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Speed reading: Setting objectives and previewing

Memory: Remembering names and faces

Creativity: Random words


Random words:

Creativity can be sparked by anything that shifts your frame of reference to a novel place.
One technique for this is to use a random word.
If you've never tried this take 10 minutes to give it ago now. You'll be surprised at the results!

Step 1: Choose a random word from the dictionary. Nouns work best. Or use the table below. Don't change your word, even if you can't see any connection yet just stick with it.

Step 2: Freely associate (list any properties, uses or connected words of the object) on the random word for a couple of minutes without thinking about your problem.

Step 3: Write out the challenge you need a creative solution to as a question to yourself:
E.g. How can I market my company in a completely different way?

Step 4: Tell yourself there is a connection between your problem and the list of words you now have from step 2.

Step 5: Make sure you record even the oddest thoughts that come - they can often lead to later insights that you wouldn't have reached any other way.


sticky tape envelope football daffodil train dragon bee watch
plastic bag sink knife rave glue barbecue butterfly mouse
ice berg storm pub pyramid compass light council library
clock paint wolf zoo razor heart snake tree
oceans moon pencil oil medicine soil pump rainbow
wine judge car park kettle bag pig bath spaghetti
bear rubber swimming camera gate referee glasses bowl
sun hospital digestive system thief map shark police knot
bench envelope rain radio violin house notebook chimney
bubbles island doughnut jelly bean sunrise key pyramid chameleon
diamond tree dog onion ant subway knot panda
fly fossil tv prison school peanut apple ruler
snake field rope magnet fox worm planet opera
choir lorry boat potato trousers mirror sauce pan pill
post box brush sandpaper ring film museum sand water
mud fire squirrel seed weed piano flower computer

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Remembering names and faces

Most people have trouble with names and faces. The main reason is that the introduction takes place so quickly (whilst you are also thinking about the conversation to come) that the information doesn't have chance to move into long term memory. If you think about a conversation at a meeting the introductions may be over in just 30 seconds. You need to think about things for about 2 minutes to get them into long term memory.

Step 1: Slow down the introductions, particularly if you are going to meet lots of other people that day.
First part - get them to repeat their name again (you can pretend that the background noise is making it hard to hear) then repeat their full name, including their surname back to them and check that it is right. If you need to spell it, check that too (although this is better done by asking for a business card).

Second part - teach them your name by making a little story about it (for instance my name is Greenhall so I get people to think about a hall decked with flowers and greenery, I also find I gesture it with my hands. You'll often find people reciprocate similarly with their name.

If you have time you can ask questions about their surname, but don't get too personal and remember this is not very useful with married women as it isn't their original surname.

Step 2: Pay attention to their face. Look for distinguishing features (clothes and often hair are not to be used as they might have changed next time you meet them). In many cultures it is rude to stare too long at person so we look over their shoulder, above their head or at their body, so try not to do this all in one go but keep refocusing on their face.

Step 3: Attach their name to their face. This can be done on a couple of ways.
You can make up a visual story in your mind and attach it to their face, the sillier and the more movement the better. E.g. for Greenhall you could image a green hall on their nose with roses escaping from inside.

Or you could (and you can do both) repeat their first name at least 5 times in a 10 minute conversation by tagging it on the end of comments. I've done this in many training sessions and the volunteer hasn't even noticed. Don't use their surname out loud but do add it silently in your head.

Step 4: Reinforcement.
If you are meeting a lot of people you will need to reinforce the above. Take a couple of minutes straight after the meeting to recall everything you can on the person, make note (backs of business cars are good or use a notebook or PDA). Including whilst you do thinking hard about their face. Redo this 24 hours later and next time you meet them you should be able to get their name.

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Speed Reading

This hint is really about effective use of reading material, without learning to read faster you can deal with documents much quicker.

Step 1: Write an objective for the reading material.
Consider what information you need and what you will use it for.

Step 2: Read only the contents or introduction and index or summary (depending on the reading material)

Step 3: Do a very quick preview - look at every page for only 3 seconds. Don't slow down or pause, you can stick bookmarks in and note page numbers but just keep going to the end of the document. Look for the structure of the document and any parts relevant to your objective.
It is often a revealing and very interesting exercise to describe the document to someone else at this point - you'll be amazed at how much you've picked up.

Step 4: Revisit your objective, is it still achievable? Do you actually need to read the document? Do you need to rewrite your objective?

Step 5: Now read only the parts of the document you need to.

Step 6: If it's difficult to understand and you can don't re-read it the same day. Read it once (after the preview) then do a review in exactly the same way but then don't re-read the document until he next day as your sleeping brain sorts out lots of difficult information.

Using the above you should be able to get everything you need from a 10 page document in 10 minutes.

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©Margaret Greenhall 2005