Greetings from toasty Palm Springs! I've escaped the English winter for a few more weeks, then it'll be time to go home and turn on the heating and the SAD light. But wherever you are, here are some useful creativity and productivity tips I've dug up for you recently:
1: Match that mood!
Want to be creative? Be happy! Want to make better decisions? Be grumpy! That seems to be the message of research done by psychologist Joseph Forgas, published in the journal Australian Science.
He found that happiness is better for creativity, flexibility, cooperation, and reliance on mental shortcuts. Negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking and paying greater attention to the external world, resulting in better judgment and crafting effective persuasive messages.
ACTION: The best way to take advantage of these findings may be to try to match the task to your mood - if you're feeling upbeat, do your creative work and if you're feeling downbeat do administrative tasks that require accuracy and decision-making.
Alternatively, manipulate your mood to match the task at hand, using music, visualization and movement (e.g., to get more upbeat, listen to upbeat music with which you already have happy associations, do a few minutes of exercise to get your heart rate up, and visualize the positive outcome of whatever you're about to do.)
2: Embrace your versatility
In an interview for Success magazine, fashion designer, film-maker, actor, opera director and cabaret artist Isaac Mizrahi said, "My piano teacher said, 'You have to choose what you want. You can't continue to study the piano for eight hours a day and be an actor and design clothes.' I listened to what he said and he made sense, but I couldn't relate to that model. I am not a specialist."
He embraces the fact that he is easily bored: "I think it's just a way of being in the world. Some people just like to do a lot of things."
Here's the advice that sums it all up: "Do what you want - don't let anyone tell you to do a version of what you want. Do exactly that you want, then wait it out..."Of his own next venture (directing a film) he says, "I don't know if I'll be good at it, but I know I'll like doing it. If someone thinks I'm good, then I'm really happy about it."
ACTION: Whatever you're doing, give it 100% intensity and focus, but don't let anybody tell you that you can't do more than one thing.
3: What's the difference that will make the difference?
I read a blog post by someone who said writing for his blog felt like a lot of work - until he changed the size of his font from 12 point to 9 point! Sounds weird, but he said he associates 12 point type with the writing he does all day at work and just changing the look of it was enough to kill that association and make the task more enjoyable.
Sometimes a small change reframes or transforms a task you don't enjoy. Here are some more examples:
- Going to the gym: buy a new outfit with colors that energize you;
- Doing your taxes or other admin work: play a comedy tape at short intervals as you get each sub-task done;
- Cleaning the house: set a timer and compete against your previous records;
- Writing: change of location, writing implement, or time of day.
ACTION: What's a task that feels like a lot of work or that you don't enjoy? What are three small differences you could try the next time you do it?
4: Introducing the 25% Stuff Happens Factor
In Kevin Hogan's excellent new book on time management: "The 168 Hour Week - Living Life Your Way 24/7,"he references research by two business school professors that reveals we over-commit because we expect to have more time in the future than we have in the present.
As Hogan writes, "In short, the future is ideal: the fridge is stocked, the weather clear, the train runs on schedule and meetings end on time. Today, well, stuff happens.
The result is that we over-commit, fail to achieve what we set out to do, and get depressed or de-motivated.
ACTION: Starting today, build in a 25% "Stuff Happens" factor when you plan your time. Think you'll need 8 hours to achieve a particular task? Plan to dedicate 10. (If you need help with focusing your time use and energy, see my book, Focus: the power of targeted thinking (Pearson UK; in the US it's called Focus: Your Key to More Productivity at Work).
5: My favorite success strategy
I've mentioned this one before but it has been a while, so especially for our new subscribers I wanted to recap it. It's simple but can create a total shift in your thinking:
When you have a challenge, assume success. Make the only question HOW you will achieve it, not WHETHER.
When you do that, you start thinking like a detective or a scientist.
Example: You WILL get your novel published. Now the question is whether it will be via a traditional publisher, self-publishing or some other method.
ACTION: Pick one challenge in your life that you've doubted you could achieve. Reframe your thinking to the certainty of success (if this means you have to pretend, that's fine). Now start generating ways to achieve that success. Notice the different in the process as well as the quantity and quality of the ideas that come up.
6: And a quote to consider:
"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.