Tag Archives: Thinking

Cures for the Bromidic in Deep Winter White

Winter and increasing mounds of snow appear to have taken permanent hold on my part of the world as I dream of green and balmy breezes.  Snow and ice are here for one season, thankfully since I find the incessant white and cold, the blanket of snow to be a blanket on my creativity.  I know that I am not alone, plenty of arts facilities and events are reporting lower than expected attendance due to the weather.

 

I have been lucky enough to arrange little breaks from the winter bromide for the last three weekends and it has helped in a small way.  I have met with three different friends once each weekend for either a meal and a movie or a trip to the symphony to listen to a tone poem that described warmer weather.

 

My urge to hibernate through most of January just fueled my winter grumpiness each time I had to venture out for work or errands.  Hibernation meant that entertainment choices were limited to what is at hand at home.  Same stuff, same four walls.  Bleh.

 

I know that other people like to plan trips to warm places for a week or two while home is locked in cold and ice.  I don’t know whether that would work for me, part of my thoughts would be focused on the required return to Nordic weather.  Now, if I could figure out how to live somewhere else for this one season every year that would be ideal.

 

Ah, at least I have thawed my creativity enough to dredge up and dust off this old word, bromide, and use it in a non-pharmaceutical manner.  I only recently realized that the word had alternate meanings.

public domain image, FDA

public domain image, FDA

 

Another mental exercise that several of us have taken up is how we would be happy to box up all of this snow and send it off to the areas on the West coast that are in the midst of an exceptional drought.  We have plenty to share.  Each of our regions needing a bit of what the other has, each sighing ‘enough’ to the weather pattern we are in.  Sadly, it doesn’t appear feasible.

 

I hope that everyone is able to find a cure or two for bromidic winter.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Favorite Ways to While Away a Winter Day

I think that my brain might be freezing up this long winter.  I’ve tried to start a few new posts and they are all now waiting for me to find a way to finish the ones that are worthy and dispose of the ones that aren’t.

 

So perhaps I can at least conjure up a list of pleasant things to while (or wile, if you prefer) away some hours rather than wishing them away for some better weather:

  • A good book, a mug of tea, and my cozy fleece throw (in a fine shade of green to remind me of seasons to come)
  • A marathon session of Sherlock on Netflix
  • A leisurely soup and sandwich lunch with a friend
  • Slowly and calmly putting a space to rights (and not thinking about how long it may stay that way)
  • Learning something new, or getting better at something
  • Perusing a map or atlas – to remember a trip, plan one or trace a historical event
  • A game with my sons and daughter-in-law, perhaps Settlers of Catan
  • A hot as I can stand it bath with great scents, some music and a good book or magazine
  • Normally, writing would fit on this list…
  • A look through old photo albums
Wikipedia snip-it of Sherlock

Wikipedia snip-it of Sherlock

 

I think that I need to add a new craft to this list perhaps, or revisit an old one.  Maybe getting some ideas from people in the blogosphere will help me out.  What would go on your list?  If you put any outdoor activity on the list, do give a compelling argument why, please.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Return to Doodling

I used to doodle.  Mindless scribbles in my school notebooks.  Once I hit the working world, I made myself stop because I didn’t want to be seen in a meeting with my doodles – I didn’t think that it would enhance any image of professionalism.  So I’ve taken to twirling my pen (and trying really hard not to click it repeatedly) in meetings instead.

DSC03739

Now seeing this news clip, CBS News Sunday Morning: The Higher Purpose of Doodling I might just go back to my doodling habits.  Perhaps this will keep my mind present in the room when a meeting goes on.  I have found that even when I am interested in the topic, or it is in some way pertinent to me I have a terrible time keeping my thoughts in the room after about 20 minutes or so – which bears out research that I’ve read about adult attention spans.

How will I balance this return to doodling experiment with perceptions of professional behaviors?  Hmm, not sure just at the moment.  Hunching over my paper so that no one can see doesn’t seem like a viable solution.  Why, exactly, any of us feels that we would have to explain our note taking habits in the work world is an entirely different blog post.  Regardless of any of my actions, I cannot direct, control, or shape someone else’s perceptions of me.

Perceptions of doodlers is a main theme in the hyperlinked video clip – and how we should reconsider them.  Why do we perceive doodling to be such a bad thing other than we can all probably recall a moment or two in our school days when a teacher called out someone for doodling instead of paying attention?  Engagement takes on many forms, as does disengagement.

The other main theme is the point that doodling serves a purpose beyond occupying your hand.  I find it very intriguing that researchers found better detail retention in the doodling group when playing a tedious voicemail.

How about you, do you doodle?

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

‘We Already Tried That’

I fear that these words have passed my lips at some point in the past and I imagine that they fell on the ears of the listener about the same way they fall on me when I hear them.  Shut down, denied, rejected.  Unintended enthusiasm killer.

 

I got together for brunch recently with some friends, we used to be co-workers, but now all work in other places.  This phrase came up and stuck with me because it is a common thing to hear in many offices.  New people mean new opportunities to examine old process and tasks in a new way.  New people could be new to the company or new to the team with prior experience at the company in a different role.

 

When I first heard ‘we already tried that’ in response to something that I said, I was rather crestfallen and rolled the rest of my comment back up, folded my hands and clammed up.  Now, I redouble my efforts to find a way to introduce the idea in a manner that will be palatable to the listener.  Or if I overhear someone else get shot down, I try to help them get an opening to complete their thought.

 

My thought isn’t so much that we should take action on the idea itself as much as it is about giving people the opportunity to speak up and participate in solutions.  Or the process for developing solutions.  Maybe we really did try exactly that and it didn’t work at that time, in that manner.  But that isn’t the point (plus this is a new time and maybe with a couple of tweaks the idea is valid again.)  Maybe it didn’t work the first time for some sub reason that would no longer affect the outcome.

Imagine if we hadn't allowed any new versions of Edison's inventions? (public domain image)

Imagine if we hadn’t allowed any new versions of Edison’s inventions? (public domain image)

 

The objective, purportedly, is to have engaged employees – ones who participate actively in creating solutions to the situations that invariably come up.  This phrase is high on the list of reasons why employees stop participating and just trudge along.  It is in my DNA to keep putting forth new suggestions, but this isn’t true for many people.  Who knows how hard someone had to screw up their courage to put forth an idea to be told ‘we already tried that’ before the whole idea was out of their mouth?

 

We already tried to shoot down ideas with ‘we already tried that’ and it failed miserably.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Short Term Planning

public domain image

public domain image

I know this is the time of year to hatch grand ideas, named Resolutions, not a time to be thinking small.  Well, the fellow who normally cuts my hair was stricken with pneumonia right before Christmas and my haircut appointment and while I do hope that he is ok, this leaves me with a shaggy dilemma.

 

I can’t remember the last time that I felt truly pleased about my hair – the style, the color – and I am the kind of person who only pays marginal attention to any sort of style.  I do understand that appearance it important because it is part of people’s perception of a person.  And I can appreciate when someone else looks well put together, I just have a hard time figuring out how they managed the effect.

 

Anyway, my need to resolve my overgrown locks has me thinking about short term planning at this almost New Year stage.  It often seems as if we just do whatever is in front of us.  Get it done, move to the next thing, get it done, move to the next thing.  Periodically check the list, if you keep one, to make sure things aren’t missed.

 

My sister, brother, sister-in-law and I went to the grocery store the weekend before Christmas.  Life has been a bit hectic so while we had made plans to be together for the holiday, those plans hadn’t gotten specific enough to cover little things like food.  We put together a menu plan before we got in the car and only my sister thought to write it all down.  She had a handful of lists, actually, including general things that she needed for her household since she was hosting.

 

It was fun to go to the store together, despite the number of other shoppers.  It was out of the norm, and I couldn’t help but remember back on our childhood shopping trips plus other shared shopping experiences over the years that occurred during other family gathering times.  But it was haphazard with different members of our team wandering off in search of this or that and only my sister keeping track of the items that had made it onto our list.

 

We had quite tasty meals, with shared cooking responsibilities and shared clean up, too.  Perhaps it would have benefitted from more rigorous pre-planning – it certainly helped that we have had enough previous family gatherings that parts could be done without much discussion.  It would probably have been rather a disaster for a group of unfamiliar people.

 

I’m going to keep thinking about short term planning while I find someplace to get a haircut.  I’d love to know your thoughts on planning – short, long, or resolution type.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

That Snap into Place Feeling

Legos go together with a satisfying snap.  Lids on containers of all shapes and sizes are snuggly in place when they snap.  Locks are set when we here that snick, and doors shut tight with a click.  Now we know that at least that particular item is secure.  There is plenty of unknown only feet away, so giving ourselves any kind of assurance of safety is paramount.

DSC03637

If only the right decision would offer the same satisfying snap when we land upon it.  Particularly with the big scary decisions that we sometimes have to make with little information or time to contemplate.  Have that surgery, go for the short sale or ride the foreclosure, change careers or stay the course, time to put dad in the nursing home?  All of the options have down sides and leave us feeling slightly ill – no snap involved.

Every once in a great while a decision will come with an immediate snap, reinforcement that it was just the right decision for us for that moment, for that situation.  Because if we take the same option the next time, it doesn’t always turn out so well.  What the???  Crap, I thought that was The right decision – as in my go-to from here on out.  The moment was no longer right, some alignment was different and no snap resulted.

The initial evaluations, weighing of options are tough enough.  Did we apply the right parameters, ask the right questions to get a clear understanding?  But then the re-evaluation starts with the smallest opening of doubt.  ‘I didn’t think about this, consider that point, take into account for this other…’  If only I’d gotten that snap, or known it was coming, then I would have kept looking for a better option.

I always thought that part of being an adult would be a strong ability to make solid decisions.  Ha.  The adults around me seemed to know what they were doing, to be making decisions with snap in them because they didn’t let me see the machinations and ruminations that went into the decisions not because they had a perfect sense on how to make good decisions.

I’m going to keep searching for a snappy decision making method, in the meantime I’m going to snap together some Legos.

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Quality of Sound

It looks as though we may be in for a cold and snowy winter season.  I’m sure that some of you are smiling and cheering but I am equally sure that there are plenty in my camp of winter endurers.  I believe that I have mentioned before some of the litany of why I am not a fan of winter – there is the cold, the snow, the slush, the cold, salt everywhere, exponentially bad driving and the cold.  Did I mention the cold?  I am also worn down by the monochromatic vistas – wonderfully dotted with Christmas decorations for the next couple of weeks.

But I digress.  There is one thing about winter that pleases me, which I rediscover every year.  This thing that quietly delights me is the quality of the sound when there is a blanket of snow on the ground.  The snow brings a silence that is very welcome in this time of electronic beeps, dings, trills, buzzes, and tweets.  Nature has many methods of redirecting our attention to joys it has to offer.

Looking for a means to soothe your hectic pre-Christmas day, go out into your backyard for a few minutes to commune with the quality of sound.  Softer sounds are muffled as the snow acts as natural baffles and round out many noises.  Sharp sounds crack, shattering the brittle cold air but are quickly replaced with that enveloping silence.

DSC03639

To get the full effect it is best to get to a park or nature preserve or any tract which is populated more by trees than the constructs of humans, but it isn’t entirely necessary.  Especially after dark.  Your backyard will do nicely.  If you haven’t taken the time to experience the way that snow changes sounds since childhood, I suggest that it is high time that you do so.

The crunch as you break through the crust of the snow, the sound of your own breath, the rustle of small animals, and the creaks and cracks of trees shifting under the weight of the snow.  These are the little gifts of winter.

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Change in Planning

At work I plan in a project management and process style.  This should go before that, these tools are necessary to complete that task, assemble this list of things before starting task x.  It makes so much more sense to plan – who wants to keep stopping and starting a project to get it right?

my PM reading

It would make sense then if I applied the same concepts to my personal life.  Yes, it would.  But that isn’t how it usually happens.  I’m behind on making doctor and dentist appointments, there is a list of little things that need to be fixed in the house, and don’t ask me the last time that I went on a vacation beyond visiting relatives.  All of these activities take some planning and so await that step.

 

I have actually taken a day off of work to do all this planning so that I will be prepared for the day off that I will need to take to complete the tasks themselves.  I know many of you can relate.  It is just too hard to squeeze the calls and so on that are the planning stage for all of this stuff that begs to be done.  Evenings would be a good time, or maybe weekends.  Sure.  One out of fifteen things on my list are successfully planned during these hours.

 

It seems to me that I am often rewriting a to-do list onto a new sheet and transferring most of the items over just because the old one got too hard to read in the bottom of my purse or on the front of the fridge.  I wish I could say because so many of the points on the list were crossed off.  Ha.  I have taken to dating the lists, just for self-torture purposes.

 

I’ve decided that I must use up all of the best planning brain cells at work and leave the lazy ones for personal stuff.  I drive home at the end of a day, or wake up on a Saturday with the best intentions and sometimes manage to actually knock two things off the list on the same day.  Only to have two new ones show up the next day.  (Sigh.)

 

Can you relate?  If you can’t because you are on top of all the aspects of your life, do share your secrets.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Wanted to do This, but That Got in the Way

Have you ever just been eager to start on something but been prevented because something that you need to do what you want requires attention before you can get into your desired task?  So frustrating!

 

For the last month plus I have been finding more often than not that when I sit down to write – blog post idea percolating away in my head – my Microsoft Word must be reinstalled.  Grrr.  Now I must deal with this technical issue and risk losing the essence of my post idea unless I start to write it out long hand.  My thoughts come faster than I can sketch out this way, that is why I love composing on the computer.

 

There are plenty of other examples; getting ready to bake something and finding I am short on a key ingredient, wrapping a package and the tape is missing in action, nearing the end of a project but still have an open question due from someone else.  So close, and yet…  Ticking this task off the to-do list will just have to wait.  Darn it.

Pushme-Pullyou from the original Dr Doolittle movie.  (my appreciation has lasted a lifetime)

Pushme-Pullyou from the original Dr Doolittle movie. (my appreciation has lasted a lifetime)

 

A few years ago I just couldn’t quite motivate myself to get in the car and go off on vacation.  A vacation that included my cousin’s wedding.  I’m not sure what prompted my malaise, but I waited until the morning of departure to pack and then did so in a desultory fashion, all the while fighting with the idea that I just wouldn’t go.  When I finally got myself on the road, it was only perhaps an hour into the drive when I started to think of toiletries and other items that I had forgotten to pack and by the time I stopped for a break I had almost a dozen things listed.

 

It wasn’t anything that I couldn’t replace at the nearest drug store – the worst was my favorite lipstick and the drug store where I stopped didn’t have an equivalent color.  And it was more my own head that got in the way in this instance and created external obstacles, but I still had to push through it.  I did end up having a lovely time, and a much needed break from work.

 

Hmm, my frustration with Word is what prompted this post and I’ve taken it somewhere I didn’t intend.  I guess my point then is that it is good to plan, but also to push through the unplanned or frustrating parts.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Not an Optimal Time to Think

If we were to be asked, we would say that we should always think about what’s going on, what we are doing because it cuts down on mistakes.  And then there is reality, often a far cry from what is best practice.  Well, to err is human.

 

Ask a person how something went wrong – a car accident, a work mistake, hurt feelings after a callous comment – and the answer most likely boils down to ‘I didn’t think’.  Too much was going on in that person’s mind at that moment and the most immediate task became the casualty of the overtaxed thinking process.

thinking

This is why we practice things, why we drill something over and over, so that the activity creates a sort of groove in our brain and that memory kicks in every time we take up that activity.  (Think of the times that you have been tired and pulled into your driveway and realized you don’t remember the trip at all.)  All that practice makes it more possible that we’ll do the right thing even if we might be fighting panic or illness or something else entirely.  But it isn’t foolproof.

 

I have tacked up bits and scraps of paper near my writing desk (which I rarely use now that I have a laptop…), these scraps hold advice on writing from past well-known writers.  One is apropos for today, because it can be applied to thinking as well as writing.  It is Herman Melville who said it, but it comes to us through Sarah Paretsky; a writer must be in a ‘silent grass growing mood’ in order to write.

 

Think of all the times that you know a thing but it just won’t crystalize in that moment.  Most likely because that moment isn’t an optimal time to think – there is noise, distraction, pressure coming from somewhere and clouding your thought process.

 

I equate this to my math difficulties.  My brain shuts down on any math when I am in a group.  This goes back to a horrid game that was suddenly introduced to me on a steel gray February morning in 2nd or 3rd grade.  I had just moved to the school, so my classmates had been practicing this game for months.  To this day my brain simply says no if I have to do math when there is any attention on me.

 

I needed a silent grass growing mood to get a firm grasp on math concepts and then practice to gain speed before I played that stupid game.  Even understanding the root of my math anxiety, it is rarely an optimal time for me to think in mathematical concepts when I’m in public.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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