Ideas make the world go round, but coming up with great ones isn't always easy. Here are ten ways you can prompt your brain to get those ideas flowing.
Illustration by Fruzsina Kuhári. Photos by Craig Morey, thierry ehrmann, Juhan Sonin, Tina Mailhot-Roberge, iamtheo, Blan-K (Shutterstock), Malinka1 (Shutterstock), and Miguel Angel Salinas Salinas (Shutterstock), Mike Baird, tvnewsbadge.
10. Get Really Bored
"The best way to come up with new ideas is to get really bored" -- prolific author Neil Gaiman says. Your brain wants to fill the void or at least entertain yourself with new ideas.
9. Isolate Yourself
In a similar vein, Isaac Asimov suggests that you should spend more time alone with your thoughts, because the presence of others can inhibit your creativity. Spend time with just your thoughts -- distracted by neither other people or technology -- and your ideas will be unfettered. That's not to say that group brainstorming sessions don't have their merits -- they just have to be done right -- and allow for individual brainstorming time as well.
8. Combine Two Ideas to Make One Good Idea
Creativity is all about making connections. If you have a hard time coming up with one fantastic idea, try combining two so-so or ok ideas. It's like "idea sex": Ideas breed ideas.
7. Drink Beer
Coffee keeps you alert, but according to science it's not the best drink for boosting creativity. Beer (or other alcoholic drinks) make you less focused on the things around you, which -- like point number nine above, isolating yourself -- can lead to big ideas. Everything in moderation, of course.
6. Make a Mind Map
Mind maps prompt you to make connections between different concepts, encouraging the creation of new ideas. By diagramming your thoughts, you'll be able to go both deeper and broader with your subject and uncover ideas that you might have missed with regular text notes.
5. Sleep on It or Try to Fall Asleep
Ever try to fall asleep and suddenly your brain goes into overdrive thinking of new ideas? It's a common phenomenon where your subconscious mind starts to take over because you're finally relaxed and not distracted by anything else. Before bed is a good time to do a brain dump.
You might also be able to generate more ideas if you interrupt your sleep cycle: Wake up 60 minutes into a 90-minute cycle when your brain will be groggier and less likely to censor ideas you have percolating.
4. Take a Shower
Great ideas happen in the weirdest places -- like the shower. That environment puts us in a semi-meditative state where our minds are free to wander. There's no guarantee you'll get new ideas from your shower, but if you're feeling stuck, might as well go get clean and see what happens.
If you can't take a shower, similar activities that release a lot of dopamine in your brain, such as listening to music, can also boost your idea generation.
3. Take a Walk
"Walking organizes the world around us." Researchers have found that when people take a walk, they're able to generate about 60 per cent more creative ideas (in the studies, participants came up more uses for an object) -- and that effect lasted even after the participants sat down after walking. So go for a walk and break out of your current cycle to get some inspiration.
2. Stop Censoring Yourself
We are our worst idea censors. We might have too many ideas that we never pursue (and then feel guilty about) or we too quickly label some ideas as stupid. Think twice before rejecting a creative idea that you might be uncomfortable with, and perhaps try keeping a "new ideas document" that encourages you to write down every idea -- without guilt or criticism.
1. Capture Your Ideas, Anywhere and Everywhere
That leads us to the most important thing: Ideas are no good if you have them but then forget about them. Always have a place to capture a new idea, whether it's an app on your phone, a simple pocket notebook, a journal by your bedside table, or the waterproof AquaNotes for the shower. And then re-read your old notes to spark new ideas.