Five Ways to Brainstorm Better

By Chelsea Babin

Your boss wants you to come up with a few innovative website updates but you’re stuck staring at a blank page. You want to start a side project but you’re stuck staring at a blank page. You’re trying to envision what you want out of your next job before you start the interview process but you’re stuck staring at a blank page. No matter where you are in your career chances are you’ll be faced with the task of brainstorming. But, sometimes, ideas don’t flow out as easily as you’d like, making brainstorming one of the most stressful and time consuming tasks when it shouldn’t be! Use these five methods to transform your brainstorm from challenging and lengthy to short and sweet!

1. Time Limit: Staring at a blank page for an hour is often just as productive as staring at a blank page for five minutes. Giving your brainstorming a time limit may not produce the ideas you need but it will help you get the rest of your work done efficiently and you can return to brainstorming later. Taking some time away may be just what you need to come up with the ideas you’ve been searching for!

2. Imaginary Constraints: What if this website only worked when the sun was out? What if this side project could only be used by toddlers? Putting imaginary constraints on your brainstorming may not get you directly to the answers you’re searching for but it will get you started, which is often the most challenging part of brainstorming.

3. Bad Ideas: Instead of trying to decide what you want out of a job, write down the worst possible job you can imagine. Instead of trying to decide what kind of side project you want to work on, write down the worst possible side project you can imagine. Coming up with intentionally bad ideas is a great way to get the brainstorm juices flowing and, often, you’ll find the answers you’re looking for are simply the opposite of your bad ideas.

4. Take a Walk: Sometimes taking a break from attempting to brainstorm and doing a mindless task, like taking a walk, can bring forth ideas you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. It’s the same concept as coming up with your best ideas in the shower! When you’re busy doing an almost automatic, thought-free task your mind is allowed to wander or analyze an idea in a less constrained way which will often generate amazing brainstorming sparks.

5. Start Generic: Sometimes coming up with the broadest, most generic idea first and then breaking it into smaller, more significant parts can make brainstorming less of a challenge. While the smaller parts may shift as the smallest parts are identified, this is a great way to get started, particularly during development projects.

Brainstorming doesn’t have to be a challenging task but it often is. Use these five methods to improve your brainstorming tactics and say goodbye to staring at blank pages!

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