Here is your October e-bulletin. I hope it'll bring you inspiration for your own efforts. We start with an SOS: If you have already signed up for our Create Your Future Workshop on Nov. 8-9, please e-mail Sheridan at Brainstorm with your name and address, because the master list has disappeared. (The Bermuda Triangle seems to have re-located to his office.)
Can you hear yourself thinking?
Two studies from Germany have assessed the impact of noise on stress levels and concentration. One, reported in the journal Psychological Science, tested the effects on 200 schoolchildren living near Munich before and after a new international airport went into operation nearby. Children living directly under the flight path had increased blood pressure and higher levels of stress hormones. The other study determined that office noises from ringing telephones, printers and copiers reduced efficiency and concentration by up to 30 percent.
Action: If you work in a noisy environment, consider how you can minimize the noise (e.g., move the copier to another location, turn down the volume on the phone ring, etc.). If that's not possible, consider shielding yourself from the noise. Special headphones that block noise are available. (I use them on long flights, and they do reduce the stress that comes from the drone of the engines.) However, these might be a bit obtrusive in an office setting. The cheap and more subtle alternative: ear plugs.
I'm about to head off to Spain to do a presentation to a bunch of producers and writers; so, I've been reviewing sources on making an impact with your speeches. One point that several experts suggest: Open with a visual. No, not PowerPoint. (PowerPoint presentations put many people into an instant stupor.) It can be anything — a newspaper you unfold to reveal a relevant headline, a prop that somehow illustrates your topic, or something intriguing you write or draw on the flip chart.
Action: The next time you make a presentation to an audience, large or small, try opening with a visual and notice whether it has more impact than your usual opening. You can even use them, although more casually, in one-to-one meetings in which you want to convey an important point.
The biggest obstacle
Creativity expert Gordon Mackenzie said in an interview that the biggest obstacle to creativity is "attachment to outcome. As soon as you become attached to a specific outcome, you feel compelled to control and manipulate what you're doing." (Might an example of this be "finding weapons of mass destruction"?). He continues: "In the process, you cut yourself off from other possibilities."
Traditional approaches to setting and reaching goals say we should focus so much on our goal that we filter out all other possibilities, but in the chaotic and unpredictable climate in which we find ourselves, this may be exactly the wrong strategy!
Action: One way to maintain flexibility in regard to goals is to review periodically whether a goal is still important to us. Otherwise, we may find, as one executive said, "I spent years climbing the ladder and finally got to the top … only to find it was leaning against the wrong wall."
You can do this review in a workshop like the Create Your Future session we have coming up in central London, or you can just make a private appointment with yourself quarterly to review your goals in areas such as career, fitness and health, relationships, and finances, and update any that need it.
Be your own role model
One of the hot areas in the world of management and self-development these days is "modeling" — that is, observing how experts do what they do, and then doing the same things. However, it's even easier to model yourself. Here's how:
Make two columns on a piece of paper. In one column, write down all the things you do really well (not just in your work, but in any areas of your life). In the second column, list some things you'd like to do better. Now look at how you approach the things you do well and consider how that might translate to doing the things in the second column differently for a better result. For example, if you are really good at getting your children off to school on time, but not so good at getting your work reports in on time, what can you apply from the first experience to the second?
Action: Try cominging different pairs until you find a model that works, then try it out. If you have children, this can be a great exercise to do with them — it reinforces the facts that they are good at certain things and that it's possible to improve the things they don't currently do so well.
Notice: Last call for discounts to the Create Your Future Workshop — which got rave reviews in this month's Times of London Educational Supplement, by the way. It takes place on Nov. 8-9 in Central London and is a great way to take a bold step toward the life you really want. To obtain full details or to register, e-mail to Sheridan at Brainstorm.
The new notebook?
Having a notebook (or at least a pen and paper) with you at all times so you can capture ideas as they occur to you has long been one of the cardinal rules of creativity. Now we can add to that carrying a small digital camera to capture any visual images you find stimulating. The latest models are relatively inexpensive and small enough to slip into your pocket. One of my colleagues takes his to meetings and presentations, and instead of copying down what the presenter has written on flip charts, he just snaps a pic (so, sit near the front).
Action: Look for a camera that has at least a 3x optical (not digital) zoom and that is small enough that you can imagine taking it everywhere.
A quote to think about, from Francis Bacon: "If we are to achieve results never before accomplished, we must be prepared to employ methods never before attempted."
Til next time, Jurgen
P.S. — I welcome feedback sent to Brainstorm. You might also enjoy visiting our Brainstorm Web site for more articles and ideas.
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