Want To Be More Creative? Here’s a Plan That Really Works

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Photo by tanialee gonzalez on Unsplash

“It is my belief, you see, that thinking is a double phenomenon like breathing.” – Asimov

If you have watched the classic television series House, you’ll find that every medical mystery is solved in the most unusual of moments. Without fail, House’s uncanny ability to problem solve kicks in while he sits in the hospital cafeteria, is mid-sentence while talking to a team member or when he doesn’t outwardly appear to be focusing on the problem on deck.

It is very intriguing to watch.

But, we shouldn’t be surprised as to why this happens.

You see, our brains function in curious ways.

Your Brain Revealed
In the classic essay The Eureka Phenomena  (1971), Issac Asimov explores why these moments of inspiration occur when we least expect them. Asimov’s theory is quite simple, posing the notion that thought includes both voluntary and involuntary components. Moreover, opportunities for both types of thought must be present to become highly effective. Essentially, we can be thinking about one thing on the surface, yet ruminating on another topic below — the involuntary part of the equation.

The Eureka Phenomena sheds an interesting light on how we might become more effective in the workplace. As we all have experienced, if you are focusing too long and too intently on one topic or issue, you can be unsuccessful. Asimov would say that involuntary thought was not allowed to flourish and that contributed to the failure.

He recollects that when he was in the midst of a problem he could not solve, he shifted his focus and “shuffled” off to the movies. This action ultimately, allowed him to work through his challenge. He also tells the story of Archimedes — and how a visit to the public baths helped him to discover the concept of volume.

Of course, you may find that taking a walk or baking does the trick, but the process is of no less importance. You must give your brain the “down time” it needs to succeed.

Office Life and Involuntary Thought
There are millions of individuals who have the responsibility to process information concerning people, places and things for a living. Many attempt to accomplish this in an office environment. Of course, working in a traditional office does have merit. There are opportunities for collaboration and serendipity — yet obstacles to productivity abound. As discussed by Jason Fried in his classic Ted Talk, many aspects of office life (such as interruptions), can prove to be huge offenders, curtailing deep, meaningful thought.

During the course of a typical office work day, an individual may complete a multitude of activities and appear outwardly productive. However their brain power may not be maximized, as there are few opportunities to rest, reflect and digest information.

The Eureka Phenomena Applied
You must remember that while thought doesn’t require physical output, your brain is still hard at work. So, while you may not perceive that you are fatigued, your brain may actually be exhausted. As studies have shown, allowing the brain time to rest is critical. In this way, the brain finds the fuel it needs, so that energy can be funneled to the involuntary mechanisms that promote deeper thought. If we can learn anything from Asimov — it is that the brain cannot be bullied into becoming effective. It must be respected and nurtured.

Be mindful to offer your mind a bit of rest and identify those activities which help your brain relax and build them into your day.

Ultimately — don’t feel guilty if you feel the need to “shuffle off” to the movies. Your brain will thank you.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

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Need a Workplace Gift? We’ve Got a Few Classic Ideas

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Photo by Kari Shea @unsplash

‘Tis the season of indecision. More specifically, the season of doubt concerning what to give your valued contacts and colleagues for the holidays. How often have you thought of someone you would like to thank — yet didn’t muster the motivation to follow through and actually find the right gift.

Sure, there is Oprah’s list. However, its contents are not always office friendly.

Well, we’ve been thinking about this holiday problem — and we are going a bit retro. We’ve settled on a few classic ideas which are not only nifty gifts, but are likely to be used.

Here we go.

The Coffee Table Book.
I received Ocean Worlds, by Jacque Cousteau as a holiday gift from my first employer. (All 160 of us received the same book. This was an anticipated yearly tradition.) The books still sit on my coffee table — offering hours of enjoyment. A suggestion is below, but you can also check out our running Book List for other worthy reads. (Click on the photo for more information*)

The Classic Notebook.
Ah… the notebook! Somehow when a notebook presents itself, it unequivocally calls out to our creative side. Offering one as a thoughtful gift, shares the promise of new ideas and keen observations. Da Vinci couldn’t have been wrong, and we are following suite. The variety of choices are endless. We’ve chosen a couple of options below.

Rhodia Lined Notebook* – 5.5 x 8.5 – Fountain-pen friendly. (Click on the photo for more information.)

Find this option from Etsy by clicking here.

NotebookEtsy

The Not So Classic Pen.
Sooner or later you have to ditch the keyboard and actually hand write. These roller ball versions from Anthropoligie seemed a stylish alternative and made our wish list!
Find them here.

RollerBallPen

The Business Card Case.
We can’t count the number of times we’ve frantically searched for a business card. Enough said. Find these by Yarrow here:
Businesscardcase

The Gift of Organization.
It’s a Weekly Desk Planner — with 52 handy tear-off sheets. It’s just great!
(Click on the photo for more information*)

Yes, Oprah.
Ok, we aren’t daft. Here are a couple of office-friendly choices from Oprah’s list.
(Click on the photos for more information*)

Chai Tea Private Reserve Sampler. Relaxing during the holidays is priority for everyone — and everyone has time for a warm drink.

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Sauce Bucket. 5 Jars. A bucket. Who doesn’t grill? There’s your answer.

Let us know how they solve your gift-giving dilemmas. If you have more suggestions, please leave them in comments.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

*LiveWorkThinkPlaycom is an affiliate of both Amazon & Awin — Etsy’s linking partner. That means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we receive a small commission. We only recommend products that we believe bring value to our readers.

Defining Your Story

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We all have a story.

However, the bits and pieces may feel somewhat random. (But be assured they are not.)

Discovering that arc — that story — requires reflection. Time to obsess over the threads. To look back at the fabric that is being created.

This exercise also requires help. Guidance. Levity.

Feeling uncomfortable. Seeing patterns. Letting go.

What plots have we written that were destined to fail? What characters are sorely missing from our story. What villains have we failed to recognize and omit?

Exploring that story is worthwhile.

It can be affirming.

Because finding meaning is everything.

Read more about it:

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Change is a Muscle

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Change is a muscle that we forget how to flex.

As a result, it atrophies and becomes weak.

At some point, we pass a mile marker and have little tolerance for any kind of change. This limits exploration and resilience. We can opt for routines — and that works for certain aspects of our lives.

However, we may not realize what we could be missing.

That becomes risky.

We often say that habits are good. But, when does a “habit” pass its expiration date? For example, when do our daily routines become merely protection? When does an assessment of our own value or potential, become inaccurate? Of where we work?

As with any other muscle that is neglected — we must start slowly and build its capability. If not, we may be hopelessly unprepared if events arrive uninvited.

Today, I’ve altered my Sirius radio presets. (Which have never been revised). I happily discovered a couple of genres I was missing. I’ve also added a couple of new outlets to my morning reading routine.  (There is nothing like a new writer with a fresh perspective.)

To be quite honest, I didn’t know what I was missing.

You may not know what you are missing.

Even small changes can feel like discovered bursts of energy. They help prepare us for what is next in some small way.

Change one thing in your routine today that might energize you — even if it brings a bit of disruption. Challenge your team to do the same. Tolerating change is actually a foundational skill that breeds stability.

See what comes up.

Change is a muscle.

Flex it.

Read more about it here (Vision=Change):

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Big Idea 2018: Define Your Unique Work Life Philosophy

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Serving as a coach offers me an opportunity to experience the excitement of a promotion — or an inspired organizational evolution — more often than those in other roles. However, even when clients approach new and positive challenges, anxiety often emerges as a by-product.

Interestingly, this can be healthy. On some level, these thoughts serve as a rehearsal for future events — and realistic assessments of workplace scenarios are a key component in building resilience. This becomes unhealthy, when a racing mind (at 2:00 am) only offers grief and foggy mornings.

Chances are you are actually working out quite a few vital issues about how you’d like to manage yourself. So — capture and utilize the information in a way that offers you guidance down the line. When mulling over these past experiences and future situations, attempt to elevate your thoughts to another level.

Group your thoughts so that they bring clarity.

Notice patterns that tell you something about your unique philosophy of work. (You can also try imagining how you would behave in extreme situations, to flesh out your philosphy.) This process might offer you guidance as you move forward and serve as a base for future decisions.

To facilitate the process, offer yourself a couple categories to group your thoughts. Ask yourself why the experience or conversation was remarkable. Think of what it represents — and why it is meaningful going forward. Couple this with the challenge that lies ahead. For example, how you will approach a new team or challenge.

Try these categories:

  1. Experiences/observed behaviors/conversations that represent the philosophy of how the work should be completed.
  2. Experiences/observed behaviors/conversations that represent your philosophy of how people and teams should be treated.

See where this leads you. Add categories as you see fit.

Sleepless night don’t need to be a total waste when foundational work gets done.

Simply offer your racing thoughts a bit of structure.

Please note: I’m sharing more during the holiday season — 30 Thoughts for 30 Days!

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

 

 

Holiday Cheers to Embracing Potential

Glowing lights in the dark.

In order to evolve — we need believe that we can continue to learn new things. That we remain a work in progress. That who we are (and might become) is neither fixed or predetermined.

The book below focuses on this very topic. It hasn’t yet appeared on my Books! page. Yet it should be there, as 2018 is just around the corner.

Moving forward we should embrace a healthy perspective. One that would help us expand our horizons. (This extends to the organizations in which we work as well). One that allows us to move beyond where we find ourselves.

To take risks and value learning. To learn from each other.

A realization that our minds are not stagnant, but ready to blossom (again).

So, leave the lights on.

Our potential is unknown.

Cheers to that.

Please note: I’m sharing more during the holiday season — 30 Thoughts for 30 Days!

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Granting the Freedom to Create

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Most organizations would like to innovate or disrupt. However, it is the culture that needs to be re-aligned, not the employees.

If you unleash competent individuals on a new task, you must offer more than a timeline to foster creativity. Few people will take a risk (and waste your time and theirs) if they aren’t first offered the freedom to explore that proverbial limb.

Instead, they will likely transfer what has worked successfully for other tasks to your project. If real change is desired — offer a reprieve from the fear of risk and/or possible failure. Be upfront. Communicate that the risks have been acknowledged.

Lend them the freedom to create.

If you truly want to see something new, take of the handcuffs and offer permission to explore.

When you say “Give it your best shot.” — mean it.

Read more about it:

Please note: I’m sharing more frequently — 30 Thoughts for 30 Days!

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.