Your supervisor stops by and asks you to prepare something — a PowerPoint presentation, status update, project plan, whatever — by the end of the day. And today, you’re just not up to it.
Maybe your mind is busy processing another complex task for work. Or maybe (this is just between you and me) you were hoping to laze around today, chat with coworkers, read personal emails, run out the clock. (No judgment. Happens to everyone.) Well, so much for that plan.
You’re going to have to find a way to get creative and productive. Time to call on your muse — the inner genius that surfaces now and then, supplies you with great ideas and puts you in the zone to get stuff done, then disappears. Here are a few of the fastest ways I know to summon your muse and get it to start working for you. Don’t worry — you can still take all the credit.
1) Start a conversation with a colleague about the project.
You wanted to chat with coworkers today anyway, right? Well, the muse is the jealous type, and it’s also competitive. If you start talking with someone else about the project you’re working on, your muse won’t be able to resist showing up and showing off, giving you all sorts of brilliant ideas and insights.
You’ll know the muse has arrived when — probably only a few minutes into your chat, because muses are impatient — ideas start coming to you out of nowhere, great ideas, ideas you can’t believe you’re coming up with. Grab paper or your computer. Privately thank your muse — they love acknowledgment — and start capturing.
2) Jot down notes about the project — preferably simple ones.
Remember, your muse is a jealous and competitive showoff. If it sees you starting without it by writing down your own thoughts about the project, you can be sure it will surface and try to one-up you by feeding you great ideas and lots of productive energy.
The smartest way to handle this moment is to pretend you’re embarrassed by the silly notes you were coming up with yourself and blown away by your muse’s unbelievable intelligence. I’d suggest you say something to yourself like, “Where are these brilliant thoughts coming from?” Muses love that stuff, and it’s the best way to ensure they keep the insights flowing.
3) Go for a walk. Leave your office. Change the scenery.
Muses are practical jokers and have a bit of a mean-streak. So they will often drop a great idea on you when they know you have no place to write it down. This is why you come up with your best insights in the shower. Your muse loves to watch you freak out knowing you just had a brainstorm but don’t have a way to hang on to it. And if you happen to slip and fall in the bathroom trying to run for a pad and pen, well, they love that too. Can’t really blame them — muses don’t have TV.
So here’s how to outsmart your muse. Step away from your office — to “get some coffee” or “just to stretch your legs.” Let your muse think you’re going someplace where you can’t capture a great idea. But first drop a small notepad and pen into your pocket, or even your smart phone if it has a dictation feature. Note: It’s very important to make sure your idea-capturing tool is concealed from your muse. The best way to do that is to wrap it in something the muse generally ignores completely, like a piece of paper with “DEADLINE” written on it.
Five minutes into your “coffee” run, lightning will strike. And just as your muse is about to enjoy a good chuckle at the brilliant insight it just sprang on you, you’ll pull out your idea-capturing tool… and have the last laugh.
Most staff meetings are largely a waste of time. The rest are a complete waste of time.
So rather than another post begging managers to call fewer meetings (although I stand by that advice), let me instead offer some ideas to help you make the meetings you do call (if you must) more effective.
Here’s a very brief presentation — How to Run Meetings They Won’t Run From — to help you build a more productive meeting culture. I hope you enjoy it.
In order (as in, “In order to…”)
What’s the difference between “in order to” and “to?”
Well (as in, “Well, that’s a good point…”)
Any difference between “Well, that’s a good point” and “That’s a good point?”
I believe (as in, “I believe we should…”)
Does “I believe we should” lose any meaning when you shorten it to “We should?”
As to (as in, “I’m not sure as to whether…”)
“I’m not sure whether” should do the trick.
Is using any of these extra words or phrases a big deal? Not really. But put enough of them in your writing, and your readers will feel the bloat of your words – and notice that you’re wasting their time.
An article today in my Phoenix-area newspaper lists the results of a recent survey of local restaurants by health inspectors.
In the area I’ve circled, you’ll see that they “explain” what the grades mean. I’d argue that A and B, for example, are self-explanatory, but I suppose they are just being thorough. Fair enough. But look at how they explain the only grade here that is not at all self-explanatory, “NP.”
Oh, now I understand: NP stands for NP. Thanks, editorial team, for cutting through the haze.
“Meeting canceled. We’re all very busy, so let’s consider this hour ‘found time’ and make some progress.”
Your staff will thank you.
The kind folks at FedSmith have generously published another of my articles: Four words you’ll be tempted to use in your writing — but shouldn’t.
Thank you, FedSmith, as always.
If you don’t, you get “answers” like these….