11 Techniques to Spark More Ideas in Your Life

As I’ve been on this quest of creativity, I’ve been focused on developing more ideas that I can execute on. However, if you ever talk to my husband, he might tell you that the last thing I need more of is ideas. Though I am a believer of quality over quantity, some quantity of ideas can beget even more ideas. Why shut off the faucet if the water is desired and flowing? A lot of quality ideas can cascade down into a few great concepts worth pursuing. We should strive to come up with as many ideas as is possible if we desire to create anything and have success.

But what to do with these ideas?

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All you need is a little ambition and courage to put your ideas out into the world. I’m still experimenting with this, and am excited about the big splash one certain idea made in my world with self publishing a book later this year. Writing is certainly one outlet, and so is the traditional creative endeavor of art. With the rise of innovation, creativity is entering and transforming not only the workplace, but how people live, use products, transport themselves, and interact with humans, animals, and robots alike.

If you’re inspired to make change in the world around you but aren’t quite sure where to begin, here are some thoughts about coming up with more ideas:

  1. Reading. Take risks with genres you wouldn’t normally pursue, try new authors, and read about things you may have never heard of before. Diversifying your selections allows exposure to new concepts, beliefs, and understandings. Most of my reading revolves around non-fiction, like leadership, management, and personal improvement. But mixing in fiction gives me an opportunity to treat my brain to a break and think about life from someone else’s imagination.
  2. Listening to lyric-free music. As fun as lyrics make songs fun to sing along to, I listen to lyric-free music at work. I find I can be more focused and take the energy of the music and apply it the energy I need to work with and get things done. Some examples I enjoy are movie scores (anything by John Williams is a winner for me), college fight songs, and some of my favorite composers like Tchaikovsky.
  3. Walk or run outside. Either of these activities allow you to get away from the daily grind. Being physical in the fresh air, sunshine, and breeze is freeing and mind opening for me. It is also time away from distraction. On early morning workouts, I often find peace and quiet on the track to think through challenges I need to work through or what excitement is coming in my day.
  4. Meditate. Despite haphazard implementation into my own life, I see multi-day impacts from just one three or five minute session. I am able to think both more broadly and with greater clarity. It gives the ability to assess new and different concepts I couldn’t before. When I am frustrated in both personal and professional settings, I find that the meditation practice, even intermittently, helps me step back and re-frame the situation.
  5. Share the ideas you do have. Expressing ideas to receptive listeners (and especially the devil’s advocates in our lives) forces us to think through details, challenges, and how we might execute. Sharing with someone who asks thoughtful questions can put your idea on a new axis of orientation and spin it in a new direction.
  6. Writing in a journal. Writing down thoughts on a regular basis can free up your mind for a task, have therapeutic benefits, and preserve your ideas for future reference. I like to spend fifteen to twenty minutes a day, sometimes less and sometimes more, reflecting on the events immediately past or upcoming. This writing lets me connect with my feelings and gives an outlet to express and explore. It forces me to come to terms with where I really stand, good and not so good, and practice self-awareness.
  7. Be bored. Creating the optimal time and space to think without anything else going on around you can be tough to carve out. Put your phone away. Close the laptop. Even hide the headphones in the drawer. Being bored lets the brain have a rest from constant stimulation. However, I find that my brain focuses on my thoughts in a relaxing and non urgent manner, unlike meditation, where thoughts pass through. Growing up, being bored forced my imagination and creative side to activate. We made up stories and new sports – boredom forced us to be adventurous in a variety of ways. This can be true as adults, too!
  8. Have interesting conversations. Dig deep, be curious, ask questions. Talk to strangers (carefully). Examine your values with others. Play the contrarian instead of agreeing. Explore the “why” all around you. Get rid of small talk, and truly get to know about someone’s history and purpose and place in this world. Take the topic of weather, a typical point in small talk. Addressing snow or sun might lead to discussing hobbies that are weather based, then onto the entry into those sports, and what benefits someone gets from a lifetime of skiing or hiking.
  9. Try new experiences. How do you learn and adjust to changes? Whether it is trying Thai food for the first time or actually going to explore Thailand, find something in your budget that takes you out of your comfort zone. You may see (or taste) things very differently going forward.
  10. Don’t let anything get in your way. We can be our own worst enemies with ideas. They don’t need to be realistic yet when they are just ideas. Start with no judgment, expectation, or requirement for you ideas. Just let them “be” to begin, and you can take next steps, next!
  11. Practice, practice, practice. I am a horrible free throw shooter, not that I’m a great basketball player anyhow. I loved the game in high school, though, and I experienced the joy in the desire to get better. Practice, when consistent and done whole heartedly, can be a path toward excellence. Ideation takes practice too – pretty soon you’ll be practicing the execution of ideas.

 

One of my personal goals in the coming months is to experiment more with execution, to go beyond the idea phase. Most, if not all, ideas are not perfect on their first iteration, or in theory only. By getting to “ship stage,” execution allows the idea to come to life, to figure out what adjustments are needed to meet the desired goal, and figure out if it will fail or has a chance at successful impact over time. I hope to be a catalyst for positive change in the worlds around me, whether work or home or socially or with organizations I volunteer for. This experimentation goal will take some courage to put myself out there. It might be the same for you.

Coming up with new ideas can be invigorating if you welcome the opportunity to think and try the eleven techniques listed. New ideas excite my passion for life. Ideas ignite the possibility that anything can be possible if I believe it to be so.

What methods do you find best for coming up with ideas? Are you pursuing execution of any of your ideas? Are there additional methods you would add to the list?

 

Ideas and Creativity with Execution

Have you ever read a book that hit you right in the moment, that answered every question or wonder you were imagining? For me, that was “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, who also wrote “Eat, Pray, Love.” I never read the latter book, but the former is everything I could have been hoping for as I have been in a mindset considering creativity over the past several weeks. The day after I wrote the post about the importance of giving yourself permission, I read a chapter in the book about giving yourself permission. It was like the world was coming together for me in support of creative endeavors!

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Creativity involves bringing original ideas to life. I don’t consider myself an artist, with paint or clay or any special materials or medium, but a creator who translates my ideas into words on a page (or a screen). If you’re a reader, you’ll understand that there is artistry to the written word (though I am not trying to claim artistry here!). Artistry and creativity do take many forms. My coloring skills would leave something to be desired! What do you create with?

When you think of creativity in its form of turning ideas into reality, the wider doors open to what it means to be creative. If you think about the concept of innovation, which is a highly creative activity, it isn’t about creating something completely new, but rather changing how something is used, manufactured, sold, transported – basically, innovation is a variation on a theme. A new look at something “old”. With all that technology has brought us, from the telegraph to the telephone to the cell phone to the smart phone, someone was creative enough to imagine something differently and find the ways to execute on it.

That might be the key to creativity – that we have to take action on our ideas. Thinking and journaling and talking mean nothing without follow through and implementation or experimentation. How can you consider yourself a creative person if you haven’t put pen to paper or molded something physically? Starting, no matter how good or bad the idea seems, is an important part of the process. Admittedly, I haven’t taken a lot of action yet on my ideas. My hope is to solve problems that impact business performance and how people live their lives. What can be done differently? Or better? The enemy of creativity in action is hearing “this is how it has always been done.” To me, this is a rallying cry that we can find a better way, and it spawns moments deep in thought of how to try to take things to the next level.

If you have ever read anything by James Altucher, you’ll know that he is a proponent of coming up with 10 ideas each day to turn yourself into an “idea machine”, the thought being that ideas beget ideas, and that as coming up with 10 becomes more routine, you’ll have more to draw from to execute on.

This is where I find the power of practice comes in with creativity. You can’t be an expert from the start. Even the masters, as talented as they are and were, need to refine their skill and, I think this is most important, experiment with style, direction, intent, and approach. The experimentation can be purely organic, or can be inspired – by other people, others works, something completely different, nature, and beyond. Opening yourself up to opportunity and seeing the world, or even just your neighborhood, in new lights can encourage you to think in different ways and approach your creativity and execution differently.

Here are a few of the easy ways I make attempts to open up my world. On many occasions I am finding my inspiration for ideas. Just yesterday, during a morning workout around the neighborhood, I was inspired about a whole bunch of ideas to write about that you’ll see in coming weeks.

  1. Reading opens many doors for me to ideas and creation. I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction, but for every two to three non fiction books I read, I do read a fiction book to reset my mind and escape into another world.
  2. Writing everything down, and going back to it. Sometimes it is just ideas, and sometimes a full post that doesn’t feel right, and sometimes it is from journaling.
  3. Walking instead of driving, or, riding in the passenger seat. This allows a new perspective. When we drive, it all goes by so quickly, even with lowered speed limits in many towns.
  4. Listening to podcasts. Getting a new perspective or even a twist on my current perspective can make me think of something new I want to try.
  5. Having meaningful conversations that include a lot of questions. “What do you think about…”, “how do you feel…”,  “what if…”, “just playing devil’s advocate, but…” are some examples I use and I hear friends use that end up sparking the ideas and new approaches

But when I get out into the world, and have one idea, usually another spawns from it. And another. And yet another! It goes back to what I mentioned above on practice. What happens when you are overwhelmed in the best way by a million ideas? This is a great problem to have! How do you capture the ideas when they are flowing so quickly? It is a rush to write things down.

  1. Always carry a notebook, or use a notebook app on the phone (I am forever carrying a notebook with me)
  2. Send yourself an email (this is especially easy when I am walking or running)
  3. Voice recordings on phone, or leave yourself a voicemail
  4. Call, email, or message someone about it to discuss further

In what other ways do you capture your ideas?

The biggest trouble I have with my own ideas is the struggle choosing which ideas I should pursue. I end up doing nothing, instead of something. My almost-creative ideas live (or die) in a journal moleskine notebook, or maybe a spiral bound from CVS. I should do more so that I can fail, or even be overwhelmingly successful beyond all of my expectations. Is it human to be able to fear our success, more than our failures? That may be a discussion topic for another time!

How do you come up with your ideas? Has practicing any particular technique over time helped you get better? What do you so that you get started on your ideas?

 

Taking Action and Making It Happen with Your Goals

About a year and a half ago, I came up with what I felt was a genius concept to write a book on the beneficial aspects of the sorority experience. I started conceptualizing and outlining and writing. I took breaks, lots of breaks. Work got crazy, I needed sleep more than I needed to write, I prioritized the blog over the book, I was sick, my husband and I got married, life was happening!

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But I’ve kept coming back to this goal, to write this book to help the nearly one million sorority women who are in college or within five years of graduation develop their sorority experience into a great career.

I’ve been inspired by this topic, one that I hope will help others. While twelve year old me was hopeful I would someday write the next great American novel, thirty year old me was hopeful to change lives and the perception of the impact of sorority life. These are certainly different outcomes of writing! But, I want to make myself proud. Maybe twelve year old Mary Kate would be disappointed that I never wrote the great American novel (though not an impossibility, it is an improbability). But today, when I look at the word count in Docs and my scribblings between the printed text, I’m amazed at myself.

Whatever it is you are working on, your version of a book, maybe your own book, be proud of you. Be proud of progress and action and that you are working to make your own dreams come true. Keep the efforts going. Congratulate yourself. Allow yourself an indulgent smile. Hug a loved one with the excitement of support from others in response to what you are doing. Celebrate each and every step.

And keep going. The power of action is important, but what is a book if it is unpublished and unread? Not all books can be best sellers, though we all have the highest of hopes. But there is no chance to attempt best seller status if you never press whatever version of “publish” exists for you and your goals.

I may be using the example of the book for me, right now, but this applies to everything in life. Growing up, cleaning the family bathroom was a task that rotated amongst the children. As beautiful as the mirror and shower and floors might look, if we neglected the dust on the light fixture that managed to gather since last week or to re-load a three roll supply of toilet paper, the job was not done. We were beholden to keep going. And finish.

It is important to define that finish line both at the beginning and also along the way. Sometimes you may even need to re-define what that finish line is to take reality into account. The Olympic stage is for a select few; at some point in your life you need to realize that no matter your level of effort, you may never get there. For me, my career in sports ended when I stopped growing at 5’-4” and was clearly not the fastest in my class. It didn’t stop my hustle or hard work or the love of whatever I was playing, I just knew my sports career would be limited and not lucrative.

Changing the finish line can help erase the self doubt. I could have felt like a failure for not being able to follow my dreams in sports. In moments of reflection I certainly felt the disappointment. But I reset the finish lines and refocused on what I could do, like being healthy and a good teammate and focusing more on school and volunteering and leadership. This was a realistic reset that has helped me be a happier person.

Here is my current approach to going after what I want to accomplish. Do you see similarities to you and your approach? Maybe below is an asepct you hadn’t considered before. Maybe you can leave an aspect I hadn’t considered in the comments.

  1. Set a goal. Every book I read promotes a different strategy and quotes a different academic study for the “BEST goal setting method”. The only thing I know is true is that you must find a way to set goals that works for you. Looking back on when you’ve been successful, what kind of goals were you setting? Remember to reflect on failures and partial achievements to think about what was missing from previous efforts. Maybe you use SMART and maybe you use stretch goals, a combination, or none of the above. But set something that you want badly to achieve. Set a finish line. Dream.  
  2. Make a plan. Even if John Steinbeck wrote that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” it is best to go into your goal efforts with a plan in place. Do you drive or walk somewhere new without first consulting GPS for directions? Same concept. Give yourself some direction in your plan to meet the goal. Without this, you are a fish flopping on the deck of a boat.
  3. Schedule into your day. I find this is often forgotten with making the plan. You have to make room in your life for goals! If you don’t make time for them, are they really that important to have? Think about your priorities. Maybe you need to adjust a timeline for your goal. I hoped that I would write a book in a few months, but it will take almost two years by the time I publish.
  4. Find support. My husband is amazing. My friends are amazing. My parents are amazing. Sometimes when my husband tells ME that I am amazing, it is all I need to keep going. I do know I am capable of amazing. Sometimes we all need reminders when the going gets tough. On occasion we need to be our own support. This is when I consult Pinterest for “positive motivation success” for a few moments as a break and then jump right back in.
  5. TAKE ACTION! Seriously, Nike has it right when they say to just do it. Think about your goal. Let it inspire you. And then, take that first step or jump or leap of faith or sign up.
  6. Use support as needed. Sometimes I will be typing away in the kitchen with unintentional poor posture, hunched over my computer. Just the other night, my husband walks in, smiles, and says, “you go, lady!” and walks out. That makes me smile and gives some extra energy and motivation to do a few more minutes or pages. Sometimes, I use Pinterest. That takes extra time and i have to sort through the pins that aren’t congruent with my approach to life. But in the end, there usually are one or two that provide the extra motivation I need. Sometimes I go to step 7 and text a friend.
  7. Take a break as needed. Sleep. Seriously, sleep can be wonderful. Not writing for a few days can be wonderful. A walk or workout can be wonderful. Breaks are ok, because we are humans. Hell, even machines need down time for maintenance and repairs.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 until you reach your finish line. Just. Keep. Going. Drive to that finish line. Reset if you need. Break as often as you need to, change support methods if you need to. Keep the push going!
  9. Once you reach the finish, ship it. It may not involve putting something in an envelope with a stamp, but getting the finished product out into the world.
  10. Celebrate. Reflect. Give thanks. You made it!

I’m not quite at step 10. But I’m on my way there, continuing on step 8. I can’t wait until step 9. Actually, today is ship day for the draft of my book to a set of almost twenty five gracious readers who are willing to give me feedback! I am so thankful for the support of friends old and new who renew my faith in friendship and an myself. I’m proud of how far I’ve come and how close to the finish line I am getting. I know I will get there. 

What are the goals you are working on? Do you find yourself resetting the finish line, and how does that make you feel? What was your first “ship it” moment like?

 

ABL: The 3-Letter Acronym You Need to Apply in Your Life

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Acronyms always make life a little simpler – it’s easier to remember a few letters than a mouthful of words and syllables, and maybe there is a snappy pronunciation or the acronym makes a new word. When I got to WPI (Worcester Polytechnic Institute), acronyms were so pervasive that a now-alum created the WPI Acronym Dictionary. This was the type of place where you wouldn’t declare yourself a “Civil Engineering Major”, you’d be a CE.  I became known by my initials MKT, not just because it was part of my email address, but because it was easier than saying my whole name (T was from my maiden name)!

There has been one acronym I think of often – when I’m bored and looking for something to do, when I’m overwhelmed, confused, excited, intrigued, and everything in between: ABL.

ABL stands for “Always Be Learning”.  I can’t recall the first time I heard this phrase, but it is something that has stuck with me for many years. My grandfather, despite his lack of formal education due to needing to help support the family during the Depression, was a proponent of reading anything and everything. While it did provide an activity with not much else to fill his days, he had been known to read week old newspapers from cities across the country. But he also read an untold number of biographies (Katharine Graham’s Personal History was my favorite recommendation of his) and traditional literature (he bought The Call of the Wild by Jack London in bulk to give away to anyone who hadn’t read it). The voracious reading, along with living through most of the 20th century, led him to dominate at Jeopardy – it always impressed his grandchildren!

ABL isn’t about only structured, classroom learning, but more celebrating opportunities to create knowledge as they arise and making learning entertaining.

Reading Books have always played a significant role in my entertainment, starting from when I started reading on my own. There was no being bored growing up – it simply wasn’t allowed. We had to use our imagination – so we usually came up with our own games, creating chalk art, reading, or whatever else we could think of to fill the hours. Reading was a fun escape, as I graduated from the Bobbsey Twins to Nancy Drew. I was a little older for Harry Potter, but the magic world of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley captured my attention and helped me to be more creative and think differently.  A few weeks ago I met my 2017 reading goal of 35 books more than three months early. These books ranged from books on coaching and connections to fighting overwhelm and memoirs from business leaders. I even threw in a few fiction books to mix it up! The non-fiction books varied in quality, but each one gave me different concepts to think about how I want to apply to my personal and professional lives – and some are lessons that cross into both aspects! Reading is a great tool and practice for quiet mornings and commutes where it isn’t quite appropriate yet to call a friend and have important conversations, but instead you learn insight from the author and their stories and research – and don’t need to worry about waking a friend up too early!

  • One way to take reading to the next level as part of ABL is taking part in Book Clubs, either in person or on-line. People are individuals with different experiences, and we all interpret what we read differently. What we each see as important will vary on our viewpoints – your friend in marketing may have different takeaways than your friend in software, and both different from you in education. Local book stores or companies or groups of friends or social organizations all may have book clubs. You can find book club questions in the back of some books, or a simple online search can also yield results. Doing a discussion with friends over brunch or beers is a good way to keep your mind active and have great debate!

Taking Classes I know I said ABL isn’t just about formal learning… but sometimes it is an excellent way to gain new knowledge! Who says classes end with high school or college or grad school graduation? With the advent of opencourseware offered by elite universities (MIT, Stanford and the like) and less academic but developmental learning nonetheless via online courses on Udemy, lynda.com, Khan Academy, Coursera, or beyond these sites (no endorsements here – choose where the most interesting courses are for you), it is easy and low cost to continue learning and gain access to what professionals are sharing. Since the spring, I’ve been taking a traditional “night class” to gain a deeper knowledge on real estate-specific finance, since my MBA didn’t touch the details of my now industry. Taking classes in person allows the opportunity to ask questions of the expert instructor, and to hear the questions of others you hadn’t thought of yet. I find the discussions in class are the best part of taking a formal course in person. In taking the class I am currently taking, I am hearing questions and experiences from people in all sectors of the industry, from different positions in the industry. There are great perspectives to learn from even if they don’t directly impact me and what I do everyday. Perhaps it is nothing more than a mental exercise, but someday there could be a game changing idea that comes from all of these different viewpoints.

  • Conferences and even some networking events with a presentation are another good way to take classes! Not only do you get out of the office or the field or classroom, but you get to meet new people and hear from the experts on cutting edge research and state of the art practices.

Asking Questions & Conversations “Why?” may be the query of pesky and curious toddlers, but we should take a page from their playbook. When I was learning about “lean construction”, we were taught that asking “Why?” five times gets us many times to the root cause of a problem. We don’t have to get more complicated than that! Simply thinking the way a journalist might with the 5 W’s and 1 H (who, what, where, when, why, how) in how we approach what we do gives significant insight and background. Learning the history of decision making can often provide context to why some decisions are made a certain way, and helps to frame arguments a certain way when you make proposals. The best part of asking questions and having conversations is that other than only a few moments of your time is that this practice is 100% FREE! Another way asking questions is essential to the ABL process is showing interest in others. This prompts their interest in you and in some cases can lead to informal and formal mentoring or results-producing business partnerships. People LOVE to talk about themselves and their experiences. Asking more about it opens you up to what they know and do in their world, and you become more likable. This also helps if you are uncomfortable being the center of attention. Keep a list of easy-to-remember questions at the ready – Google can help with finding articles with lots of these lists (maybe I’ll publish my own list someday). Some other ways to move the conversation going besides 5 W and 1 H questions are phrases like “Can you tell me more about…” and “Would you help me understand…”

I know many people are flat out DONE with school as soon as they walk across the stage (and some are done before that day comes) – but if you’re not subscribing to the ABL way of life, you’re stagnating and falling behind. The world is changing at a breakneck pace, and Moore’s Law is being proved in new sectors of the tech industry, and even outside it, all the time. What are the effects of adopting an ABL approach?

Joy of learning This may be a feel-good effect, but once you start focusing on learning in areas you care about, are interested in, even passionate for, then learning more to hone your craft brings joy. Because you feel happy with the ABL attitude, it continues to grow your desire to continue forward adding to your joy with more ABL action!

Develop Expertise Learning leads to more knowledge, and the deeper you go into learner the deeper your knowledge. Deep knowledge can be valuable if you apply it . Expertise allows for more exploration and better contributions at individual and team levels. And it also can lead to….

Professional Advancement If you continue to develop your expertise, and then make efforts to apply it everyday or in appropriate occasions, the ladders can open up to you. While you don’t have to know everything to advance, knowing how to connect the dots or those who work with you and for you can be a major differentiator and career accelerator.

Be More Interesting What do you talk about with others? Do you complain about the weather? What’s happening on the news? Blah Blah Blah, same old stuff. What new do you have to offer that provides benefit to someone else? When you ABL, you can add to the lives of others and actually be the interesting person in the room that people gravitate to!

Open to New Opportunity When you take an ABL attitude, you can not only advance up the ladder, but up and around the jungle gym. New knowledge can take you to new places!

There are more reasons why ABL can be a positive force in your life – but I don’t want to keep you from getting out there and benefitting from making a difference with ABL! It doesn’t matter what you get interested in, and it can change from day to day or over longer periods of time. The way you learn may also change, but the important part is that you keep at it. The A stands for “Always”, of course, so you can put yourself in the best position possible to improve. Be a better you – remember, ABL!

How Slowing Down is Improving Life

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One thing my dad always jokingly reminded me about with my “athletic skill” (or lack thereof) was how slow I am. It wasn’t mean, only a reminder of the facts and that I needed to work harder than the competition to be able to play. I’m just not built for speed, no matter how hard I worked at it.  My all time best mile time is 7 minutes, flat. I don’t ever recall timing a 100 yard dash, or I’ve forgotten the times and buried them deep in a place where I don’t want to be reminded. In sports and in business it is all about speed. But earlier this month I finished Carl Honore’s book about embracing a different pace of life, In Praise of Slowness. This book was captivating from the start, and the author enhanced the academic and medical arguments for slowing down with his own experiences and the anecdotes of those he meets on his journey to study the slow movement.

The book takes compartmentalized adventures through different areas of our lives and environment, but ultimately all connect back to why slowing down creates benefits for each and for all who embrace the concept. While I won’t be starting campaigns to turn my city into a “Slow City”, there were a number of practices to take away and try in my life. At the same time I was reading this book, I began exploring meditation. My director at work had recommended an app called HeadSpace, and the recommendation combined with the convincing storytelling by Carl Honore compelled me to try the app also. While I have only used the guided meditation app four times, I’ve realized it is a critical tool not just for stress management, but life and health management.

In addition to the mind/body inclusion of meditation, at least irregularly for now, I began looking differently about how I approach everything. While I was near finishing the book, my husband Tom and I went out for a brunch in Boston. We had no plans for the day and took our time ordering. Either despite or because the restaurant was quiet with Bostonians and weekend brunchers escaping the city for Labor Day weekend, drink and food came quickly. With Massachusetts barring liquor sales on a Sunday before 10am, we did have to wait to order a cocktail.

Now before I continue, I have to point out that Tom is generally and perfectly a relaxed and low-key person – practically my foil to those who have known my intensity. To take in a brunch without being rushed is more in his nature than mine. I kept commenting to Tom how nice it was to relax and enjoy and not feel rushed. His reaction was less in awe than mine, to the effect of, of course, this is brunch, it is supposed to be relaxing!

And what were the results of my slow brunch? I tasted the flavors more intensely than I usually do. I ate less and only what I wanted (you know, the crispiest of the home fries are the only ones worth having!), resulting in a feeling of being satiated but not overfull. There was time for conversation with Tom, to notice the interior architectural details, and to wallow in the smells of coffee and toast. I was more aware of my surroundings and more immersed in the moment and where I was. And this is just brunch! And inspired by a book I wasn’t even done reading yet! The descriptions of the four to five hour dinners in Italy sounded confusing at first, but lounging through a 90 minute brunch when breakfast during the week is scarfing down some eggs and coffee started to change my view. Slowness is not about time, but about experience. Forget time. Being slow allows more ways to enjoy life and those we love and spend time with.

The “slow way” spilled over to work this week. With the approach in mind and meditation on my side from the night before, I focused singularly on tasks, ignored phone calls until I was in a mentally productive place to take them (not interrupting my task, and then wasting time – for both people – orienting to the needs of the caller), and took time out to properly plan the day and days ahead. My to do list was ambitious for the week, but I accomplished or made significant progress on almost everything. I was calm. Relaxed. Cool under pressure, even! Wow – what a change from stressed, harried, exhausted, and ragged. When I took my scheduled vacation day on Friday, there was little to worry about in escaping the office.

A good book, and especially the great ones, can be powerful motivators and influencers. When the topic influences the way you live almost immediately and with what seems to be (or I hope) long lasting behaviors, you know it is a good one. I would highly recommend this book, and even gave it 5 stars on Amazon. I’m usually not a five star person unless I am blown away, and In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore certainly made an impact. Because there is so much good reading to be done, I rarely re-read books, but anticipate referring back to some areas of this book as a reminder to slow down and take in life more fully.

I’m surprised, and shouldn’t be upon reflection, that slowing down is helping me achieve and accomplish more. While I may take breaks from work or side projects, I’m more refreshed and thoughtful during those breaks. Less TV, more walking. Social media is meant to educate and enlighten and share what piques my interest rather than get lost and be envious of others’ lives. I’m more motivated to execute on the workouts I’ve planned for myself, because I’m not worried about other things I could be doing. Instead, I’m focused on how great I feel during and after, filled with maybe an inappropriate amount of pride and accomplishment, but also satisfaction and feelings of better health (or at least on the road to it!).

The slow life must be welcomed rather than forced, but try reading the book In Praise of Slowness and filling your life with routines and actions that make you better personally, with others, and for others. I feel wildly improved over a short period of time and hope the same for you!

What life-altering books have you read lately? Are you living in praise of slowness also? Let me know in the comments!