Spring Brainstorm

2006

1: The Power of Being Disconnected

The March 20 issue of Fortune magazine had a feature called Secrets of Greatness, in which they asked some peak performers for the secrets of their success. Many of the answers were just what you'd expect, but a couple were surprising. Here's part of what Bill Gross, the Chief Investment Officer of Pimco, said:

"I don't have a cellphone, I don't have a Blackberry. My motto is, I don't want to be connected - I want to be disconnected."

He added, "The most important part of my day isn't on the trading floor. Every day at 8:30 A.M., I get up from my desk and walk across to a health club across the street. I do yoga and work out for probably an hour and a half, between 8:30 and 10. …After about 45 minutes riding the exercise bike and maybe ten or 15 minutes of yoga, all of a sudden some significant light bulbs seem to turn on. I look at that hour and a half as the most valuable time of the day."

ACTION: If you don't have any disconnected time of the day, or any time when you exercise, maybe it would be a good idea to start. If it works for a guy who is directly responsible for $200 billion in investments, it could work for you!

2: The Power of Asking - Again
The same issue also featured some thoughts from Stelios Haji-Iaonnou, the founder of easyGroup (the most famous part of which is easyJet). He says, "Although I try to reply to most e-mails, I don't consider it my duty to reply to every e-mail about a great idea or a great investment."

Here's the good part: "But it's amazing how many good ideas and start-ups I have initiated as a result of an unsolicited approach."

In other words, he's made deals that came from somebody contacting him and just asking. I've mentioned the power of asking before - and how reluctant most of us (including me) are to use it. This is another confirmation that it works.

ACTION: Who could you ask for support, information, or collaboration but have been hesitant to do so? What's the worst that could happen? When are you going to ask? (Here's one from me: I bet you know at least two other people who would enjoy receiving this e-bulletin. Will you forward this one to them, please, and let them know they can subscribe? Thanks.)

3: The Problem With Goals
Persuasion guru Kevin Hogan says there's a problem with setting goals. Namely, that people set huge goals, and then fail to reach them. The result, he says: devastation. His prescription: focus on short-term goals, even very short-term (like the next fifteen minutes, this morning or afternoon, and today). Then swing into action, achieve the goal, and move on to the next set of short-term goals. This means you're constantly winning, gaining confidence, and adjusting your plan as needed.

ACTION: Most people probably fail to set goals at all, but some of us spend too much time planning. Hogan says it takes him fifteen minutes once a week, then no more than a minute or two per day. If you love coming up with elaborate plans, diagrams, flow charts, mind maps, etc. (I know whereof I speak…), consider cutting back on the planning and putting more attention on achieving.

4: Distractions, Interruptions and - oh wait, I have a phone call…
We all know that getting interrupted is bad for productivity, but I was surprised to find recently just how much in affects us.

A study a Basex, a New York research firm, discovered that the average office worker get distracted two hours per day. The average time spent on a task before an interruption: only 11 minutes. Another study found that it takes workers 25 minutes to get back to the original task (assuming they do get back to it at all).

ACTION: A good start is to check how often you are interrupting yourself, for example by checking emails, switching tasks before finishing, making calls in the middle of something else, etc. One technique I recommend in my "Time Management for Writers" e-book is to write the task on an index card and stick it up where you can see it.

Having it in view makes you less likely to forget about it. In the next e-bulletin, we'll look at how you can stop other people from interrupting you.

5: When Things Go Wrong, Do This
In the book, Play to Win, authors Larry Wilson and Hersch Wilson suggest that when things go wrong, a useful response is to discriminate between what a camera would record and our interpretation of what's happening.

This helps us to stop generalizing. For example, a camera might record: This manuscript has been rejected by Publisher X. Your interpretation might be, "This manuscript will never sell." But all that has really happened is that one publisher has turned down the manuscript. How you interpret that is up to you. You can just as well say, "This manuscript obviously isn't what this publisher is looking for - I wonder which publisher WILL want it!"

ACTION: The next time you feel bad about something that's happened, stop and consider what a camera would show actually happened, and think about whether your interpretation is necessarily accurate.

6: And a Quote to Think About…
"Yes, there is a heaven. We create it every day when we protect a child, help an adult and revere our home, the earth."
George A. Erickson

  Categories:
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".

Older Comments

Distractions and our study Just to clarify, Basex' research found that 2.1 hours (28%) of the knowledge worker's day is comprised of interruptions and what we termed 'recovery time,' the time it takes to get back to what you were doing. This added up to a total cost to the U.S. economy of $588 billion. We didn't calculate the average time on a task before an interruption; that must have been another study. Our research is available for further scrutiny at http://www.basex.com/interrupt

Jonathan Spira Vienna