20 Sure-Fire Ways to Come Up With Great Ideas
This guest post is by Leo from Zen Habits. If you like this post, I recommend you check out his site or subscribe to his feed.
One problem that many bloggers face is the daily challenge of coming up with a good, useful post. After blogging for awhile, new ideas may be hard to come by. But great ideas are everywhere, if you know where to look, keep your eyes open, and know how to make use of them once you find them.
Always be on the lookout for great new ideas, and they will come to you.
The following are 20 ways to come up with great ideas, not just for bloggers, but for anyone:
1. Carry a notebook.
Have a little notebook that you carry around with you wherever you go, including to bed. I like Moleskine notebooks, but any pocket-sized one will do. When you get an idea, write it down — right away. Even if you have to stop the car in order to do so. Ideas are fleeting, and you must write them down before they’re gone again.
2. Read. A lot.
I read a lot of books, and hundreds of RSS feeds a day, and skim magazines when I can. I don’t watch TV. But whatever you read, read as much as you have time for, and new ideas will come to you from the ideas of others. Don’t rip off ideas, but use them as springboards.
3. Talk to people.
Anyone. Talking to others, about all kinds of topics, will inevitably lead to new ideas, if you’re open to them. Some of my best ideas come when I’m talking to my kids. Again, don’t rip them off, but often an idea from someone else will spark some of your own.
4. Use your drive time.
Any time you’re doing something mindless, use that time to think about a certain topic. I get tons of ideas from my commute to and from work. My problem is whether to pull over to write them down, or to scribble them at the next stoplight.
Running, for example, is a great way to come up with ideas. First of all, exercise gets your blood circulating, which seems to stimulate your mind. Second, you’ve got some quiet time to think. And finally, the peaceful scenes of nature that you pass when you’re running seem to inspire great ideas. Any kind of exercise will do, though.
6. Find inspiration.
There’s inspiration everywhere — in the stars, in the ocean, in a sunset, in the food you cook, in the people you meet, in the best blogs on the Internet. But seek out that inspiration — look for it daily, and find it in the little things in life.
Sometimes, it’s good to sit down with a piece of paper, and just jot down any ideas that come to your mind about a certain topic. Don’t censor them, no matter how dumb they are (and you should see some of my dumb ideas!). But alongside the bad ideas will come some pretty great ones. The key is to get them out as fast as you can. In quantity you’ll find quality … after some careful weeding.
8. Keep a running list.
For blog post ideas, for example, I keep a list on my computer. Whenever I need a new idea, I go to the list. When I write a new idea in my notebook, I’ll dump it onto the list. It’s important to have a central place to store all your ideas. Just keep adding to the list, and you’ll never run out! Plus, some of your ideas on the list could inspire more.
9. Come up with a twist.
Sometimes, you can improve on the ideas of others. Find a great idea, and make it better with a unique twist of your own. See how you can change an idea, how you can combine it with others, and mash it into something new. Often the new, changed version of the idea is better than the original.
10. Draw from your every day life.
I often think about the things that I do in my every day life, and how I can use them to write a blog post. Your every day life, from brushing your teeth to taking out the trash to the cool new project you’re doing at work, can be the basis of a great idea.
11. Use your interests.
What do you read about on the web? Often, others are interested in the same things. Write about what you’re interested in, even if you’re not an expert. Sometimes it turns out you have learned a lot more than others who are just getting into that area of interest, and you can combine all the knowledge you’ve found elsewhere into one great mashup.
12. Bounce ideas.
Got a smart friend, co-worker or family member? Bounce ideas off them. Sometimes, a great thing will happen: you’ll both start shooting ideas back and forth, until some really awesome ideas emerge.
13. Google it.
Do a quick search on the topic you’re thinking about. Often there will be dozens of articles on that topic, and those ideas will give you more of your own.
14. Draw it.
Sometimes putting something into visual form will give you new ways to look at it. If you’re not good at drawing, do a mind map, or some other kind of chart or tree. You’ll find new connections you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
15. Go for a walk.
Sometimes, when I’m stuck, a quick walk around the building will do the trick. It’ll stir new thoughts, give me a chance to clear my head, allow me to get some fresh air, and give me a fresh perspective.
16. Make a list.
I’m a list addict. They’re my favorite way to put my ideas down. I’ll try to come up with 20 ideas (like this list) or 50 or 100. The sheer mass of these lists will force me to come up with a ton of ideas. Or if I do a Top 5 or Top 10 list, this will force me to clarify my thoughts and focus on only the best ideas.
17. Step back, look for patterns.
Sometimes, you need to see the forest, not just the trees. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, you might be looking too closely at a topic. Step back, and try to gain a wider perspective. See where this topic fits into the overall scheme of things. Look for overall patterns. Approach the topic from new angles. This tip can really be amazing sometimes.
18. Get crazy.
See if you can come up with some really off-the-wall ideas. Don’t limit yourself to conventional stuff. Really be crazy. Be inventive. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at how good these crazy ideas are.
19. Come back to it.
If you’re stuck, make a note, and come back to it later. Sometimes taking a break from something, and doing something different in between, will be just the ticket to open your mind back up and give you a fresh perspective.
20. Always be open.
The key to all of these tips is to keep your mind open to new ideas, to inspiration, to everything around you. Constantly be on the lookout for these ideas, and you will find them. Then write them down immediately, and put them on your idea list. But never stop looking, and always have your sensors on.
Labels: Self development