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Published on December 14, 2020

How to Get 1000 Good Ideas Without Trying Hard

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 January 12, 2021

The Power of Tapping into Your Hidden Creativity

The Power of Tapping into Your Hidden Creativity

Despite what you might have been taught — everyone can be creative.

It’s too easy to think of creativity as just being reserved for musicians, artists and writers. In reality, creativity can be used in all jobs and in all areas of life.

I’m referring to creative traits such as thinking outside the box, finding new solutions to old problems, and combining two ideas to invent a new one.

For example, think of Henry Ford. He gave people automobiles, when at that time, they probably just wanted faster horses!

And, then there is Elon Musk. He found a workable solution to the problem of congested roads in towns and cities — the Hyperloop! This is an underground tunnel system that is designed to connect major conurbations using clean, ultra-fast capsules that can carry passengers, cars and freight. In the case of cars — Musk envisages elevators taking the cars down to the tunnel system. Ingenious.

As a final example, I want to tell you about Saltwater Brewery in Florida. They’ve created six-pack rings that are edible by marine life. So instead of the six-pack rings ending up in the ocean and killing sea creatures, these rings actually feed them. They’re made from the by-products of beer brewing, and contain either barley or wheat, and are not just safe for fish to eat — but humans can eat them too!

Let’s turn now to see how improving your creativity can improve your life.

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Creativity Will Improve Your Outlook

As a Psychology Today article reveals, people who practice everyday creativity (like finding new ways to work, preparing meals and solving crosswords) share personality traits with those we regard as ‘genuinely’ creative, such as: artists, designers and musicians.[1]

The shared traits include:

  • Curiosity
  • Drive
  • Open-mindedness
  • Persistence
  • Positivity

Some studies also suggest that people who regularly indulge in creative pursuits are less judgmental and more flexible.

It’s no wonder then, that there is a proven link between creativity and enhanced mental health (this could be due to creative thinkers’ superior problem-solving skills).[2]

I hope I’ve said enough to convince you that exploring your creative side can improve your outlook on life.

So what’s the best way to get creative? 

Boost your confidence.

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When you have ample self-confidence, you won’t be afraid to try new things and to break out of your comfort zone. Both of these things will put you in touch with your inner creative genie — who’s just waiting to work their magic on your behalf!

But, how can you boost your confidence? 

…by constantly facing and overcoming challenges.

Creativity Will Increase Opportunities

Creative individuals often notice more opportunities in life.

How come?

Because they’ve learned how to find a way to turn any obstacle into an opportunity by tackling it from another angle. They’re also more likely to SEE the opportunity in the first place, just by having an open mind; whereas someone who is not tapping into their creativity may miss these hidden opportunities. 

For example, one of my friends recently lost his job as a senior administrator for an insurance company. He’d worked there for more than 10 years, and although he wasn’t excited by the job, it paid his bills.

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When he was told that his job was to go, he was initially shocked and knocked off track. However, my friend is a resilient and creative soul, and within a few days, he’d formulated a plan to not only secure a new job, but also to make a positive change in his career. He did this by taking his administrator skills and his deep knowledge of finance and insurance and turning himself into a business consultant.

It’s still early days for him, but he’s already secured several clients, and I predict his new career will be a happy and successful one.

If you feel stuck in a rut, then try some (or all) of these things to break yourself free:

  • Get moving – yes, staying still is staying stuck; moving is getting unstuck!
  • Look for the positives – when you do this, you’ll open the door to opportunities.
  • Start small – you don’t necessarily need to make a big jump; instead, you can make small changes that create an unstoppable forward trend.

Creativity Gives You Freedom to Mess Up

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ― Thomas A. Edison

I love that quote, as it cleverly demonstrates that creativity is all about experimentation. And, experimentation often means making mistakes!

If you’ve ever watched a graphic designer at work, you’ll notice one thing: they’re constantly changing things until they get the look and feel that they desire.

That’s how most creative people work. They keep trying new and different things until they have that aha moment.

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So how about you? 

Are you currently afraid to try new things? Perhaps because you’re worried about losing face? 

If you are, then you’re holding back your creative potential. To unleash it, I recommend throwing caution to the wind and pushing yourself through your self-created mental barriers.

Once you’ve learned to have thoughts and ideas that are free from your current conditioning, then you’ll have learned the secret to living a creative life.

We all have creativity within us. And, by adopting the suggestions above, you can tap into this hidden force for good. When you do that, your life will take on a new trajectory — one that leads to happiness, fulfillment and success.

Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: Everyday Creativity
[2] CNN: A Creative Life is a Healthy Life

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