Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sharpen Your Thinking by Learning How to Focus

One of the most important characteristics of successful thinkers is their ability to focus.

How many times has it happened to you that you spent some time and energy thinking about something and you ended up with a bunch of interesting ideas on all other problems except on the one that you had actually been required to think about? This will happen every time unless you manage to maintain a clear focus on the subject that you are thinking about.

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According to a famous expert on creative thinking Dr Edward de Bono, there are two types of focuses: Area Focus and Purpose Focus.

Area Focus
enables us to think broadly about some subject and generate all kinds of ideas connected to that subject. For example, let’s say that my Area Focus is this blog. In that case I will think about different topics that I could write about, ways to draw traffic to my blog, different design templates for my homepage, etc. Or, I could choose my backyard garden as an Area Focus for my thinking. In that case I will think about new plants that I could plant there, different ways to increase shade so I could spend more time lounging there; I will think of different types of garden furniture I could buy; or how to create interesting light effects during the night... Area Focus is particularly useful when we are looking for improvements or planning future steps in the development of some project because it can help us discover new and interesting opportunities.

In Purpose Focus we think about a specific problem that we want to solve or purpose that we wish to achieve. This is the most common type of Focus that we encounter in everyday thinking and therefore it is important to learn how to define it. With Purpose Focus we need to ask ourselves ’How do we..?’ or ’What are the ways to...?’ How can I create some time during the day to do exercise? How can we make our sales process more efficient? What are the ways to create friendlier atmosphere in our restaurant? How can we attract more affluent shoppers into our show room? In what ways could I make my kid keep his room tidy? These are some examples of well defined Purpose Focuses.
Now that you learned how to distinguish between the two types of focuses, it is time to put this knowledge into practice. Here are some tips that might help you focus better while searching for new ideas.

Define your Focus in just one sentence.
Clear your Focus of all unnecessary elements and pay attention to the core of your problem or a specific goal that you want to achieve.

Write your Focus somewhere where you will be able to see it while searching for new ideas.
Sometimes we get distracted during the thinking process and our thoughts go astray. Write your Focus on a piece of paper, whiteboard or a sticky note and paste it on your screen. This way you will constantly be reminded of your Focus and able to keep your mind close to the subject of your thinking.

Set a time limit for your thinking.
You will tend to concentrate better on your Focus when you have limited time to think about some problem. This works particularly well if you are doing group thinking. Sometimes when I brainstorm new ideas with the creative team I set up a precise time limit and we usually manage to generate lots of new ideas before the end of our session.

Discipline yourself.
If you are in a group avoid discussing about things and ideas that have nothing to do with the particular Focus. If you are on your own and looking for the inspiration on Internet, avoid going to pages that are interesting but do not offer answers to the Focus in question.

Never stick to an idea that you personally find interesting but that does not provide right answer to the Focus. Do not try to artificially link it to the Focus, drop it and move on to another idea.

Be prolific.
Write down all the ideas that pop up during thinking process. Do not censure yourself and other members of your team. Gather all ideas in one place so that later you can come back, challenge them and decide which ones have the best potential and should be further developed.

Edward de Bono is regarded by many as the leading authority in the field of creative thinking, innovation and the direct teaching of thinking as a skill. He is equally renowned for his development of the Six Thinking Hats® technique and the Direct Attention Thinking Tools™ (D.A.T.T.™) framework. If you are anxiuos to learn more about creativethinking, I suggest you visit his website.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Creative Cooking – Learning to Enjoy Cooking

There are some talents that we never discover simply because we do not try certain things. I had never considered cooking a particularly interesting activity till the day I moved to live on my own and had no one to cook for me. Only then did I discover the fantastic world of spices, exotic oils and vinegars, seductive sauces and sweet creams that can brighten your day no matter how stressed out you might feel.

I have never read any cook book, in fact, out of hundreds of books that I possess none of them has anything to do with cooking. I usually prepare my meals relying on common sense and recipes that I picked up watching TV or assisting my friends while they were cooking. As a child I used to spend lots of time with my granny helping her around the kitchen so I learned many recipes from her without actually being aware of it. I only realized it decades ago when I started to cook and somehow was able to prepare most of her favourite meals. Nowadays, whenever I am not sure how to prepare a particular dish I ring my mum and ask her for a piece of advice.

Twitter 365 Project - Day 9
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I usually cook simple meals because they are fast and easy to prepare. I prefer simple living so I guess that attitude is reflected in my cooking. I will describe here some of my favourite dishes. If you also have talent for cooking, maybe you can send me your favourite recipe, just keep it simple, please.

My favourite starter is mozzarella with some oregano, basil and baby tomatoes sprinkled with olive oil. It reminds me of Italy, lazy Mediterranean afternoons and waves rolling under my window.

I simply love white vegetable soup. I prepare it with lots of different vegetables: cauliflower, peas, green beans, carrots, corn, Brussels sprouts and chicken breasts. When everything is nicely cooked I add some white cream and spices: pepper, salt, parsley, thyme, shallot... I particularly enjoy it on cold, rainy days when everything around me is dull and grey. My white soup always helps me restore energy and good moods.

Main dish
Chicken with vegetables is absolutely the easiest meal you can possibly think of. You simply cut vegetables: potatoes, paprika, onion, broccoli... into small pieces and you add some olive oil and salt. You cover chicken in spices (I use ready-made mix that I buy in the supermarket), put it in a plastic bag together with the vegetables and you bake it in the oven. Do not overheat the oven so that it can slowly cook in its own juices. Serve it hot and eat it using fingers. Food always tastes better this way because you are able to feel extra sensations while holding warm pieces of meat in your hand; or while dipping bread into tasty vegetables or while licking spices off your fingers.

My absolute favourite is a brown cake that I make from flour, yogurt, eggs, butter and cocoa powder. Before baking it in the oven I either add to the mixture some crashed nuts or dried fruit, or small pieces of dark chocolate. This way the cake is different every time but it is always equally tasty. OMG how I like the sweet smell of hot cake rising from the oven. I usually prepare it with extra cocoa powder so that it becomes really, really brown and rich in chocolate. It is so dark and sexy, it makes you instantly fall in love with it.

My favourites are red wine and dark beer, the choice depends on the mood and the food that is on the menu. During the day I usually drink water or kombucha drink that I produce myself with a little help from my kombucha mushroom called George.

Secret behind god cooking
In order to prepare meals that everyone will enjoy you need passion and motivation. So all you have to do is find someone special that you will cook for and then add some of love that you feel for that person into your cooking. It is as simple as that!

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Handmade Toys Can Spark Your Child’s Creativity

I am in the late thirties and although most of the toys that I played with as a child were bought in shop I still remember playing with those that my dad made for me.
One of the most interesting was a detector radio. We spent quite some time that day stretching a wire antenna around a living room window. And then the magic started: I was able to hear the first sounds of the radio programme caught on our handmade radio receiver.

Being a parent has never been an easy job.
Toy makers know this very well. They also know that parents will never pinch pennies when trying to make their children happy, satisfied and occupied. Toy industry is moving forward even in the time of crisis and, as time goes by, all kinds of new and hi-tech toys are being presented to children and their parents. Today, toys are factory manufactured because nobody has time to build handmade toys even for the sake of making their own children happy. If you believe that it is pointless to invest time and energy in making toys when you can get them in the nearest shop (and some of them are really cheap) here are a few reasons that should change your mind.

Time spent with your child making a toy can become a very special time for both of you.
You will be able to communicate and bond with your child. You will offer your child an opportunity to learn something from you. While constructing toys children develop their motor skills and learn about process of planning and manufacturing things. They also get to use their imagination, because, we first have to imagine things so that later we can create them. During the process of making toys children are faced with various problems that they have to solve along the way (like putting all the parts together, looking for alternatives if there is a missing part, thinking of how to improve the design...), thus their intelligence is challenged and developed.

People who had these kinds of experiences in their childhood years later tend to possess more self confidence and to rely more on their own abilities and devices. They are also likely to be more independent and proactive. They understand better manual work and they know how to appreciate and value it. But above all, these individuals grow up to become more creative thinkers. And there is also one more important thing. They all have life long memories of time spent with their parents making their favourite toys. I still keep in the box the detector radio from the beginning of the text and a blue soft-toy frog stuffed with rice that my mum and I made when I was really small.
Is this a Toyota, Smart, police car, a racing car...?
In you child’s mind’s eye it can be any, or all of these!
In the photo: ROLOBOX Reusable Wheel Kit for Boxes
See how it works on video

With the development of technology toys are becoming more and more elaborate and complicated to construct - they contain chips, batteries and led displays and they blink, roll, cry and sneeze. They are so illustrative in their nature that they do not require any imaginative effort on the behalf of the children who simply use them without having to be mentally or creatively involved in the process of playing with them.
Buying toys is sometimes a compensation for not spending enough time with your children. Quick fix for keeping children busy and entertained. Don’t be one of those parents! You can surely do better than that. Both you and your child deserve that!

Internet is full of web sites and blogs where you can find ideas and tutorials about how to make toys. I stumbled upon an interesting site about paper toys, a site with tutorials for making toys for very young kids and even one site about science based toys.

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If you wish to further explore this topic, you can check out the selection of my favourite books about creative thinking.

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