The other day someone asked me, "In all the years you've been researching
creativity and productivity, what are the top tips and techniques that you use yourself and that have stood the test of time?" That struck me as a great theme for this month's bulletin, so here are my answers.
5: Positives, Potential, and Concerns
This is a great way to communicate when you're part of a team or giving feedback to one person.
Whatever you're discussing, you start with the positives, the things you find good about the idea. Then you talk briefly about its potential, that is, in what ways it could be something really special. Only then do you voice your concerns, and in a particular way: as problems that can be solved. For example, rather than saying, "There's no way we can get this done in time," you might say, "Let's talk about what resources we'd need in order to get this done in time, and how we can get them." You will find that meetings that might otherwise have been confrontational, with everybody defending their own viewpoint, become much more constructive.
Action: Try this the next time you have a meeting in which someone's ideas are being discussed. You may also want to try it in a personal context--for example, when trying to get your children to behave differently. You'd acknowledge what's right about their current behaviour, what potential benefits a change would bring, and then figure out together how the new behaviour could be brought about.
4: The What Will You See and Hear Strategy for Reaching Goals
This approach to reaching goals makes the process much easier. You start with the outcome you want. It can be something tangible (e.g., "To Make 50% more money from my writing") or less tangible ("To feel less stressed"). You then take a few minutes to daydream about what things will be like when the problem has been solved, and you specify what you will see and what you will hear at that point.
For example, when I feel less stressed: I will see myself moving in a calmer manner; I will see myself taking breaks at least twice a day; I will hear my voice sounding calm; I will see my desktop empty other than for the materials I need for the thing I'm working on at that moment," and so on.
The next step is to take each of these things and brainstorm how you can bring them about. For example, for the breaks, going outside with the smokers when they take a break but instead of smoking, taking a walk around the block. For sounding calm, taking a deep breath before you speak.
You then start making these little changes, starting with the easiest ones, and at some point you will reach a critical mass of changes and the problem will have been solved.
Action: What is one change you'd like to make? Take a few minutes to write out what you'll see and hear when it's solved, and make one tiny change today. (By the way, sometimes it's helpful to get a colleague, friend or partner help you come up with ideas for what you'll see and hear.)
3: Secret Reminders
When you're trying to change some habit, often the hardest part is just remembering to do it. A lot of self-help books suggest that you put up sticky notes all over the place with a reminder written on them, but I find that a bit embarrassing because other people can see them. Instead, you can create a code for yourself and use it for visible but secret reminders.
For example, let's say you're trying to remember to improve your posture. Get a sheet of those sticky little dots (they come in various colours) and put one wherever you're likely to see it. You might stick one on your can of shaving foam or your jar of moisturizer, or on your toothpaste tube, another on your
wallet, and so on. After a while you'll get used to seeing them, so you may need to change colours or otherwise vary the signals so they continue to work.
Action: Is there a habit you'd like to change? If it's specific to one location or action, you can put the secret signal in just one appropriate place. For example, if you're trying to cut down on long phone calls, put the coloured dot on your telephone.
2: The "What's In It for Them" Approach
This approach is the key to getting people to do what you want them to do. Simply consider ahead of time what's in it for them, and make that benefit clear to them.
We all get so hung up on what we want, or what makes us special, that we forget the number one question people have in their minds all the time: "What's in it for me?" That's true whether we're pitching a project to a potential client, trying to get a child to go to bed, or trying to attract Mr or Ms Right. If you keep this in mind and apply it, it can transform you communications overnight!
Action: The next time you want to get someone to do something, consciously think about what's in it for them, and spell that out for them when you make your request or give your instruction. A good indicator that you're actually doing this is that the word "you" will come up more often than the word "I". Try doing this for a whole day (or better yet, a whole week) and notice the difference.
1: The Do Something Different Strategy
Here, in the top position, is the single most important strategy I've ever come across, and also the most neglected. It's simple: If what you're doing isn't working, do something different! Just think for a moment about how this could revolutionise the world if it were applied in the Middle East, for example, where both sides are stuck in repetitive and unsuccessful patterns. Similarly, whatever you thought about the justness of the war on Iraq, it has clearly not yielded the desired outcome. Will we learn from that to do something different?
Action: Identify one part of your life where you'd like to make a change but find yourself doing the same thing over and over again. It could relate to dieting, trying to get someone to do something your way, changing one of your own habits, or anything else. Brainstorm at least 3 different ways you could tackle that challenge, and try the one that seems most likely to work. If it doesn't, try the next one, until you find one that works.
And last but not least, a little story to think about: A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt about a tragedy. He said, "I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one." The grandson asked him, "Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?" The grandfather answered, "The one I feed."