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The Idea Generator Brings Brainstorming to the iPhone and iPod Touch Platform

The Idea Generator Brings Brainstorming to the iPhone and iPod Touch Platform
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    Considering the variety of applications you can download for the iPhone and iPod Touch from Apple’s comprehensive AppStore, it was only a matter of time until someone introduced a brainstorming tool for these popular devices: The Idea Generator. Developed by creative consultancy The Director’s Bureau, this intriguing tool uses randomly-displayed words to help you generate ideas for your next creative project.

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    The user interface of the Idea Generator is a marvel of elegance and simplicity, and it’s fun to use. Three concentric circles fill the screen, emblazoned with random words. Situated horizontally across the middle of the screen is a display bar, which appears to have a magnifier embedded within it. This window displays the words selected by the Idea Generator. At the hub of the wheel is an icon with two arrows, which, when pressed, spins the counter-rotating wheels. You can also spin the wheels by shaking the iPhone, adding a fun element to your brainstorming session. When the wheels stop spinning, the display bar shows three words, which you can use as stepping stones to creative ideas.

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    For example, one recent session displayed the words “multi-lingual,” “rubber” and “hotel.” Sounds kinky, eh? Actually, you’re not supposed to take the words literally. Their main value is to be a stepping stone to productive ideas. For example, the words multi-lingual and hotel could lead to a new concept for a chain of hotels with the atmosphere of an international youth hostel. Or you might take the word rubber and spend some time thinking about its inherent qualities (cushioning, resilient, etc.), and how you could apply one of those to your current creative challenge.

    If none of these randomly-selected words connects with your muse, you can simply push the spin button or shake the iPhone again, and three more random words will appear in the selection window. If you find one or two words that you really like, you can use small lock buttons embedded in the display bar to lock those words in place, and spin the remaining wheels to generate additional keyword stimuli. I found this to be a little bit like playing a hand of poker, in which you hold on to one or two cards, while discarding the rest of your hand and asking the dealer for several new ones. You don’t know what you’re going to get, but there’s always the potential to improve your hand!

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    The Idea Generator is simple enough that you can begin brainstorming with it immediately. But you can vastly increase its utility by customizing its word database. Clicking a small button in the lower right hand corner of the program’s screen gives you access to a “word lists” screen, where you can delete words from the left, middle and right word lists and add your own ones to customize it to your needs, your industry or your profession. Another possibility is to find a list of words that are known to stimulate creative thought, and add them to your Idea Generator. One source for those is Michael Michalko’s excellent book, Thinkertoys. Another is Gerald Haman’s popular brainstorming tool, the KnowBrainer.

    In short, the Idea Generator is a marvelous little tool that can help you to generate valuable ideas and can take your thinking in fresh new directions. It’s available for download from the Apple AppStore, accessible from your iPhone or iPod Touch. At $.99, the Idea Generator one of the least expensive brainstorming tools you’ll find anywhere.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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