Well, we made it to the end of another year (almost)! I hope it's been a good one for you, that you are enjoying the holidays, and are full of plans and excitement for the new year (nobody can deny we live in exciting times, one way or another).
And now here are some tips and techniques I hope you'll find helpful:
1: Want to be more creative? Think about love (but not sex)
As reported in Scientific American by Nina Liberman and Oren Shapira, research suggests that: "...love makes us think differently in that it triggers global processing, which in turn promotes creative thinking and interferes with analytic thinking. Thinking about sex, however, has the opposite effect: it triggers local processing, which in turn promotes analytic thinking and interferes with creativity."
One possible explanation is that thoughts of love induce a long-term perspective and that, in turn, encourages more remote and uncommon associations. On the other hand, thoughts about sex evoke short-term thinking and, in the experiments, led people to be better at being analytical.
The authors say, "Perhaps love is an especially potent way to induce in us a sense of transcendence - being in the here and now yet also contemplating the distant future and maybe even eternity."
ACTION: The next time you want to be more creative, try first thinking about someone you love. If you want to be more analytical, first think about sex with an attractive stranger (but don't get too distracted....)
2: How to create your own luck
Tina Seelig, Executive Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, gave a great talk on creativity and entrepreneurship that included some thoughts on creating your own luck (she's applying this to entrepreneurs but I think anybody can benefit from it - for 'entrepreneurs' substitute 'writers' or whatever describes you):
- When possible, meet new people - be curious. Amazing things start with random meetings.
- You need to know how to fail fast and frequently. Failure is the secret sauce of Silicon Valley. If you want more successes, you will have to tolerate more failures.
- Don't wait to be anointed. In the context of work, she says when you get a job you're also getting a key to the building - in other words, to the opportunities you see, not only the ones you are assigned to handle. Entrepreneurs build a ladder below them rather than climbing up one someone else created.
- Never miss an opportunity to be fabulous. She says normally people in class do only the minimum amount to get an "A" but when you set the standard at "fabulous" people do amazing things.
- Entrepreneurship is an extreme sport. You have to get out and do it.
ACTION: Which of those points do you think might help you create more luck for you? What's one way you can implement that point today? You can watch a video of her one-hour talk here.
3: Steal this simple idea: Do-bands
In her talk, Tina Seelig described various creative ideas students came up with for using (and selling) rubber bands. One group created what they called "do-bands."
The idea is that you decide on something you've been meaning to do but haven't. You put a rubber band around your wrist and take it off only when you've done the task.
In the student version, each band had a serial number on it. You could go online and register your go-band and tell what the task was (with college students it was things like call home, or do a day of volunteer work, or clean up my room). When you finished the task, you handed on the band to someone else and they used it for some task and handed it on again. Eventually you could see online the matrix of all the tasks associated with your do-band.
Great stuff, but even just the very simple version - associating a rubber band and putting the band on at the start of the day and not taking it off until you've done the task - can be a great way to remind ourselves of our intention.
ACTION: If there's something you've been putting off, find a rubber band...
4: Let your mind keep working
Here's a tip from Georgina Laidlaw, writing on the Web Worker Daily site: create subliminal productivity by keeping your main challenge or project visible. She suggests using a whiteboard or bulletin board or a series of Post-It notes. Here is the process.
Create a mind map or a series of statements or whatever best encapsulates the question or challenge you'd like your subconscious mind to work on while you're doing other things. Put these where you can see them throughout the day.
Whenever a new idea pops up, add it to the display in between doing other tasks - but don't try to force any.
Periodically take time to come back to the project and build on what is there.
ACTION: Give this process a try and notice how many new ideas come up spontaneously.
5: The balloon technique for dealing with stress
This simple method has been very successful and popular with my coaching clients for dealing with incidents of stress. The most important step is to be aware of what you're feeling: frustration, anxiety, impatience, or whatever. If that state is not serving you, image that you have an empty balloon in your hand and that you are able to blow all of that feeling into the balloon.
Then visualize letting go of the inflated balloon and watching it whizz off high into the sky, deflating as it goes. Take a deep breath, decide what attitude or behaviour would best help you cope with the situation at hand, and go on.
ACTION: The holidays are fun but can also be stressful. Keep the balloon technique in mind and give it a try when needed.
6: And a quote to consider
"Do not save your loving speeches for your friends till they are dead; do not write them on their tombstones, speak them rather now instead." - Anna Cummins