Eureka Moments: Part Two – Systems

Systems are important to creativity for two reasons: systems capture your ideas and actions so nothing is left to chance by you or your team; and once you’ve captured your ideas and you are confident they are well and truly captured, you then have the freedom to focus on the tasks at hand. So, does it make sense to have a system, or group of systems? Absolutely, but what works best for you? First, there are two internal components, habits and time value. Then there are the external components, the tools that create or maintain a system.


For any system to work it must first become a habit. To form a habit, you must do the thing for 21 days. Dr. Maxwell Maltz in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, wrote, “Brain circuits take engrams (memory traces), and produce neuroconnections and neuropathways only if they are bombarded for 21 days in a row. This means that our brain does not accept “new” data for a change of habit unless it is repeated each day for 21 days (without missing a day).” Clearly, we do something over and over it will become a habit. I got it, but how about for 7 days . . . maybe 10 day?

Know What Your Time Is Worth

If a thing has no value it follows, it isn’t worth much and will be discarded. Perhaps hiring someone to do something for you is better than doing it yourself. Sometimes one action affects another. As it happens spending smarter saves time as well as money. Therefore, calculate the value of your time and use it accordingly. Stick to the things you do well, and leave the other things to those who are better equipped to do them. That’s a rational approach don’t you think?
We’ve identified and considered the two internal components. We know they have to be a part of any system. How about the tools that help us systemize our life and enable creativity. This could be an almost endless list so let’s confine them to two categories; software, and third-party hacks.

Productivity Software

Assuming you have a computer, it’s a good guess it’s a PC, not a MAC, but even if it’s a  MAC there are productivity programs for you as well . . . back to the PC . . . When you purchased your computer it came with an operating system and a program  named OUTLOOK. OUTLOOK has all the elements of a productivity system built into a single program and then some. It will allow you to keep a calendar and a task list as well as communicate. It is a relational database with select bells and whistles.

Within the Microsoft arena there is the spreadsheet EXCEL. With EXCEL anyone can create a productivity system of their own design simply and quickly with user-defined fields.

There is a particularly interesting piece of software, MindManager, which is based on graphic visualization developed 3rd century thinker Prophyry of Tyros. Then in the 1950’s, Allan Collins developed what was known as semantic networks, and his work was expanded by Psychologist Tony Buzan. This program allows the user to identify, quantify, and qualify concepts, ideas through brainstorming in a graphical and hierarchical manor. Because of it visual component, it is ideal as a productivity system. Mind Manager, is a product of MindJet, has a GANTT chart capability through a third party and-on and is not free.

Sticky Notes, Post-It-Notes if you prefer, those ubiquitous little squares of yellow with sticky goop on the back for affixing to monitors, mirrors, or pages of important text have been with us since 1968. Placed end-to-end they would . . . well, who knows how far they would stretch between here and the moon. They have become indispensible to all functioning offices, but they can’t be stuck to a word document until now. A brilliant young Brit developed the Acme of stickiness called simply, Stickies, that does exactly what’s needed. They stick to a computer desktop, or to a page within a document. They are printable, “roll-up” and become less opaque as they sit, quietly waiting, for you to bring them up. They are a product of Zhorn Software, and they’re free.

Paper versions

You’ve heard the names for years; DayTimer, Franklin Covey, DayRunner, At-A-Glance, etc. These are the paper versions of OUTLOOK, and for many, remain in vogue. Small (usually), light, and easily transported, they require only a pencil. They don’t plug into anything except you brain, but with the advent of the small, light weight laptop computer, are flammable dinosaurs.

Them What Know

There are a number of them, all making claims. They inhabit every corner of the Internet. They have the answers, just ask them. Send them your credit card number, and they will make your life organized and complete. Never give anyone money to tell or show you what you already know.

No matter the system(s) you chose, in the final analysis, productivity success depends on the individual. Create useful habits, use the tools available, form good habits, value your time, and be committed to your goal.

Eureka Moments: Making Creativity a Habit

When you’re working away, struggling with Thos. Edison’s “other” 99% of genius, don’t over look the role plain old “routine” plays in that sometime’s elusive factor . . . creativity.

Routine is the mother of creativity. Routine is to creativity as circadian rhythms are to sleep and arousal. Our “rhythms” determine what times during the day, or for some of us the wee early morning hours, we are most susceptible to creative endeavors.  When we combine our rhythms with familiar surroundings, certain music, I’m partial to Sebelius and Pachelbel’s Canon in G Major, and our favorite coffee blend, we are most likely to be at our most creative. In other words; use tools with which you are familiar in familiar surroundings, at the same time everyday and you’re most like to find yourself in your very own “zone.”

So, the music is right, I’m in front of the fireplace, its mid-morning, and I’ve a nice cup of steeped Earl Grey on the table next to me . . . just waiting for creativity to strike . . . maybe I’m missing something? What was Edison’s other 1% of genius . . . inspiration?

In weeks to come, we’ll examine the roles of “systems” and “spontaneity” in our Eureka Moments.

Business Morning Update: Business Scams and Shams

In the early hours of the 2nd Thursday of every month, Hendersonville’s (North Carolina) business community gathers for networking and a program of speakers with topics of local interest. This happens at The Chariot on the corner of North Church Street and 7th Ave West with parking on the other side of 7th Ave West. December’s edition brought a discussion of Henderson County’s agricultural status, apples specifically, a look at trends in recent local elections, and a presentation by the WNC Better Business Bureau ( about scams and schemes for which local businesses should be aware. (Click here for PowerPoint) Here are a couple of scams and schemes for businesses to keep in mind:

Advance Fee Loan Brokers – Businesses sometimes, these times, find themselves in a very uncomfortable liquidity, or cash flow situation. Then the answer to their financial woes arrives in the form of an ad in a newspaper or trade magazine offering “money to lend.” What they find at the other end of the phone is a broker who requires an upfront “fee” for finding and arranging a loan. The broker sounds reasonable so the business owner pays the fee only never receives a loan or return of the broker’s fee.

The Pro-forma Invoice – Here’s how this one works. The accounts receivable clerk receives an “invoice for inclusion in a directory or for advertising. It looks legitimate, and is rationalized by, “yep . . . this is something the boss would order.” Only the boss didn’t order it, but the clerk pays the invoice. The pro-forma invoice scam has been around a long time and will be around a long time. Train your employee’s well, and if you don’t have a second line of oversight! The Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association say they estimate $500 million is collected annual by con artists.

Norma Messer, Asheville and Western North Carolina BBB President reminds us, “Protect your business! Know your rights. Assign designated buyers and document your purchases. Check your documentation before paying your bills. And . . . train your staff.