I recently wrote about taking an imagination day to dream up how you would like your life, or a situation at work, to turn out in the near future. The concept was to make it real, to feel your desires as happening and to experience the emotions you would have as if these dreams were already real.
Creating a bullet point list of what you want to see happen is an easy way to crystallize your thoughts. There are more creative outlets, too.
One of my colleagues creates vision boards. She sits down with a stack of magazines and finds pictures and headlines that resemble the experiences she wants to have in the next 12 months. This includes personal and business goals. Sometimes, she surfs the web to select more appropriate pictures that she prints out in color.
She pastes these images onto a poster board that hangs in her office. Doing so forms a visual connection each time she looks up from her desk. If she wants to go on a bike ride through Tuscany, she pastes a picture of people going on a bike ride over a picture of rolling vineyards. Seeing her board daily helps push the mental connection of her vision into subconscious action and almost inevitably results in her achieving her desired goals.
Scheduling imagination days doesn’t happen by accident. You have to put them on your calendar, just like any other appointment. Don’t view this as down time. Your imagination day is going to be the most valuable, concentrated time you can spend to help you formulate and achieve your vision. You will feel refreshed, full of optimism and have a tremendous sense of direction, certainty and accomplishment.
Get out your calendar and set up an imagination day appointment with yourself right now!
One day, she brought home a drawing of a family that had more members than we have so I asked her who everyone was. “This is me, this is my husband, these are my four kids, this is our dog and our house. It has lots of windows,” she replied.
She used her imagination to draw a picture of what she sees her life being like when she is a grown-up. It was her vision for her future.
Every business book will tell you that you must have a vision, something that crystallizes where you see yourself being. Without it, you will lack clear direction. The result will be missed goals, missed opportunities, frustration and dissatisfaction. You will also probably have a nagging feeling of uncertainty. All this because you don’t know where you are headed.
This is actually very simple to change. All it requires is a day to yourself and the result will create luck for a long time time. I call it an imagination day and I take several of these every year, at least once a quarter.
Imagination days work best when you can isolate yourself from all distractions so you can focus like a laser. No checking email. No taking phone calls. No running errands.
A Day of Thinking, Nothing Else
A friend of mine takes an imagination morning every month. He goes to a local hotel and parks himself in the cafe from breakfast through lunch. He spreads out his notes and some blank sheets of paper, then sits back and thinks.
Don’t try doing this in your office. That’s not the way a lucky person would do this. You will be met with numerous distractions, including people who don’t understand that you are really working and not staring off into space. To create true luck, a neutral location that is neither your home nor your office is the ideal setting for this personal retreat.
My friend paints a picture of what his business should be like. He visualizes the processes he needs in place to make sure that operations are running smoothly. He tries to uncover bottlenecks. This could include identifying deficiencies in staff skills, technology usage, alignment of company and individual goals, and anything else he sees as an obstacle. His objective is to look at the forest, not just the trees, so that he can remove the obstacles that are hindering progress. He outlines what he needs to do and what each of his direct reports needs to do. He cross-checks his “to do” list from the prior month to see what is on track and what needs attention or adjustment.
Throughout the morning, he is visualizing. He is architecting his future. He is using his imagination to craft his vision and then managing the plan that will get him there.
The output from imagination days can take many forms. The easiest is to produce bullet points of action items. The hardest part is to put an imagination day on your calendar. So, get out your calendar now and set up an appointment with your brain for some quiet time. Your productivity afterwards will be explosive!
I spent yesterday morning attending the Potomac Tech Wire‘s event on the Future of Marketing. I try to be choosey about which events I attend because, as much as I enjoy it, there is only so much time I elect to allocate for seminars and networking — after all, I do need to spend time running my business and enjoying my family. The disappointing thing is that not every event I attend is worthwhile. You have to look for that golden nugget of information that can help further you towards a goal.
This event had an panel of pretty smart marketing executives. Simon Owens, Director of PR for JESS3, talked about very specific viral strategies his company uses to market their clients. Eric Ludwig, Senior Director of Online Marketing at Rosetta Stone, shared insights into how they target the most qualified leads with direct mail so they maximize their return on investment. Mack McKelvey, Senior VP of Marketing at Millennial Media, pointed out that 40% of mobile device usage occurs in the home, not on the road (what an eye-opening statistic!). Bob London, President of London Ink, discussed the origins and rebranding of the “content marketing” movement. And Matt Goddard, CEO of R2integrated, brought awareness about whether social media strategies are right for certain companies.
There were a lot of valuable golden nuggets of information that can be turned into actionable marketing items for a business executive. There were also a lot of new people to follow up with. But these nuggets and connections are only useful if you execute on them. Just knowing what to do won’t make it happen.
I saw a few people taking notes on the insights the speakers offered. That’s a good first step and usually those who write something down tend to remember what to do better than those who don’t.
Here’s a quick strategy for taking a golden nugget and turning it into gold:
- Write down bullet points as you hear concepts that can help you further one of your goals.
- Review these points within 8 hours.
- Create specific action items based on your notes that include dates and/or deadlines.
- Put a follow up tickler in your calendar to you hold yourself accountable.
The value of a golden nugget of information is worth far more when you use it to make something happen.
We have all been in meetings where a group leader goes around the table asking everyone to introduce themselves. You typically hear the same remarks in the same format, just insert a new name and title.
“I’m Jane Hoff, Marketing Manager for Orange PR. We provide public relations services.”
How many of these people will you remember? Probably very few, if any at all. Nobody stands out from the pack. In a room with more than a handful of people, your eyes start to glaze over everyone’s face and your ears just hear words that go in one side and out the other. Unless you have a celebrity, politician or a senior executive from a major firm at the table, nobody is really that memorable. Well, almost.
For years, I fell into the trap of following everyone’s lead on how to introduce myself at such meetings.
“Hi, I’m Raj Khera, yada yada yada yada.”
I might as well have been the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher (circa 1970s TV specials). I was not standing out.
Then, one day I was in a meeting with a few dozen other business executives along with our local politician. I tried something a little different. Something that injected a little bit of “me” in my intro. Here is how it went:
“Hi, I’m Raj Khera, CEO of MailerMailer, an email marketing firm. I also coach my son’s soccer team.”
After everyone else spoke their introduction, the politician thanked everyone. They are good at that. Then, he made a comment about my coaching youth sports. Later, I was in the elevator with him and he struck up a conversation with me about it. “Hey, you are the one who coaches soccer, right?” he started. I became a “stand out” in a crowd of everyone else.
In his world of meeting countless people every day, sharing something that is a little different makes you memorable – in a good way.
Another term I use now and then as part of my self-introduction: “… and by night I’m super dad.” People really remember that one because they can relate. Both moms and dads know the pressures of working full time and managing a family. It gives them something to talk to you about and makes you more approachable.
The next time you have to introduce yourself in a group setting, add a little personality to your message. It portrays you as more human. And that makes you more memorable. You will stand out.