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Think Like a Cat

Think Like a Cat

So a friend of mine is building a robot. Most things that get called robots are really nothing more than remote control cars with a few smarts, or telepresence vehicles. But this guy is all about the soul of the machine, the way the robot will consider things. And his model? He plans for his robot to think like a cat. (Disclosure: I’m not a “cat person”. I appreciate them, though.)

  • Cats Don’t Care About Details– When a cat enters a room, it looks around for: threats, creatures, food, places to sleep. There’s probably a process in their minds to determine how bad a threat is, who the creatures are (are they in my pride?), what type of food, but I think the details get fuzzy beyond that. (Any cat shrinks in the house?). How would you apply this to your life? Are the details of every little thing important? Or can you abstract things to the point of: “what do I need to survive, connect, eat, and sleep?”
  • Cats Don’t Need Maps– Programming a robot to move around is a pain, but cats just know the basic laws of physics (insofar as those apply to them). They know that up is often safer than ground-level, but that ground-level is more often where the food is. Everything else is just a navigation path, but not a map. Maps are too static. They don’t account for dynamics. Google Maps doesn’t tell you (yet) that a truck rolled over (is there a mashup for this that’s really good?). How would your day change if you threw away rigid schedules in exchange for a path that got you through to what you need?
  • Cats Exert Little Energy– Why search over and over for food? Find a source that seems easy to reach, easy to consume, and reasonable in taste, and call it good. A lot of what we do in life ends up drawing more energy out of us than necessary. Sure, we don’t have to be slugs and sleep 70% of the day, but maybe cats offer a great model for exertion with regards to reward. Make sure you’re not working too hard to get what you need. (We’ll cover this in an interview I plan to post).
  • Cats Don’t Deduce- They Just Take What’s There– Sometimes, we get into a habit of over-thinking things. We over-clock our ideas. This leads to double-guessing, reworking, and all other kinds of non-catlike behavior. One interpretation of Occam’s Razor is this: if it looks that way, it probably *is* that way. (WAY oversimplified, I admit). That’s similar to the power of Google. You know why Google works for most of the “weird” requests we give it? Because it’s “good enough.” And that’s often all we need to complete our task. Ditto for cats. How about you?
  • Cats Network Well– When a cat comes into the room, they “own” the room. They make an effort to move around, see who’s there, maybe rub legs with a few folks. They spend just enough love and attention with everyone (maybe not little folks) to give everyone a chance to connect with the cat. When you go to events, do you remember to own the room? Do you try to network and meet all the people in the room? What if everything you did in that room were an assessment of threat, ally, food, or recreation? Would that change your view?

You guys are great for letting me launch so many metaphor posts at you (analogy? – help me, grammarians!). I like them because they help me think about things in a different way. I am fond of saying: If I want to learn about new ways to do business, the last thing I’d do is read a business book. I hope you concur.

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–Chris Brogan writes about self improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com]. He’s helping to organize Podcamp Boston.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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