Self management for right brained people

I have thought about the topic of self management for right brained people a lot, as I am quite right brained and I have to spend an inordinate amount of energy on things like time management and organization. I do these things (fairly well, I like to think!) because I’ve learned I have to, but I don’t enjoy them. I get psychic brain drain doing these things…in fact, the reason I think I’m good at project management with technical people is a lot of technical people (especially the designer/architects) are right brained and I can empathize with them. Empathy is a great source of productivity with a team.

Enough about me. Productivity tools are generally designed for left brained people. Why? Because they love them. They need them far less than right brained people, but they are the ones that actually purchase/demand/use such products. This is a perpetual cycle. (This is true with many products. The cook book market is a great example. You would think people with few cook books would be a healthy market. It’s actually the people with 100 cook books that will buy their 101st that is the bigger source of demand. Even though they already know how to cook for themselves and don’t need it. I digress again. Maybe I’m letting myself be especially right brained for this post!)

Even books or tools that suggest they are “for right brained people” are not. They are the same thing packaged with empathy. “Try harder, we know you’re different and that’s ok. Place the calendar by your pillow.”

What I am currently thinking about are right brained tools and instruction for productivity designed by and for right brained people that take advantage of the strengths of right brained people.

One area I think has legs is monitoring. The goal — follow through — review loop (i.e. execution) for right brained people is tough to depend on because it is so linear. Right brained people tend to set goals they then forget about ten minutes later. And if they set up an oppressive regimen of some kind, it will get jettisoned. Finally if review requires measurement and if measurement requires reporting, there won’t be much to review. Reporting is a right-brain black hole.

A right brained approach would be to start with the review part and set up some kind of passive, automated monitoring and reporting method.

For a wacky example…let’s say the area is weight. Someone wants to lose weight. The normal (left brain) approach is to set a goal ( go from 200 to 175 in six weeks ), execute ( diet and exercise ), and monitor ( check weight, perhaps other stats routinely ).

The first thing to break for Mr. Right Brain is the last part. No reporting. Then with no reporting, the goal kind of goes out of sight, out of mind. Then with no goal in mind, the execution crumbles.

So we need to fix reporting. Mr. Right Brain cannot rely on himself to report. Period. (Normally, here the left brain authored manual would effectively say, “don’t be irresponsible.” Thus, it would also be a useless manual.) Mr. Right Brain, however, can be relied upon to go to great lengths to craft a way to automate such reporting. Perhaps he would actually invent a scale that would feed his nearby computer any non-zero measurements. Perhaps the scale would begin beeping once every thirty seconds after any 24 hour period of no non-zero measurements. Just a non-obtrusive beep. The next time Mr. Right Brain goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth (or anything else), the beep is audible. Reporting is automated.

The goal, weight loss, will still be forgotten if it is not kept in mind by an outside force. Mr. Right Brain cannot be relied upon to remember a commitment. That’s why the reporting feed should somehow interrupt (not too much!) Mr. Right Brain’s attention at least once a day.

I actually think those two areas are more critical for the Right Brainers, but the follow through/meat of the execution also has plenty of opportunity for getting Right-Brain juicy. One thing Right Brainers like is accomplishing two or more things at once. So with our example, a diet (preferrably provided by way of a periodic feed of recipes) that explores unusual foods could be a winner. Is it more inconvenient to have to go get unusual ingredients? Yes. Does it maintain Mr. Right Brain’s interest? Yes. Is it worth it? I don’t know. Mr. Right Brainer will find out from his automated weight report data. In fact, as long as the automated goal and monitoring system stays in place, Mr. Right Brain is free to explore other execution solutions at will.

We would not design machines to be right brainish, would we? We would want to design machines that are nice and logical with rigid instructions. So sometimes, we might ask, why would designing anything like the above make any sense? We might think we’re catering to unnecessary whims of Mr. Right Brain. We might think we’re being inefficient. It’s this “we” that is the curse of the left brain instruction manual. Right brain solutions accept the right brain reality as a given. The key is to know it’s not “just a workaround.” It is leveraging the right brain strengths. Did you notice in the above example, the automated scale thing would be valuable to a left brain person too? It’s just they wouldn’t bother with the trouble of making it because they are left-brain reliable enough to remember to check their weight daily on their own. But, Mr. Right Brain gets a psychic supercharge from the opportunity to craft the solution, and he probably has the ability and creativity to actually do it. Leverage right brain strength to compensate for right brain weakness.

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