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Published on December 14, 2020

How to Get 1000 Good Ideas Without Trying Hard

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How to Get 1000 Good Ideas Without Trying Hard

You’ve probably been in this situation: You think of something great and tell yourself, “I’ll remember that for later.” By the time you need the idea, you’ve forgotten it. Another common scenario is that you have an innovative thought, but you don’t recognize that it’s special. Learning how to get more ideas may be as simple as remembering and recognizing.

When you ignore or forget your random thoughts, you deprive yourself of a goldmine of ideas. Usually, the creative spark arises when we least expect it.

Ideas Are Already in Your Mind

A person has an average of 50,000 thoughts per day[1]. That’s an impressive number that should translate into an abundance of ideas. Now, sit down and try to recall what you’ve thought about today. You’d be lucky to remember 100 things that crossed your mind.

It isn’t that you don’t think of good ideas. It’s just that you can’t remember them. Human memory is not reliable. Why?

We Deliberately Forget Things

Humans are wired to forget things, but it’s for our own good. Your brain has to sort through so many thoughts and stimuli. If it treated all information equally, you’d feel overwhelmed, and your brain would be inefficient. Your mind actively works to weed out unimportant information to keep you from going insane[2].

This proves that forgetting some things is good for us, but it doesn’t explain why we forget things we want to remember. The problem is that many of our most creative ideas emerge when we’re operating in a diffused mode of thinking.

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Your brain enters a diffused mode when you aren’t directly focused on anything[3]. This helps your mind process complex problems while you work on other tasks. You might be taking a walk or showering when your best ideas hit. Most of us don’t bother to jot down our thoughts when we are doing these things. By the time you sit down at your desk again, the ideas are long gone.

Your Brightest Ideas

If you sit down with the intention of forcing ideas out of your head, you probably won’t succeed. You can’t pull out a notebook and expect your brain to deliver the same types of thoughts you had in diffused mode. That’s because when you concentrate on one task, you’re operating in focused mode[4]. In focused mode, you fixate on one problem, and there is no opportunity for random thoughts.

Instead of staring at a blank page, the key is to do something else. Go for a walk, or have a cup of coffee. Choose something that requires minimal mental or physical effort. Keep a recording tool, such as your notebook, with you but out of sight. As long as your notebook is out of sight but within reach, you’ll free your brain from its focused state[5].

Be sure to have recording mechanisms in your best thinking spots. You might need a waterproof notepad by the shower, or a voice recorder for your walks. Have them ready, and relax into your task.

Forcing Ideas Never Works

Knowing that your best ideas come when you aren’t trying to have them means that you need to save up your best thoughts for times when you need them. When you don’t store your ideas in advance, you’ll have to spend more time coming up with them. Instead of brainstorming on the fly, wouldn’t it be great to have a notebook to refer back to for inspiration?

Creative people don’t force ideas out of their minds. They put systems in place to see connections that other people miss. As Steve Jobs once explained[6],

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“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something…”

He’s describing creativity, but he’s also describing how innovators put diffused thinking to work for them. Creative people connect the dots.

Figure out What to Write Down

It’s important to know when and what to write down. Not all ideas are worthy of a place in your notebook. Knowing which ones are comes with practice.

1. Don’t Jot Down Everything

If you tried to write down all 50,000 thoughts that enter your mind every day, you’d never get anything done. After you have your recording devices in place, you need to decide what’s worth remembering.

Most of your thoughts are just mental chatter, but there will be a few gems worth noting. Write down any thought that breaks from traditional thinking. If it’s different from the way most people approach a topic, you may want to remember it.

2. Make Notes of Insights Related to Your Area of Expertise

Those ideas have a higher probability of being useful to you.

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Imagine you’re sitting on an airplane. While you’re cruising at 30,000 feet, you probably aren’t focused on anything in particular. Your brain is in diffused mode, and it’s chattering away[7]. You might think to yourself, “Where’s the toilet? The flush on this toilet scares me. Is the person beside me going to snore the whole time? The sky is so blue; what if we could live in the clouds?”

One of these bits of chatter is not like the others. Thinking about the toilets or the person beside you is not going to help you long-term. There’s no need to jot those down. “What if we could live in the clouds?” is unique. If you work for a tech company, this might prompt you to take your research and development in a new direction. If you’re an author, this could be the premise of a novel.

3. Don’t Judge Too Much

It’s common to be uncertain about what to write. You might not recognize a great idea when it comes to you. Don’t let uncertainty hold you back. It’s okay if you jot down a few bad ideas.

The trick is to review your thoughts on a frequent basis. Go through your ideas once every week, and sort the good from the bad. Then, organize the good ones so that you can access them when you need them.

For example, if you have a bunch of ideas for your blog, take some time to outline them. Come up with what you’d talk about for each topic and how a post about that topic could be valuable for your readers. If an idea is bad, you won’t be able to flesh it out, or it won’t meet your needs. For good ideas, you’ll have a tangible outline that you can go back to later. It’s harder to forget your idea after you’ve spent some time with it.

4. Organize Your Ideas Later

It’s possible to go overboard when you’re trying to develop a new way to keep track of your random thoughts. You don’t have to organize your ideas as soon as you jot them down. Organizing your ideas takes time, and, as I mentioned before, some of your ideas won’t be good. It would be inefficient to waste time organizing bad ideas. It’s better to review your thoughts, eliminate the bad ideas, and then organize.

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Many of us also worry about handwriting, grammar, and vocabulary when we write. Editing yourself is useful when you send emails or write memos, but you don’t need to self-edit when you’re scribbling your ideas. Write the thoughts exactly as they come to you. You can clean them up later if they turn out to be useful.

Final Thoughts

When you offer your brain the opportunity to process, you’ll gain amazing insights.

Give yourself at least three times during the week for diffused thinking. This could mean that you schedule three walks or other relaxing tasks during your week. (Don’t forget to take your recording device with you.) If you work in a creative field, you may need to give yourself time for diffused thinking every day.

Remember, you don’t need to go into your relaxed activity with a specific target in mind. Simply allow thoughts to come and go. You’d be amazed at all the great ideas waiting for the chance to be heard.

More on How to Get More Ideas

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

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What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Do you play the drums or do watercolor paintings? Perhaps compose songs or direct plays? Can you even relate to any of these so called ‘creative’ experiences? Growing up, did you ever have that ‘artistic’ sibling or friend who excelled in drawing, playing instruments or literature? And you maybe wondered why you can’t even compose a birthday card greeting–or that drawing stick figures is the furthest you’ll ever get to drawing a family portrait. Many people have this common assumption that creativity is an inborn talent; only a special group of people are inherently creative, and everyone else just unfortunately does not have that special ability. You either have that creative flair or instinct, or you don’t. But, this is far from the truth! So what is creativity?

What Is Creativity?

Creativity Needs an Intention

Another misconception about the creative process is that you can just be in a general “creative” state. Real creativity isn’t about coming up with “eureka!” moments for random ideas. Instead, to be truly creative, you need to have a direction. You have to ask yourself this question: “What problem am I trying to solve?” Only by knowing the answer to this question can you start flexing your creativity muscles. Often times, the idea of creativity is associated with the ‘Right’ brain, with intuition and imagination. Hence a lot of focus is placed on the ‘Right’ brain when it comes to creativity. But, to get the most out of creativity, you need to utilize both sides of your brain–Right and Left–which means using the analytical and logical part of your brain, too. This may sound surprising to you, but creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. And, problem solving inherently involves logic and analysis. So instead of throwing out the ‘Left’ brain, full creativity needs them to work in unison. For example, when you’re looking for new ideas, your ‘Left’ brain will guide you to a place of focus, which is based on your objective behind the ideas you’re searching for. The ‘Right’ brain then guides you to gather and explore based on your current focus. And when you decide to try out these new ideas, your ‘Right’ brain will give you novel solutions outside of the ones you already know. Your ‘Left’ brain then helps you evaluate and tune the solutions to work better in practice. So, logic and creativity actually work hand in hand, and not one at the expense of the other.

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Creativity Is a Skill

At the end of the day, creativity is a skill. It’s not some innate or natural born talent that some have over others. What this means is that creativity and innovation can be practiced and improved upon systematically.A skill can be learned and practiced by applying your strongest learning styles. Want to know what your learning style is? Try this test. A skill can be measured and improved through a Feedback Loop, and can be continuously upgraded over time by regular practice. Through regular practice, your creativity goes through different stages of proficiency. This means that you can become more and more creative! If you never thought that creativity was relevant to you, or that you don’t have a knack for being creative… think again! You can use creativity in any aspect of your life. In fact you should use it, as it will allow you to to break through your usual loop, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you to grow and try new things. Creativity will definitely give you an edge when you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with new solutions.

How Creativity Works

Let me break another misconception about creativity, which is that it’s only used to create completely “new” or “original” things. Again, this is far from the truth. Because nothing is ever completely new or original. Everything, including works of art, doesn’t come from nothing. Everything derives from some sort of inspiration. That means that creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.From this perspective, you can see a lot of creativity in action. In technology, Apple combines traditional computers with design and aesthetics to create new ways to use digital products. In music, a musician may be inspired by various styles of music, instruments and rhythms to create an entirely new type of song. All of these examples are about connecting different ideas, finding common ground amongst the differences, and creating a completely new idea out of them.

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Can I Be Creative?

The fact is, that everyone has an innate creative ability. Despite what most people may think, creativity is a skill that everyone can learn and hone on. It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input. How is that so? You’ll have to start by expanding your definition of creativity. Ironically, you have to be creative and ‘think out of the box’ with the definition! Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems. So, if you encounter different challenges and problems that need solving on a regular basis, then creativity is an invaluable skill to have.Let’s say, for example, that you work in sales. Having creativity will help you to look for new ways to approach and reach out to potential customers. Or perhaps you’re a teacher. In this role, you have to constantly look for new ways to deliver your message and educate your students.

Start Connecting the Dots

Excited to start honing your creativity? Here at Lifehack, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to help you get started. We understand that creativity is a matter of connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value. So, if you want to learn how to start connecting the dots, check out these tips:

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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