Being able to constantly generate new ideas is a skill that everyone should aim to excel at. Having a ton of ideas every time you want is not only possible, but it’s also a cure for procrastination as you would always have something important to do whenever you have some free time.
I want to make it crystal clear why it’s extremely important for you to be able to generate new ideas quickly. Let’s say that you don’t have a job, the economy is bad and you need to find something to do very quickly. What if you could generate a dozen new ideas to make some money every day? Wouldn’t that be useful? Another common situation is when you have a blog or website and you don’t know what to write about. Most blogs are abandoned by their owners after one single post because they didn’t know what to write about more. The list of benefits of having tons of new ideas doesn’t stop here, the possibilities are endless like the benefits that you may have from them.
Fortunately for us, having a constant flow of new, great ideas is not only possible but also easy to do. Below are four proven and easy to follow methods that you can integrate in your life in a matter of minutes, but benefit you for a long time.
Method 1: Keep a notebook with you all the times
Before trying to get new ideas, you should be able to track them. Carrying a small notebook with you all the time is the single most important thing that you can do to keep track of all the ideas that you’ll have during your days. You can fit a small notebook with a pen in your pocket, or you can use your cellphone or pda if you’re more comfortable with it.
The reason why having a notebook with you all the time is so important is because of how our brain works. Have you ever listened to a song for which you couldn’t recall the name, and then after two days in a totally unrelated situation (perhaps while taking a shower) all of a sudden you remembered it? That happened because while you were moving on with your life, your brain was still trying to search for the title of the song, and when it got the answer it just sent it back to you. Note that the brain doesn’t wait for you to be in a comfortable situation for sending you back the information you need, so you’d better be prepared in advance. That’s the reason why having a notebook with you all the times is so important.
What should you write in your notebook? Everything that you want to remember. Then every evening review and organize your notes in a way that is more manageable for you. Here’s how I would do it:
- Put together all the notes that you may have in your cellphone, notebook or anything else that you may have used for keeping track of your ideas.
- For each note do the following: if it’s something that’s part of a bigger list, like an idea for a blog post, write it on a bigger list where you keep track of all the ideas that belongs to that argument. If it’s something that you want to do in the future, write it on a someday list.
Method 2: Use mind maps
Having a notebook with you all the times is a great way for keeping track of all the ideas that you may have during the day, but what if you need something specific right now? Let’s say that you have a blog, and you want to write down and plan your next 10 posts ideas, how can you do that?
Mind maps are made for that. You start from a central idea and evolve it as much as you need it. Below is a picture of a typical mind map, in case you don’t know how they look like:
Here are some tips that you can use for creating your mind map:
- Use colors. Colors might appear to be unnecessary at first, yet they are extremely important as they stimulate your brain in a positive way. Same thing happens for images. Use lots of colors and images in your mind map if you want to maximize its usefulness.
- Pay attention to connections. The secret behind mind maps is the ability to create connections starting from a central idea. Start by connecting the most important topics to your central idea, and evolve it from there. If you feel like something is missing, draw an empty branch, and you’re brain will be more inclined to complete that missing connection.
- Get back to it often. The best idea may come to you after many hours that you started your mind map. That’s why I recommend keeping your mind map on the table for a few hours or even a few days and to get back to it quite often. Even if you have nothing new to add, it’s still a good idea to red again what you wrote before.
Mind maps are not useful just for generating ideas. They’re also a great tool for learning. I highly recommend that you check out the mind maps book.
Method 3: Talk with other people about your problem
Another good way to brainstorm new ideas is to talk with other people. When we think about something for a long time, our thoughts become very focused and narrow and we may be missing something that would be obvious for someone else. When I recognize this state of mind on myself, I simply ask my to someone around me: hey, I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, do you have any idea about it?
Another reason why talking with other people is effective is because as you try to explain something to someone else, your brain will be more likely to give you new ideas. Have you ever asked someone for help and then got the solution while you were still talking to them?.
Method 4: Search for similar topics in the internet
This method may be useful when you’re trying to compile a big list, or for when you need some inspiration.
There are many ways that you can use internet for brainstorming, but I’mm only go through two of them here. The first one is to start with a quick search, and go through all the relevant results. For example, if you’re making a list of the top 10 new cars of August 2010, you would do a search for cars produced in August 2010 and analyze each result.
The previous method works well when you know exactly what you’re looking for and the information is already out there. What if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for or there’s not much information available? In this case I would go to some related forum or social network and ask some questions. People are generally nice and willing to help, so 9 times out of 10 you’ll find what you’re looking for with ease.
By following these simple techniques you’re going to get a lot of new ideas, much more than you can possibly manage to do. Not all the ideas will be worth doing though, and the secret is to select the most important ones each time.
The following are some exercises that you can do to reinforce the concepts that you have learned in this article:
- Write down 50 business ideas or problems that you have and that you’d like to solve.
- If you have a blog, make a list of your next 10 posts.
- Make a list of 3 things that you could do right now to improve your life.