Where has this year gone!? I'm getting ready to make another trip from London to the States - as usual, I'll keep my eyes open for the latest creative ideas to share with you when I get back. In the meantime, here are this month's tips and techniques:
1: Make a New Imaginary Friend
Some of you know that I'm big on visualization as a technique for relaxing, setting goals, and all kinds of good outcomes. I'v come up with a new visualization technique that builds on recent findings of a study done at the State University of New York at Buffalo. They assigned unpleasant tasks to 240 couples, half of whom had pets. The pet owners had lower stress levels while doing the tasks, and performed better when in the presence of their pets than when in the presence of their partner or a (human) friend. Here's how to make use of those findings:
ACTION: If you have a pet, make sure it's around when you're doing taxes or any other unpleasant tasks. If you don't have a pet, imagine one! That's right, take a deep breath, picture your ideal pet, imagine it as vividly as you can (not only what it looks like, but also any sounds it makes and what it would feel like to pet it, for example). You may notice an immediate relaxation response. If the feelings of stress come back, take a moment to imagine interacting with the pet. (I know it may sound strange, but try it, it does work!).
2: Give Your Environment a Boost
As we move into the season of buying presents, put aside a little fund for buying yourself some items that will give your work environment an extra bit of zip. This might be a poster, a figurine, a plastic light bulb, a wall hanging, a wind-up toy--anything that reminds you of your creative, child-like side.
ACTI0N: Keep an eye out for items like this as you do your holiday shopping. Put them into a box, and bring them all out when you go back to work after the holidays. They can be a great jump-start to get you over the blahs that a lot of people feel during the winter.
3: Keep Track of Your Phone Calls
Creative types often have trouble with keeping track of the more mundane aspects of business. One useful thing is to be aware of whom you called when (or who called you), what was discussed, and what was agreed. Jotting this all down on random slips of paper fits the image of the absent-minded artist, but isn't very effective. There's a better way:
ACTION: Buy a bunch of those "While you were out" pads from your local stationery store. Instead of using them for missed calls, fill one out every time you make or receive a phone call. Jot down the name of the person, the date, and the gist of the call, including any agreed-upon actions. You can then file these by date, or at the end of the day file them by project.
4: Tis the Season to be Grumpy (Not)
The holidays can be a time of great joy...and great frustration, especially when we're dealing with people who annoy us (like unhelpful store staff, aggressive beggers, certain family members we see only once a year... Wouldn't it be great to have a routine that would remind us to be compassionate in such circumstances? Harry Palmer suggests five steps in his book, "Resurfacing: Techniques for Exploring Consciousness." Really they are five statements to repeat to yourself in such an encounter:
(1) Just like me, this person is seeking some happiness in his or her life;
(2) Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his or her life;
(3) Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair;
(4) Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfil his or her needs;
(5) Just like me, this person is learning about life.
ACTION: It may be useful to jot these down on an index card and refer to them. Don't start with the most annoying person in your life, rather start with someone easy and build up.
5: In Praise of Idleness
This time of year we may be busier than ever, but it's useful to remember that idlness has a role to play, too. Here's what Tom Hodgkinson, editor of the magazine, "The Idler," wrote: "The best-kept secret in business is that great leaders are nearly always extremely lazy, as well as being capable of bouts of intense work. This is not just a weird coincidence. It is because laziness means time to think; and thinking time leads to good ideas, and good ideas rather than unthinking toil give the edge in today's business world."
ACTION: Schedule some time for idleness. You can even put it in your diary: next Wednesday, 2pm to 4pm, meeting with Mr. I. Dellness...then head off to a coffee shop or take a walk and embrace your Inner Idler.
6: And Last but Not Least, a Quote to Consider:
"The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly--that is what each of us is here for." -- Oscar Wilde. (And, if I dare add a thought to Oscar's, it's when we're being ourselves that we also have the most to offer others.)