November Brainstorm

2005

Whether or not you formally celebrate Thanksgiving, this month gives us a good opportunity to remember the things we can be grateful for.

It's something we often forget, as I discovered a couple of years ago when I had a follow-up session to one of my "Create Your Future" workshops. I asked people to indicate on a scale of 1 (bad) to 10 (excellent) how they rated their lives six weeks after the workshop. Their average rating was between six and seven.

The next time we had such a session, I first had people jot down at least half a dozen good things that had happened since the workshop, and then had them do the same rating. This time the average was between eight and nine, and several people commented that until they had to list good things, they'd forgotten about them.

I hope you come up with a nice long list! And maybe the following items will inspire some more good things.

1: Write a Sticky Message
The Journal of Consumer Psychology reported a study in which volunteers were asked to fill out a survey and return it. Some just got the survey, some got surveys with a note written on the survey cover page asking them to return it, and some got surveys with a Post-It note with the same message stuck on it.

The results: whether or not there was a note written on the cover didn't make any difference, but the response rate was better for the surveys that had a Post-it note on them.

ACTION: If you're sending something for which you'd like a response (e.g., a resume, a portfolio), add a hand-written message on a sticky note.

2: No More Boring Tasks
Let's face it, we all have to do boring tasks sometimes. Here are four tips for how to make a dull job more interesting:

(1) Work against the clock. Set yourself a time limit for how long the task will take, and if you beat the clock, give yourself a little reward;

(2) Break it down and keep score. As you go along, check off each little chunk that you achieve;

(3) Link it to a more important outcome. If you achieve this task, what else will it allow you to do?

(4) Create an image of your reluctance to do the task, and picture reducing it in size before you start. For example, if you think of organizing your tax receipts as a huge mountain, try shrinking it to a molehill. (If you find this tough, compare the size of the task to other things you have accomplished—is it really more difficult?).

ACTION: Pick one task you've been avoiding and apply one or all of the techniques above, and then just do it.

3: Four Questions that Lead to a Good Presentation
Here from Alan Weiss, of Summit Consulting, is an instant structure to use if you're suddenly called upon to make a speech or presentation:

(1) WHAT it is you will explain

(2) WHY it is important to know about it

(3) HOW will the listener use it

(4) EXAMPLE of how it works (or how others have used it)

For more complicated topics, you can use the above four points for each section.

ACTION: The next time you want to explain something to someone (whether it's one person or a group), try organizing your information using these four points.

4: Simple Made Simple
You're probably aware of the movement to simplify life (it sometimes feels like a losing battle!). Here are six ways to do that, from writer Elaine St. James:

(1) Resign from any organizations whose meetings you dread

(2) Learn to live with less information: stop watching TV news, cancel half your magazine subscriptions

(3) Work where you live, or live where you work

(4) Be in bed by 9pm one night a week

(5) Live on half of what you earn, save the other half

(6) Keep asking "Is this going to simplify my life?

ACTION: Some of these are easier said than done, but if any of them resonate with you, give them a try, even if only in a less extreme form.

5: Rules of the Garage
Some years ago, HP published an ad to announce that they were going back to their roots of innovation. Because the original business (Hewlett-Packard) started in a garage, they called these basics the "rules of the garage." I don't know how well they've worked for HP, but I think we can all find something useful in them:

  • Believe you can change the world.
  • Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever.
  • Know when to work alone and when to work together.
  • Share—tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.
  • No politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage.)
  • The customer defines a job well done.
  • Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
  • Invent different ways of working.
  • Make a contribution every day. If it doesn't contribute, it doesn't leave the garage.
  • Believe that together we can do anything.
  • Invent.

    ACTION: Which of these points made your heart beat a little faster or lit up your brain? That's a clue.

    6: And a quote to think about:
    "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." – Anaiis Nin

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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".