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5 Ways to Create Better Ideas

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5 Ways to Create Better Ideas

Almost everybody want to have better ideas and lots of them. You hear all sorts of analogies when it comes to producing better ideas, “think outside the box”, “look at it from another angle”, etc. All of them have their validity but often leaves you feeling drained and stupid. Why can’t I think outside the box? What is the box? Where is the “other” angle? Are creativity and idea creation perhaps for a select few? A rare breed of creative geniuses? I say definitely not. Armed with a few new ideas you can become more creative than you ever have been before. And the good news is that it’s not very difficult and it can be fun too.

The biggest problem with not coming up with new and better ideas is that your brain is basically lazy. It will keep to the same thinking patterns as much as it can.

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“Problems cannot be solved with more of the same thinking that created them.” – Einstein

Keeping to the same thinking will produce more of the same types of ideas. The revolutionary ideas will not likely come at all. The reason your brain sticks to the same thought patterns is that you are feeding it the same kind of input all the time. More of the same input will make sure that your brain sticks to the same thought patterns. A second very important component in idea creation is volume. Not every idea you get will be brilliant, but by increasing the number of ideas you will naturally increase the number of good ideas as well. Quite simple really.

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So, now we know that to create better ideas we need to change our thought patterns and at the same time generate more ideas. Incidently this can be done by the same change. You need to change the input, without changing the input you will be stuck. It all sounds pretty easy when you know the answer and implementing it is quite easy as well.

Here are 5 ways to get new input that will have you creating more and better ideas continuously.

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  1. Choose a new way to get to work. This may seem like a small thing, but by going out of your way to find new ways to get to work you are changing your input naturally. You will see new things, think about new things and make new connections.
  2. Ask a child how they would solve a problem. Children are not stuck in their ways the same way as adults can be. To them everything is possible. Even if the solution they present is not perfect or even practical it is very likely that it will spark new ideas in your own head.
  3. Pick a random magazine to read. Computer programmers have their own favorite magazines, architects know which magazines are hot for architecture and so on. The problem with this is that everybody will be subject to the same stream of ideas. By going into a magazine store and randomly picking a magazine that might be about knitting and then actually reading it you will most likely find that the things you are thinking about have been solved already in another domain. Free ideas (except for the price of the magazine)!
  4. Force yourself to make connections. This is a little game you can play with yourself, pick random things around your house (or even better, out of a bag) and force yourself to make connections between the object and the problem or project you are working on. Keep doing it for 10-15 minutes and see what happens.
  5. Self impose limits. By imposing limits on yourself your brain will have to work overtime and really get out of its own patterns. If you work with tools, remove the tool you use most frequently and ask yourself how you can accomplish a task in this new situation. Or, why not force yourself to explain a problem without using “shop talk”.

What next?

The ideas above can of course be refined and substituted for lots of other ideas. As long as what you do forces new input on you, you will benefit. Also remember that it will be up to you to sort through and pick the best ideas. At least this way you will have more of them and they will be influenced by a larger space of knowledge and that is the key.

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What do you do to get better ideas?

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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