Most ideas come at the worst possible time and when you need ideas, they don’t come at all. Oftentimes ideas just aren’t going to come. At all. There’s no worse feeling than needing an idea, but not having a single one. Yet there are some techniques that can be used to make sure that you’re in the best position possible to have that great idea you want when you want it.
1. Start decluttering…fast! Cleaning helps on multiple levels. In a psychological sense, cleaning adds the benefit of removing clutter from you immediate workspace, which has a huge effect on your focus, subconscious or not.
Take just 10 minutes today to sort though a pile, or declutter a shelf or table or countertop. Don’t worry about perfection. Just get it simpler. You can always declutter it more later. The aim is to get a simple, clean space to think. Cleaning is by far one of the best methods for getting out of a creativity slump.
2. Define the problem clearly. Sometimes we get so lost in trying to think of ideas that we don’t focus on our objective closely enough. We just generate ideas for the sake of generating ideas. And believe me, when you reach this point it’s best to just stop and go “back to the drawing board”. You have to make sure that the problem you’re trying to solve is the only thing you’re trying to solve.
3. Impose a deadline . One might think that imposing a deadline would be bad for trying to rustle up some ideas, and generally I’d agree. But deadlines can do one thing that is very important: they force you to focus on a goal. With deadlines, we know what needs to happen and we know how long we have to do it in. They give us scope and they give us perspective.
4. Use a different medium. Sometimes changing the tools or the medium you’re using to work on an idea can really make a difference. If you’d normally use your laptop, tablet or Google to generate ideas, try switching to paper and pen. While it may seem like a trivial change, the small change can be huge for your creativity. There’s something very freeing about switching to a different medium.
5. Create a mind map. Mind maps are an excellent way to just start putting what you know and organising it.Sometimes organising our thoughts can be incredibly effective in generating ideas. By creating a mind map, you’ll start to get a handle on what you know, and what you’ll need to know.
6. Get a second opinion. If you’ve got a deadline looming and don’t have any inspiration at all, ask a friend or colleague at work for advice. Any friend. It doesn’t even matter if they know the nuances of what you’re working on at all.
Explaining the problem to a friend helps you process the problem too. Just run your problems or existing idea by a close friend. It’s OK to ask friends for help, and believe it or not, friends like helping in return.
7. Break free from your normal circle. Hanging around with the same group of friends and colleagues can get you in a thinking rut. Take advantage of all your other connections and arrange a meet up if you can or trying Skyping and start some exciting conversations. New people don’t know all your thought patterns and old stories, so you’ll have to revisit your existing inner monologues. The refreshing perspectives will help to surface new thinking and possibly a lightning bolt or two.
8. Get a regular journal. A journal is great for recording thoughts, feelings and the history of your life: Evernote is an awesome app but you need to stay away from your computer or smartphone for a while when the need arises. It is a great way to structure and develop ideation habits. If you don’t keep a journal, start today. If you already do, simply add the practice of finishing every entry with: Here is my new idea for the day …
9. Give yourself a break. A short little break will not hurt. The mind needs refreshing, and if you can spare 20 minutes for a power break and you’ll be refreshed and ready to tackle the deadline and think through issues better.
Sometimes it’s more beneficial to spend 20 minutes taking a break than going on for a long time without results. Giving your mind a chance to relax puts you in a better position to brainstorm and produce some great ideas later on.