February Brainstorm

2009

As we huddle near the fire for the last weeks of winter (he said, optimistically), it's a good time for reading, thinking, and looking ahead to projects we'll be launching in the Spring. Here are some items that may inspire you.

1: Why you should be caught napping
I've been a big fan of napping for a long time, and now some new research underlines how good naps are. One German study showed that even a few minutes' nap can trigger active memory processes, and a Harvard study showed that even anticipating a nap can lower blood pressure.

There are 3 types of naps that are especially useful:

  • the twenty minute catnap - this increases alertness, improves mood, and helps motor skills;
  • the 45 minute nap - this will include some REM sleep (and dreams) and will also help with creative thinking;
  • the 90-minute nap - this is for times when you have been sleep-deprived at night for some reason. Of course you shouldn't take this one too close to your bedtime.

Reporting in the Guardian, writer Jennifer Ackerman reports that if you are an early-riser type ("lark") the best time for your nap is around 1.30pm. If you're an "owl," the best time for your nap is 2.30pm or 3pm.

ACTION: If you feel tired during the day, try at least a mini-nap and notice how it ups your energy.

2: Have you tried affirmations and they didn't work?
Maybe you've tried affirmations - statements like, "I get things done efficiently and effectively every day," or "I choose to eat only healthy food."

Many people find they don't really work. I've developed a two-version system that is more effective.

Step one: State the affirmation using "you" or your name instead of "I." So the statement would be "You get things done..." or "Jurgen gets things done..." And while you do this, you visualize yourself getting things done, as though you were watching a movie of those actions, on a screen. Then you use the "I" form, and this time you imagine yourself doing those things, seen through your own eyes. In other words, first in the dissociated state, then the associated state.

ACTION: Pick one thing you'd like to do differently and every day for three weeks, do the affirmations in the two steps above.

3: Going the extra mile
Careerbuilder.com approached Sally Hogshead about possibly doing a speaking tour for them. Here's how she responded, as she described it in a recent interview:

"I could simply have responded in an email, as most other applicants did. But to sell them on my personal brand ("Radical ideas and passionate action, keenly executed.") I had to clearly articulate why I could do this better than anyone else. ...I created the vision for an entire program, which I called 'Radical CareerBuilding.' I showed how my brand could perfectly combine with their brand. I outlined a marketing plan, potential partners, and even a logo design. Within a week, I got the phone call that I'd be going on tour in a few weeks. I'd sold them with my extra thought and effort. "

It's a great example of going the extra mile - something that will get more and more important in today's economy.

ACTION: What's one project in which you could go the extra mile? What would that look like? Will you commit to doing it?

4: What you can learn from a software developer
Essayist and programmer Paul Graham wrote an essay called "six principles for making new things," in which he revealed his process. He says he likes to:

(a) find simple solutions to
(b) overlooked problems
(c) that actually need to be solved, and
(d) deliver them as informally as possible,
(e) starting with a very crude version 1, then
(f) iterating rapidly [in other words, using feedback to adjust and tweak, then releasing it again, getting more feedback, and repeating the cycle until the product or service as good as you hoped it would be]

ACTION: What are you doing that you could do better by applying this model? It could be a work project, or even some aspect of personal development. Most of us could benefit by paying special attention to steps (e) and (f) - not waiting until we have the "perfect" solution - start with a crappy one and then "mistake our way" to a good one!

5: A simple tip to improve your to-do list
Here's a tip I picked up on the very useful Lifehacker website: when you write out your to-do list, be very specific, especially with tasks you are tempted to avoid or that you've been carrying over from day to day. For instance, if you've been avoiding a task you're calling "Make dental appointment," change that to, "10am - Call dentist for appointment next Weds". - (and the phone number).

ACTION: Is there a task that's been lurking on our list too long? Change it to something very specific

6: In place of the usual quote, a suggestion
Usually I end the bulletin with a quote, but this time I wanted to do something different.

Last month I helped organise a memorial to a dear friend, Chris Wicking, who died of a heart attack a couple of months ago. If you're a fan of horror films, you might recognize his name - he wrote some of the top horror films of the Hammer Horror era (although not just for Hammer). Over a hundred people turned out and it was wonderful to see how many lives he'd touched.

My only regret was that we hadn't organized a celebration of his life before he died. He was only 65 and had been in good health, but we never know when our time is up. So this time I want to close with a suggestion: it doesn't have to be party, but is there something you might want to do now to let someone who has touched your life know how much you appreciate them? A card, a bottle of wine with a note attached, or - hey, you're creative, you'll know what to do.

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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".