We are in week two of Harnessing Ideas! I want this two-week stretch to be focused on bringing your best ideas to the table before getting to work. Today I wanted to discuss my best brainstorming tips.
Brainstorming is the act of setting aside time to generate ideas. This can be done on paper, computers, or purely in the mind. There are countless strategies for great brainstorming. Some people make maps and flowcharts while other stick to lists.
Below you will find a few of my favorite brainstorming tips. These are all things that I try to keep in mind when generating and picking ideas.
1. Write It All Down
I have lost many good ideas to my own ego. I think to myself “that one is so good there is no possible way I could forget that.” Do you want to know what that great idea was? I do too.
You should aways have an available method of getting your ideas down. You never know when a great idea will strike. If you cannot carry a notebook on you at all times, there are plenty of great note taking apps out there such as Evernote or Google Keep.
2. There Are No Bad Ideas
An idea isn’t perfect because you decided to write it down or give it consideration. Ideas need to time to sit in your head and evolve before being judged. Sometimes bad ideas can turn into great ones. You never know how it will work out until you explore it a bit further.
3. Combine Ideas
It is possible for two mediocre ideas to turn into one great idea. Sometimes two really excellent ideas can turn into a masterpiece. A concept may not reach its full potential until it is put next to its perfect counterpart.
One time I accidentally combined my idea list with my shopping list. To my surprise, “Battle Arena Oranges” sounds like an exciting comic book.
Jokes aside, combining sets of ideas can have great results. When I am running out of ideas, I will take the ones I have and write every combination of them. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I come up with very silly ideas that don’t work. However, there are times when two of my ideas make something great.
4. Play The Synonym Game
One thing that I like to do while brainstorming is think of synonyms for the ideas I already have. This helps me get the brain moving and think outside of the box. The wording of an idea is important. The concept my not “click” in your mind until it is worded a certain way.
For example, say one of your ideas is for a song about how much you hate your arch-nemesis William. “I Hate William” may not be a song title that excites the mind. However, “Ill Will For Bill” has the potential to get the lyrics flowing.
5. Make A Chart/Map
It can be helpful to see how your ideas are related. This is where making an idea chart or map can come in handy. Organizing ideas by relationship can help you figure out where your brain is headed.
This is also a great method for identifying clusters of ideas. A single idea may not get the ball rolling. However, your idea map may show you a grouping of ideas that can turn into a book, album, or fictional universe.
6. Ask For Help!
There is no shame in asking for people to help you brainstorm! Another person’s perspective can help broaden the content of your ideas. The other person may bring forth an idea that you would have never thought about.
If you are having trouble coming up with ideas for a project, ask your friends or family. Many of the articles on Effective Nerd have been requests and suggestions from my loved ones. The people around you who know you best are an excellent resource for ideas.
7. Play To Your Strengths
You know your skill set better than anyone else. While it is true that we are always learning and growing, some ideas are just out of reach. You should take learning and experience into account when choosing an idea.
For example, I am a better writer than I am an artist. While I love drawing, I know the current limitations of my skills. While I will choose projects that require illustrations, I make sure that the drawings are within my range.
8. Keep Your Scope In Mind
Some ideas are amazing and you would love nothing more than to drop everything and get started. However, you know that you cannot afford to spend the time, money and energy on these projects. This most likely means that you were not paying attention to the scope of your ideas.
It is important to always check your ideas for practicality. Just because an idea is a great concept does not mean it is doable. I would love nothing more than to start a blog reviewing the world’s most expensive guitars. However, that is not in the cards for my life right now.
However, we also should not be shying away from these ideas. Just because an idea has a big scope does not mean that it will never be achieved. Sometimes great ideas can work out if the scope is redefined. Your idea for a trilogy of fantasy movies may be better suited for a collection of short stories.
9. Break Down Each Idea
Sometimes an idea can look like a simple concept when it holds a world of opportunities. The best way to figure this out is to break down an idea into its parts. If we think of each idea as a potential project, breaking it down will be a simple process.
Lets say you want to start a YouTube channel about sewing costumes for cosplay. This idea can be broken down into a variety of smaller ideas, such as sewing techniques, fittings, fabric types, and needed tools/materials.
After breaking down this idea, you may find that you are the most passionate about types of fabric. This may shift your focus from a channel about sewing for cosplay to a channel about choosing fabrics that best fit your character of choice. You might not have figured this out if you had not broken down your idea in the first place.
10. Group Similar Ideas
On of the themes of this list is the concept that a single idea may not be enough. Great projects often have multiple ideas worked together. Similar to combining ideas, grouping ideas can help flesh out a great project
Take Star Wars for example. It is a science fiction, good vs evil, and family story all wrapped into one package. These are three major ideas put into one. This doesn’t even scratch the surface in terms of characters, locations, and creatures found in the franchise.
It can be discouraging to attempt to pick an idea from a list of basic concepts. I am sure that your idea lists have a few ideas that can be combined. Take a look and see what bigger ideas you can make from all of your basic ones!
11. Don’t Try Too Hard
We can often put pressure on ourselves to just sit down and make our life’s masterpiece. White it is true that best ideas have to start somewhere, it most likely won’t happen if we try to force it.
In fact, trying to hard to produce ideas may end up in writer’s block. As stated previously, simply writing the idea down isn’t enough. It needs to be expanded up on and given room to grow. Do not be too hard on yourself when it comes to getting the ideas down on paper.
12. Take Breaks
Brainstorming takes energy! It can also be a frustrating process at times. It important to take periodic breaks from thinking of new ideas. This will keep the mind sharp and generate the best results.
The Pomodoro Technique involves working for 25 minutes before taking a five minute break. This strategy has been using by many productive people since it invention in the 1980s. Pull a timer and give it a go!
13. Keep Your Lifestyle In Mind
Not every idea is feasible. Ideas that require a lot of travel may not work for those with busy schedules. There are also financial and time constraints.
Understanding the limits of your lifestyle will help you choose ideas that are achievable. It will also help you think about what preparations are needed before starting the project.
I hope you enjoyed my brainstorming tips! Brainstorming is an important part of the creative process. Every great project starts as an idea. While we may come up with a lot of ideas, only a few of them are worthy of action. It is essential to pick out these ideas before moving forward. Brainstorming is one of the most effective tools for doing this.
What are your best brainstorming tips? Let me know on social media!