February Brainstorm

Feb 19 2003 by Jurgen Wolff Print This Article

1. Handle each piece of paper…twice
Most time-management books tell you that you should only handle each piece of paper once, but I’ve found that many times I’m not ready to deal with the paper right then, and I am not sure when will be the best time to deal with it, so I put it in a Pending box. There, things pile up until they get so intimidating that I do not even want to look at them anymore…

However, I have found one thing that helps: putting a sticky note on the piece of paper, describing the action needed. This way I know that when I go back to it, my course of action is already there, ready to be implemented.

Tip: If you have a similar tendency to pile up paper, try this technique and notice whether it changes your attitude to that formerly-daunting backlog.

2. The e-mail challenge:
Even people who handle paperwork well can get bogged down handling e-mail. The trick is to treat it just the same as you would paper. Three steps usually are enough: First, go through and trash all the spam. Next, delegate anything you do not need to take care of by forwarding the e-mail message to the relevant person along with a very brief note. For the rest, immediately respond to anything you can deal with very quickly. Everything else, print out and put it into your calendar folders (or however you file things you will be taking care of at another time).

Tip: Do not let your mailbox get clogged up with e-mails that you intend to take care of ‘sometime soon.’

3: Draw a Clarity Map:
Creativity expert Joyce Wycoff, founder of the Innovation Network, recommends drawing a clarity map when you need to make a decision about pursuing a new project or idea.

To prepare, she suggests asking yourself three questions. First, What excites your interest and passion? Second, What are the factors that make you say yes to a new project or opportunity? And third, What makes you say no to a new project or decision?

Then you draw a mind map in which you put the subject at issue in the middle, and draw three branches, one for excitement, one for the yes factors, and one for the no factors. On each branch you make sub-branches for all the aspects of the idea or project that apply. You will have an overview of the issue and should find it easier to make the decision.

Tip: You might find the Innovation Network website interesting: it is www.thinksmart.com (and if you are not familiar with mind maps, the website will teach you how to make them in eight easy steps). The free Innovation Network newsletter is also worth receiving and you can sign up for it at the website.

4. Do Something Messy
In a recent issue of How magazine, the folks at StudioFEM, Detroit, suggested a method artists can use if they feel their creativity is blocked. They set aside a half hour to an hour to create a picture that incorporates anything and everything that comes to mind.

Knowing that it does not have to be good and that they will throw it away at the end removes all pressure and allows ideas to start flowing. They treat it as a form of meditation rather as a piece of work.

Tip: Try adapting this process to what you do. If you feel blocked or reluctant to get started, spend a bit of time doing the sloppiest, most free-form version of whatever it is you are supposed to be doing, knowing that at the end you will throw away whatever you’ve come up with. If you’re avoiding making a phone call, for example, role-play the call and be as silly and playful as you like. If you are putting off starting a piece of writing, make a list of the worst opening lines you can think of.

5. Think about water
Here’s an interesting technique for calming your mind, that comes from a famous creativity in business course taught by Professor Michael Ray at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

One of his graduates, Bob Moog, said of this technique: “I find that if you do go someplace where there’s water, and then you just stare at the water and think about it, that releases tension. It can be an ocean, it can be a lake, it can be rain, it can even be a glass of water — there’s just something about that fluidity that is really relaxing. It opens up your mind and allows you to think differently about things.”

Tip: Looking at water works for a lot of people — I find a small desktop fountain very soothing — but for you it might be looking at flowers, or a miniature desktop Zen sand garden, or something else. Try different things until you find the one that works best for you.

6. A quote to think about
"When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature. He becomes interesting to other people. He disturbs, upsets, enlightens and he opens the way for a better understanding."  – Robert Henri

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".