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The Simplest Ways to Come Up With Really Creative Ideas

The Simplest Ways to Come Up With Really Creative Ideas

It’s painful, isn’t it?

You’ve got loads of energy and a heap of passion. Yet you can’t think of a single really creative idea to develop.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, artist, engineer, mechanic or person of any profession. Thinker’s Block will arrive. It happens to everyone.

When it does, here are some easy ways to check that frustration out of your life and create an endless pool of ideas.

How to “Brain Dump” and set the stage for coming up with really creative ideas

In a freely available online video called the 50-Minute Focus Finder, real estate guru and marketing genius Dean Jackson reveals a great technique: open a journal to a blank page and start to write. Anything. Just let go.

Although Jackson doesn’t mention this in the video, if you can’t think of anything to write on that page, just put down your name. Write your name again and again until you think of something else.

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Trust me. This isn’t crazy. It’s a great way of boring yourself into coming up with something else. I dare you to try and write your name more than 5 times until something better comes out.

You can also doodle or otherwise scratch at the page.The point is to brain dump. Empty yourself. Make space and the really creative ideas will come.

Become an idea generator

In Choose Yourself!, James Altucher gives a brilliant idea that anyone can use. All you have to do is write down 10 ideas every day.

At first, it might be hard to get 10. If so, start with one. The next day, squeeze out two. Before you know it, you’ll have 10 every day. Soon after that, ideas will flood your imagination. You’ll have more than you could ever use.

And the best part is that you can easily record 10 ideas using the audio recorder on your smartphone if you can’t or don’t want to write.

Recording your ideas by audio will also help train you to think creatively out loud. Your brain will start making a connection between talking and idea generation. This comes in handy during business meetings and even in simple conversations with your friends.

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In case you don’t have Altucher’s Choose Yourself! to look at for his examples (you should get it), here are a few of my own to get your started:

  • All men named Tom join together and try to eliminate everyone named Dick and Harry from the face of the planet.
  • Leonard Cohen sings “I Want To Be Sedated” …while being sedated.
  • Google starts selling “canned results” delivered to your door. The algorithm automatically adds your favorite spices.

I have listed several hundreds of ideas like this since reading Choose Yourself! I’ve felt the impact and it’s improved everything I do that requires creativity.

Of course, a lot of these ideas are bizarre. Some of them make no sense. Others could never be used outside of a film or novel. But that doesn’t matter. The point is that exercises like this keep your mind fluid. And being fluid and responsive is a powerful talent to have.

Write down your dreams

Every morning when you wake up, write down at least one sentence about the dreams you had. It could be a narrative fragment or a simple impression.

If you can’t remember a dream, write down a short story. Just start with “Once upon a time” and keep going with whatever comes to mind.

And if nothing comes to mind, you know what to do. That’s right: write your name over and over again until something else emerges.

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If Thinker’s Block happens, it won’t last long. Do this for a couple of days and soon you’ll be recalling more and more dreams. You may even find that you’ll start lucid dreaming. And if that happens, you’ll find interesting and unexpected ways to become even more creative.

Keep a scrapbook

Sounds old fashioned, I know, but tearing images and phrases from magazines for gathering in a scrapbook will boost your creativity. The act itself is creative because you’re using selectivity. And revisiting it later uses your creative faculties of analysis. After that, it’s just a matter of using the collection of images you see together to come up with new creative ideas.

Make use of déjà vu

We’ve all experienced the feeling that we’ve seen or experienced something before. But how many of us actually write the experience down? What makes this so creative is that you can analyze what pieces of reality needed to come together in order for you to have this experience.

For a great example that will deepen your thinking about déjà vu, check out this scene from The Matrix:

You might also consider thinking about the opposite of déjà vu. Jamais vu occurs when you see something you know you’ve seen thousands of times before, but it still feels strange and unfamiliar. Almost like the first time.

Break patterns

It is pattern breaks that make experiences like déjà vu and jamais vu so powerful and the basis for new creativity. The great news is that you don’t have to wait for these experiences to come along. You can invent them.

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For example, try walking backwards for 20 steps or so the next time you cut through the park. Walk in a circle around a telephone pole you normally ignore. Go into a store that has never interested you in the least and look around.

The reason breaking patterns helps with creativity is that the brain secretes norepinephrine any time you are in novel situations. This chemical increases your focus and helps create new memories. You can later draw upon these enhanced memories while writing, drawing or otherwise engaging in creative activities.

Make the conscious decision to become more creative

All the ideas you’ve just discovered are great. But they can be greater. Simply by making the decision to be a person with really creative ideas, you’ll set your imaginative mind in motion.

Write your decision down on paper or record it by audio or video. Really focus on your intention to be more creative.

Next, get started with your first list of 10 ideas following a total Brain Dump. Make the conscious decision to start recalling your dreams. Tomorrow morning is your first chance to take up this easy and simple habit.

You’re going to benefit a great deal and amaze yourself by just how creative you can be. And the best part is that the more creative you become, the more you creative you can become. It’s a powerful feedback loop that just keeps getting better and better the more you practice.

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So…what are you waiting for? Every day you’re not using these simple techniques, you’re leaving creative treasure behind. Creativity is a valuable treasure that could be improving the quality of all areas of your life.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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