I'm writing this holed up in sunny Las Vegas finishing the manuscript of my next book and of keeping an eye open for tips and innovations that you might find useful. Here are a few:
1: What's the next logical step?
I attended a workshop recently at which the speaker suggested a great question that you can ask anytime you begin to feel overwhelmed by the size of a task - for instance, writing a book or losing weight or starting a business.
It is: "What's the next logical step?"
It reminds me of taking driver's training a long time ago, with the instructor telling me that I needed to be aware only of the cars in my immediate vicinity. Suddenly a buzzing freeway became less intimidating.
Whatever you are doing, if you just take the next logical step and then the next one and the next one, you'll get there and with less stress than if you constantly think about the enormity of the undertaking.
Let's revise that old Chinese saying to: "The journey of a thousand miles begins and continues with the next logical step."
ACTION: Is there a large task or project you've avoided because it seems too daunting? What's the first (or next) logical step? Can you take that step today and decide what tomorrow's next logical step will be?
2: Do you have a stupid idea?
Forbes magazine recently ran an article about some "stupid" business ideas that took off. Here are a few:
Fatheadz: sunglasses for people with fat heads, invented by Rico Elmore (who weighs 300 pounds). Given that obesity epidemic, anything for fat people is now a good bet.
Stave Puzzles: Who would pay from $125 to $5,000 for a jigsaw puzzle? A lot of people, including Bill Gates and Barbara Bush (who gave one to Queen Elizabeth). The puzzles are made of cherry wood and hand-cut into up to 2500 pieces.
Litecubes: Hey, I know what companies need in these difficult economic times - fake ice cubes that light up! Low power LED lights in acrylic ice cubes apparently are giving the wow factor to corporate entertaining (do the stockholders know?).
Geese police: maybe the golfers among you already know that geese are the bane of golf courses. Their droppings get on the course and into the water hazards. The solution: border collies. Geese Police of New Jersey is an elite force of 33 border collies ready to scare the geese away.
ACTION: The next time you have a "stupid" idea, don't be too quick to dismiss it. All of the ideas above are generating at least a million dollars a year in revenue.
3: Make an Edison list and a Plan
The other day I saw a facsimile of Thomas Edison's invention to-do list. On it he wrote down all the things he planned to invent, including an electric piano, a hearing apparatus for the deaf, and ink for the blind.
He didn't succeed in coming up with practical versions of everything on his list, but he claimed that his Menlo Park, New Jersey, lab produced an innovation every ten days.
Do you have a list of what you hope to achieve? One format that is a good model is what Kevin Roberts (Saatchi & Saatchi) calls his 100 Day Plans. These consist of ten items, each starting with a verb and containing no more than three words. Some examples: Reach 15% body fat; Organize office systems; Finish writing novel. They give you big targets you can then break down into smaller steps.
ACTION: To start with, why not come up with at least one "45 Day Plan" - something you want to achieve by the end of the year. What is one achievement that would make you feel good about ending 2010? Generate your three-word goal, then chunk it down into what you need to do each week. At the start of the new year, switch to one or more 100 Day Plans and keep the momentum going.
4: Why you may not recognize what you are
I had a one to one coaching session the other day in which one of my clients revealed that she has only recently recognized that she suffers from perfectionism. She said, "I used to think I was just dedicated to doing a good job."
This is not uncommon! Most perfectionists are blissfully unaware that they have this affliction. Like this client, they believe they are just conscientious and committed to doing things well. To check whether it could be you, here's a thirty-second quiz:
- Do you miss deadlines because you want to make sure everything is just right?
- Do you have a hard time stopping when you've reached "good enough" even on projects or tasks that are not especially important?
- Do you put off or avoid starting projects because you fear you won't be able to do them well enough to live up to your own expectations?
If you answered 'yes' to one or more of these questions, you may be a perfectionist. If in doubt, ask those around you - family, friends, co-workers - whether they think you're a perfectionist.
ACTION: If you are a perfectionist, choose one task or project for which "good enough" is good enough (if you can't think of any, ask friends, family or co-workers) and then take it to that level. Force yourself to stop or to hand it in at that point, even if this makes you anxious. Then note whether or not the world ends. If not, do it again, until you become less compulsive about doing everything perfectly.
5: The persuasion principle
At work or in our private lives we all have to try to persuade people to agree with us from time to time. What's the best approach? Should we give only our side and pretend there are no good reasons not to agree?
A meta-analysis of more than 100 studies on this topic suggests that the most effective thing is to present the other side - but only if you present counter-arguments. If you pretend that there isn't another view, the audience finds you less credible.
ACTION: What's the next persuasion situation you anticipate? Can you plan to present counter-arguments and defuse them? Try it and, if this is a different approach than the one you normally use, notice the difference in how receptive the other parties are.
6: And a quote to consider:
"Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference." - Nolan Bushnell