Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

1. Listen to music by Johann Sebastian Bach.  If Bach doesn’t make you more creative, you should probably see your doctor.

2. Brainstorm.  If properly carried out, brainstorming can help you not only come up with sacks full of new ideas, but can help you decide which is best.

3. Always carry a small notebook and a pen or pencil around with you.  That way, if you are struck by an idea, you can quickly note it down.  Upon rereading your notes, you may discover about 90% of your ideas are daft.  Don’t worry, that’s normal.  What’s important are the 10% that are brilliant.

4. If you’re stuck for an idea, open a dictionary, randomly select a word and then try to formulate ideas incorporating this word.  You’d be surprised how well this works.  The concept is based on a simple but little known truth: freedom inhibits creativity.  There are nothing like restrictions to get you thinking.

5. Define your problem.  Grab a sheet of paper, electronic notebook, computer or whatever you use to make notes, and define your problem in detail.  You’ll probably find ideas positively spewing out once you’ve done this.

6. If you can’t think, go for a walk.  A change of atmosphere is good for you and gentle exercise helps shake up the brain cells.

7. Don’t watch TV.  Experiments performed by the JPB Creative Laboratory show that watching TV causes your brain to slowly trickle out your ears and/or nose.  It’s not pretty, but it happens.

8. Don’t do drugs.  People on drugs think they are creative.  To everyone else, they seem like people on drugs.

9. Read as much as you can about everything possible.  Books exercise your brain, provide inspiration and fill you with information that allows you to make creative connections easily.

10. Exercise your brain.  Brains, like bodies, need exercise to keep fit.  If you don’t exercise your brain, it will get flabby and useless.  Exercise your brain by reading a lot (see above), talking to clever people and disagreeing with people- arguing can be a terrific way to give your brain cells a workout.  But note, arguing about politics or film directors is good for you; bickering over who should clean the dishes is not.


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This post was found at Schaefer’s Blog: Lessons in Skilled Living and was written by Cameron Schaefer.

Reading is one of the best ways to learn, develop and change. However, the immense benefits of reading are only as great as one’s ability to remember and process the information. Nothing is more frustrating than reading a great book and not being able to recall any of the major points a year or even a month later. It makes the whole process seem like a huge waste.

My family are all avid readers and they instilled that passion in me. I try to read at least 2 books a month, but often more. Over the past few years I’ve made a much greater effort to be more intentional about my reading, making sure to get the most out of the process. Here is some of the best advice I’ve come across when it comes to remembering what you read:

1) Read With the Goal of Teaching Someone Else – My friend Glenn has one of the most brilliant minds I know. He can read a book and process the information, quickly adapting new ideas into his life and teaching others along the way. The secret to Glenn’s ability started during his childhood. Every weekend his family would go to the local library to read. During dinner they would teach the other members of the family what they learned that day. This ritual formed a wonderful habit in Glenn of reading comprehensively in order to teach someone else. He had to constantly think, “How will I be able to explain the main ideas of this book to others.” In doing so he delved deep into the book and the information stuck with him.

2) Read the Last Chapter First – This one is more geared towards non-fiction as I can already hear people screaming, “But it’ll ruin the ending!” At the end of most books is a summary chapter that gives the main ideas and how they all tie together. By reading this first you are then able to catch these ideas and themes more easily as you go through the book. It also allows you to read like the author would read his own book, with a full understanding of where everything is going.

3) Take Notes – Lots of people utilize this technique in school, but let it go when they toss their caps at graduation. Taking notes allows a reader to right down key points, themes and memorable quotes. In doing so the information is then processed twice, once when read and once when written. This gives the reader a much greater chance of remembering. My friend Beau uses a pencil to mark and highlight in the book as he reads and then transfers this information into Google Docs. He has a great summary of his method here.

4) Read When You’re Awake – Most people read right before they go to bed. After a long day, they’re usually tired and hardly in the best state to process and retain information. By reading at other times throughout the day chances are their minds would work much better. If you are a night person maybe it is the best time for you to read. The important thing is to know your body and know what times of day are best for thinking and concentrating. Try to schedule your reading during these times and you will give yourself a much better chance of remembering what you read.

5) Discuss What You’re Reading – Some of the books we remember most vividly are those that we read in our high school English class. Why? It is the practice of nearly every teacher to have lively class discussions and debates over each section of a book. In discussing the book we were able to process the information as a group, bouncing ideas off each other and hearing different perspectives. All of these made us use the information in various ways cementing it in our minds and helping us remember. Most of us are no longer in high school, but the options are endless. Join a book club, or if you have a good group of friends, start one. Discuss the book online in book forums or in a social networking group like Facebook. The important thing is to talk about what you’re reading.

6) Read the CliffsNotes First – We’re not in high school anymore, so it’s not cheating. Especially for some of the classics, reading the cliff notes before starting the book can provide all kids of insight into characters, themes, symbolism and author background. By reading these things beforehand you are helping ensure that you won’t miss them as you read the book. Another benefit of reading summaries is the mental debate you will have each time you reach a controversial section as you ask yourself whether you agree with the conventional interpretations.

7) Find Your Reading Environment – Sometimes more important than how you are reading is where you are reading. Is the television on? Are the kids crawling all over you? Do you do your best reading on the airplane? Some things can’t be helped, but finding a good reading environment goes a long way. I had never thought much about where I read until reading a great post Ben Casnocha wrote on optimizing activity for location a couple months ago. He explained, “…when thinking about what you’re going to do, think about where you’re going to be, and how that place will affect your productivity at completing the activity.” Find your reading environment and enjoy remembering what you read.

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There are some great websites out there for helping you live your life to the fullest.  This blog features many of these through its posts.  However, there are other websites out there that I would like to share with you that you might find interesting, as well.  These sites will be listed on Fridays, five at a time.  Called Five for Friday.  Enjoy!  And don’t forget to leave me a comment to let me know what you think. 🙂

1. Lost in Books – This is actually my other blog that I began this month.  But I will tell you why I want to share it with you (other than just to let you know about it).  I am an avid reader and I have started this blog in order to review and share books I have read, to challenge myself in my reading, and to learn about books from others.  The book blogging world is a wonderful place and I invite you to participate if you enjoy reading- if not with my own blog, than with any of the many others out there.

2. 43 Things – If you don’t know about 43 Things, I can’t wait for you to discover it!  43 Things allows you to list your goals, share your progress, and cheer each other on.  The members here love to cheer each other on and it is a terrific motivational tool.  Whether your goals are short-term or long-term, you can list them and keep track of your progress with entries until you have reached your objective!

3. PatientsLikeMe – PatientsLikeMe is a kind of social networking site for those with chronic illnesses, from multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia to post-traumatic stress disorder (and if your illness is not listed, you can add it!)  You can keep track of your symptoms and treatments, track changes in your condition, find other patients, and learn from their experiences with different treatment options, medication dosages, and more.

4. Words that have different meanings in British and American English – Wikipedia’s list of words that can mean completely different things depending on which side of the Atlantic you are on.  Everything from “beaver” to “checker” to “tailback”.

5. The Daily Green –  A consumer’s guide to green living- from fuel-efficient cars and solar water heaters to green beauty products and “green cuisine”.

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This quick and to the point article is from the blog On Simplicity.

  1. Resign from a commitment you’re not passionate about.
  2. Stop trying to be perfect.
  3. Implement a basic cleaning schedule.
  4. Sign up for automatic billpay.
  5. Automate a portion of your investing.
  6. Clean out your media collection and keep only the items you love.
  7. Plant perennials that will automatically bloom next spring.
  8. Clean out your purse or wallet.
  9. Put a paper shredder next to your mail spot.
  10. Winnow your wardrobe down to pieces that work together.
  11. Delete any social networking accounts you don’t actually use.
  12. Add your number to the do-not-call list.
  13. Create a car maintenance schedule and post it somewhere you’ll see it.
  14. Design a filing system that you can stick to.
  15. Start your day with a healthy meal.
  16. Turn your phone off when you need quiet time.
  17. Invest in a programmable thermostat.
  18. Set one good goal, and go achieve it.
  19. Record your good “shower” ideas and then implement them. (Don’t we all get our best inspirations in the shower?)
  20. Write to a friend with (gasp!) pen and paper.
  21. Set limits on your bad habits, and reward yourself when you stick with them.
  22. Stop trying to be a saint and indulge yourself every once in a while.
  23. Pay off your credit card debt.
  24. Avoid watching commercials and reading advertisements.
  25. Rediscover the pleasure of reading purely for enjoyment.
  26. Plan two weeks of delicious meals ahead of time and skip the nightly grocery run.
  27. Go to your doctor for a preventative checkup.
  28. Remember the joys of doing nothing.
  29. Singletask as much as possible.
  30. Learn to ask for help.

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We’re 3 days into 2009.  I thought I would give you a short list of quotes to inspire you to keep going on those New Year Resolutions.  The first month is the hardest!

1. “The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow for a solution.” -Bertrand Russell

2. “The first step towards success will be the biggest one.” -Dennis Waitley

3. “Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated.  You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” -David Lloyd George

4. “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” -Aristotle

5. “Whether you think you can or think you can’t–you are right.” -Henry Ford

6. “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.” -Lian Yutang

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1. Give your friends and family a break and don’t tell the same story at every get together.

2. Do 5 minutes of exercise every day. You can do that during a commercial break for American Idol.

3. Every time you buy something new this year, donate something old to charity.

4. Compliment someone every day- maybe they are wearing a color that compliments their eyes, maybe they cooked you a delicious meal, maybe they actually remembered to put their towel back on the rack after their shower, maybe they simply combed their hair today. Let them know you noticed it. 🙂

5. Go paperless. Sign up for online bill paying. You can sign up for automatic draft with your checking account or you can sign up for an e-mail that informs you when it is time. You will be saving the environment and could be saving yourself money by never being late for a payment. Plus, it’s completely free.

6. Save money by doing swaps. Hold a clothing swap with your friends. Someone’s “I’m over that” could be someone else’s “I am so into that”. Sign up for a book swap online. Paperbackswap.com even lets you have 3 free credits when you list 10 books you can swap. All you pay for is postage to send your books.

7. Pencil in one night a week to have a family dinner together. No BlackBerry, no IPods, no friends over, just you and your family. You can cook or have a pizza delivered. The point is to savor your time together. One night out of seven is completely doable.

8. If you have to have a store credit card (ex. from Sears or Kohl’s), then resolve to use the card for the discounts only, not as a credit card. Purchase only what you would if you were paying in cash. Then you can pay off the card in full every time you use it instead of spending a headache of money due to high interest rates.

9. Spend one minute every day cleaning or organizing something in your home. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish for only 60 seconds of your time. It takes longer than that to read this list.

10. Tell those whom you love that you love them. Time is short and we never know what tomorrow will or won’t bring. If something happened to you, would they know for sure how you felt about them?

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Want to unlock your brain’s true potential?  Take a look at Luciano Passuello’s article from Litemind, titled 120 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power.  I have listed some items from his list I haven’t tried before that I am going to take on to improve my memory and brain function.

1. Cultivate ambidexterity.

2,. Practice mind-mapping more regularly.

3. Block one or more senses in order to develop another.

4. Find novel uses for common objects.  (I encourage this in my pre-k students- using a curved block as a telephone, a paintbrush as a microphone, an empty tin as a drum, a small tablecloth as a Superman cape.  Now it is my turn!)

5. Use the SCAMPER technique.

6. Conquer procrastination.  (an ongoing fault of mine)

7. Tackle any issue with a list of 100.  (This shouldn’t be too hard considering I love lists. 🙂 100 is a lot, but it is apparently a goof technique to try.  So bring it on!)

8. Have an idea quota.

9. Have an idea bank.  (I have done this in the past, but need to begin fresh now that I have a new set of rules for my life.)

10. Learn a new language.  (Currently learning to speak Spanish fluently.  I know over 200 words now.  I can communicate basic ideas, thoughts, etc.  Grammar is beyond me right now though.)

11. Eat at different restaurants- ethnic restaurants, especially.  (One of my current goals on 43Things.com. is to try 43 new foods.)

12. Learn sign language.  (Ok, I learned it once.  I can still do the alphabet and spell every word I need to say, but I have forgotten all but a handful of word signs, so this is something I can try to improve on.)

13. Improve your concentration.  (I have A.D.D.  I am hard at work on this.  It is a challenge just to type this list.  In fact, I have gotten up twice already….)

14. Do one thing at a time. (This goes along with concentration.  I multi-task not because I can, but because it is how my brain works.  I need to slow down and try to focus.  I am trying to learn meditation to help with this.  So far I can meditate for about 1.5 minutes on a good day.  Serious work needs to be done on this.)

15. Read the classics.  (Okay, I already do this and half of my favorite books are classics.  But it is worth mentioning again because it is an important one.  It is important to try to get through different uses of the same language and ideas from different periods in history.  It is very mind-expanding.  I recommend it highly.)

16. Mix your senses.  (I do this to an extent.  It is called synaestheia.)

17. Have your own mental sanctuary.

18. Keep a lexicon of interesting words.  Invent your own words.  (Inventing words is great fun.  More fun?  Getting others to use your coined words and phrases.)

I recommend also looking at things upside down, as well as reading upside down.  I learned this skill as a teacher.  I can read anything upside down unless the handwriting is challenging in and of itself.

Go to this site and find your own set of brain-boosting skills to use.  Let me know how it works out for you!

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