I hope you're enjoying the first signs of spring and ready for the surge of creative energy this time of year usually brings. Now, here are some ideas to help you be more creative and productive.
1: More creative? DO be absurd
I'm indebted to the Psyblog site for a reference to a study that showed that people who read an absurd short story by Franz Kafka were better able to recognize hidden patterns in a puzzle than the control group.
Could reading absurd stories help you be more creative? It would be in line with the famous quote from Alice in Wonderland. Alice says, "One can't believe impossible things," but the Queen retorts, "When I was your age I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!"
ACTION: When you need some creative stimulation, read some nonsense verse or an absurd story - "Alice in Wonderland" is a great one.
2: What research shows about overcoming procrastination
When trying to overcome procrastination should you focus on the outcome of the task or the details of the task? According to several research studies, it depends on the kind of task and where you are in the process.
If it's something you know you are going to do but you're just putting off getting to it, focus on the details. Chunk it down and decide on a deadline for each bit.
If it's something you'd like to do but haven't yet committed to, focus on the outcomes. As soon as you start, shift focus to the steps. When you near the end and want to be sure to finish, shift focus back to the big picture.
One additional finding: when things get difficult in the middle of the task, the temporary difficulty or failure can "infect" the bigger picture and push you toward giving up. Keep your focus tight on overcoming the obstacle.
ACTION: If there's something you're procrastinating about, shift your focus to the most useful one and get going!
3: Why you should go for evolution, not revolution
Marketing guru Michael Masterson recently pointed out how his experience shows that the real successes tend to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. As a mentor in the publishing industry, he was directly involved in the development of at least 50 publications.
He says, "In the beginning, I made an effort to create something new - something the market didn't have. In every case, I failed."
Instead he suggests a new application of the 80/20 principle: "Give them 80 percent of what they are already buying and only 20 percent of something new. The 20 percent matters. But the 80 percent keeps you in business."
ACTION: If you already have a winning product or service, what's the 20% you can change or add to make it more exciting to clients or customers and stay ahead of the competition? If you don't, what's out there now that you can improve by 20% to come up with a winner?
4: The danger of group brainstorming - and how to overcome it
A study at Texas A & M University suggests that brainstorming in a group may limit the diversity of ideas that come up. According to lead researcher Nicholas Kohn, "Fixation to other people's ideas can occur unconsciously and lead you to suggesting ideas that mimic your brainstorming partners. Thus, you potentially become less creative."
I've found it's useful to encourage as many "crazy" ideas as possible up front, to get people over their instinct to judge every idea immediately and to widen the scope of thinking. You can do the same thing when you're brainstorming by yourself - start with the most outlandish ideas you can think of and it'll help the flow of ideas that later turn out to be useful.
ACTION: When's the last time you had a solo or group brainstorming session to come up with new ideas? Would today be a good time?
5: Sir Ken Robinson on why we don't do what we really want to do
One of the key obstacles to people expressing themselves, says Sir Ken Robinson in his book "Elements," is that we worry too much about what other people will think. We fear they will judge us negatively. What's more, sometimes they do.
Robinson mentions that Elvis Presley was not allowed into his school's glee club because they thought he was ruining their sound. So he gave up on music...oh wait, no he didn't...he actually went on to have a bit of success.
ACTION: What are you stopping yourself from doing because people might think it's silly, a waste of time, or unlikely to succeed? Do you really want to let them determine what you do?
6: A quote to consider
"Your time is limited, don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinion drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." - Steve Jobs