Do Not Disturb

A “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging on the door of a hotel room sends a very clear message.  It states to all passing by that the occupant is focused on something else (like getting some sleep) and would see interaction from you or anyone else as an unwanted intrusion; and rightfully so.  Do Not Disturb signs are like communication stop signs in that their intention is to thwart off any communication before it starts.  They are very useful when we need to focus on a task for a specific period.  In such a case, a Do Not Disturb sign sends the appropriate message at the appropriate time.

Have you ever considered that we may be unintentionally displaying Do Not Disturb messages to those closest to us?  I’m not saying we’re walking around with hotel-style Do Not Disturb  signs around our necks; that would be silly.  However, what message might we be sending to a spouse, a child, family members, or a friend who is with us when we choose to bury our faces in a smartphone, tablet, or some other object that has captured our attention?

Sure, there are occasions where an implied Do Not Disturb is necessary, but the concern is when this type of behavior becomes such a habit that we are not even aware how often we’re sending a message, through our actions, that we would rather not be disturbed or inconvenienced by the interactions of another.

In the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy, “you might have your Do Not Disturb Sign out” if:

  • You are with someone significant to you and you’re more concerned about responding to smartphone alerts than you are about the person you’re with.
  • You arrange an evening out with a friend or a group and find yourself more interested in “capturing the moment” for your Facebook friends than you are about building relationships with the people you invited out.
  • People often ask you if you heard what they said or if they make comments that you seem too distracted to be interested in what they’re saying.

Granted, not all Do Not Disturb signs come in the form of smartphones and social media, but that seems to be a significant culprit in light of today’s technology.

This is not a cry to eliminate social media and smartphone technology from our lives.  Far from it!  Rather, it is a reminder that our actions can often send unintended messages that we may not even be aware we’re sending.   As such, we should be mindful of what we’re doing when we interact with those closest to us.  If we need to put our focus somewhere other than the person we’re with, let’s kindly tell them that our focus is currently somewhere else and arrange to connect with them at a time when we can give them our attention.  Better yet, unless it’s an emergency or something critical, give them your attention in that moment.

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Great Idea! Now What?

In a previous post I wrote how your head was a great place for having ideas, but a lousy place for keeping them.  This is because it’s so easy to lose ideas in the constant clutter of thoughts going on in our heads.  This week, I’d like share some actions we can take when we come up with a good idea, to ensure they are not forgotten.

First, create a system for capturing ideas.  With the digital revolution in full swing, there are several electronic options to quickly capture the idea written down.  These can include:

  • An audio recording
  • An email or text to yourself
  • An electronic list
  • A smartphone app designed for taking notes
  • Pictures taken with smartphone

Since most folks have a smartphone on or near them at all times, it makes sense that this would be a good tool to use to capture ideas.  However, we shouldn’t discount “old-school” mediums such:

  • Notebooks
  • Whiteboards
  • Sticky notes
  • Journals

What I have found is that I usually rely on a couple different methods for capturing ideas.  I think it’s important to settle on 2-3 preferred methods that work for you, because having too many ways of capturing ideas can lead to clutter and cause ideas that get lost.

Next, after you’ve developed a system for capturing your ideas, create a system to consolidate all your ideas.  By this, I mean taking all the ideas you had and placing them in a consistent location so they are easy to locate in the future.  Again, this collection could be a digital or an old-school method.  Just pick a one that works for you and make sure consolidating the ideas you’ve captured becomes part of your daily routine.

Finally, the most important step you can take after capturing and consolidating your ideas is to develop a plan to take action on your highest priority ideas.  If you’re like me, most of your ideas won’t be any good.  However, when you do have an idea that is good and you want to implement, do something that reminds you to put your idea into action.  For me, that often looks like setting a reminder in my smart phone to alert me at a certain date and time when I will be in a position to take action on my idea.

There are several methods that can be used to capture, consolidate, and act on your ideas.  The important point is to have specific methods at each step so you’ll be able to put your ideas into actions.  Actions that could potentially change your life.

Without a plan to do something with the ideas we have, they are often relegated to being just ghosts of ideas that disappear soon after we have them.  It’s time to start collecting and acting on the treasure of ideas our minds so often provide

Cultivating Good Ideas

I started this blog 153 weeks ago with the goal of consistently posting one entry per week.  So far, I haven’t missed a week yet!  What’s amazed me most about this journey is how every week I find a new idea to write about.

I like to post my entries on Saturday, but on Sunday, 6 days prior to posting, I usually have no idea what I’m going to write about.  It isn’t until I start going through my weekly routines of reading, having conversations with people, and listening to positive content that an idea for a topic pops into my mind.  These ideas burst onto the stage of my mind without any warning.  It’s an amazing process that I’ve really enjoyed over the past 153 weeks.

Ideas don’t just happen.  Whether it’s ideas for writing, planning, or myriad other forms of creation, I think there are certain disciplines we can practice to greatly increase our likelihood of coming up with good ideas.  Those disciplines include the following:

Expect that you can and will come up with good ideas

Henry Ford stated it well when he said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”  Pay attention how you talk to yourself regarding your ability to come up with ideas.  Instead of telling yourself you’re not good at coming up with ideas, change the internal dialog and state how capable you are of coming up with not just one, but several good ideas.

Consume positive content

Positive content, in the form of conversations, reading, podcasts, or any other method, is the fertilizer that helps grow new thoughts and ideas.  Your ideas will come out of whatever you have been putting into your mind, so be mindful of what you’re allowing in.

Set a deadline to come up with good ideas

For me, I imposed an artificial deadline of generating a blog post every week.  This created a sense of urgency that forced me to generate an idea.  So far it’s worked out well.

Practice cultivating good ideas

Every day, write down 10 good ideas on any topic.  It can be anything from ideas for generating extra money to titles for a make-believe TV show.  The objet here is to just get in the practice of generating ideas.  The more we do it, the better we can become at coming up with ideas.  James Altucher says that this is how you stretch your “idea muscle” and become and “idea machine”.

Set yourself up to be a generator of good ideas by following the steps above, or share some of your own ideas for generating ideas in the comments below.

Ideas are the starting point of all new adventures.  If you want to have a more adventurous life, you only need to start having more ideas.

Letting People Know

During our Thanksgiving dinner this year my mom asked a question of everyone at the table.  She wanted hear from each person about someone who has had an impact on our life over the past year and what that impact was.  What a great question and conversation starter.

As everyone shared, it was evident that we had all been blessed by the kindness of other people that had been willing to make meaningful contributions to our lives.  However, the conversation didn’t end there.  After everyone had shared, my mom took it one step further.  She encouraged each of us to contact the person we talked about, be it with a phone call, letter, or email, and let them know the impact they had had on us.

What a great suggestion!  Most people I know want to make an impact in the lives of others, but I wonder how many of them have actually been told that they indeed made an impact.  My guess is that the number is rather small.  Sadly, it’s likely the impact people have made in the lives of others is often not talked about until someone’s funeral or memorial service.

I don’t want to wait until someone’s funeral to talk about their impact on my life.  I’d rather tell them while they’re still around.  Therefore, I’m going to do what I’m mom suggested and write some letters, not only to the person I mentioned, but to others who have impacted me as well.

So who has impacted your life?  Who has made a difference to you or has made your life better just by their presence and willingness to invest their time into you?  As my mom did for us, I encourage you to let them know?  Make a phone call, send an email, fire off a text, or send a hand written note.  It doesn’t have to be something lengthy or formal.  It can be as simple as a couple of sentences stating what they have done for you, how it has impacted you, and your gratitude.

Imagine the impact your words of recognition and gratitude could have one someone who has impacted you.