, that's a good reason to hold on to it.

ACTION: Take a look at all the facets of your life and ask, "If I were starting totally fresh, would I still do this or own this?" If not, what would I do or acquire instead? Is it time to act on this? What's the first thing you'll change? (For me, at the moment it's a purge of the flat I've lived in for almost 20 years - somehow a lot of stuff seems to have accumulated while I wasn't looking…).

4: Start with the ridiculous and work your way backward (but not too far backward)
Marketer Jorge Barba recently related how he held a brainstorming session on behalf of a new restaurant in Mexico. He suggested a drink called "Pulpo Enamorado" which, when ordered, prompts the waiter to smoosh the customer in the face with a pie.

Barba said although it won't actually make it onto the menu, it got everybody laughing and freed them up to come up with a wider range of ideas for how to make the dining experience memorable. It made the other participants less self-conscious about proposing ideas that might seem ridiculous but could lead to practical variations.

ACTION: When you're brainstorming on your own behalf, start with some patently ridiculous ideas to get the ball rolling and expand your possibilities. Later you can work backward toward more workable solutions. (I'd like to see a version of Pulpo Enamorado whereby if your waiter gives you terrible service, you order it and he has to push a pie into his own face.)

5: Don't duplicate Darwin's Delay
I read the other day that Charles Darwin delayed publication of his theory of evolution for 20 years because he was concerned about how it would be received and the effect it might have on his reputation.

Most of us won't have ideas or projects quite that earth-shattering, but we may still experience our own version of Darwin's Delay. (For the record, not all historians agree - Dr John van Wyhe argues Darwin was just busy writing ten other books he wanted to finish first.)

ACTION: Is there something - large or small - you're holding back because you're worried about how it might look to others? Can you compromise by trying it out on a few trusted colleagues/friends/family members first? Or is it time to send it out into the world and see what happens?

6: And a quote to consider:
"We are all functioning at a small fraction of our ca¬pacity to live fully in its total meaning of loving, caring, creating and adventuring. Consequently, the actual¬izing of our potential can become the most exciting adventure of our lifetime." – Herbert A. Otto, author and leader of the human potential movement

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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".