When we think of brainstorming, it’s usually something we think about doing with at least one other person. But there aren’t always other people around. Or sometimes those around you aren’t the right people for brainstorming. But as entrepreneurs, we sometimes need the spark that can be lit with a good brainstorming session, and we can’t wait for circumstance to be ideal. We’re not talking rubbing sticks together kind of spark either. You want a douse-it-with-gasoline-and-toss-a-flare-on-it kind of spark! So how do you get the spark going on your own? Here are some tips for fueling your creative thought processes, even without the help of a brainstorming partner:
1. Prepare to buckle down. You don’t want to have to stop and start unless absolutely necessary, so prepare for your brainstorming session. Make sure you have notepads and pens (if you’re going to use them), snacks, something to drink, and reference materials, like a dictionary and thesaurus (of course, online versions are fine if you’ll be using your computer). Also, if you don’t have it, consider getting More Words that Sell. Even if you’re not brainstorming about marketing or sales, the lists in this book will get your creativity flowing.
2. Be a shut-in. Go somewhere quiet, where you won’t be disturbed. Turn off the TV, the radio, your phone, and anything else that might distract you. If you’re going to use your computer during your brainstorming, close out your email and any notification apps you have installed. Also close any browser tabs that you won’t be using. If you’re not used to that kind of solitude, it can be a little scary, but don’t worry. It will do you good in more ways than one to get away from all the noise.
3. Write until your hand hurts. Ok, or type, but there’s something about writing that drives creativity. Maybe it’s that you’re actually creating something tangible when you put ink on paper, or that it’s not as easy to erase. In any case, what’s important is that you begin to create – whether on a notepad or your laptop. You’re not going for anything concrete or perfect. Just start writing. Whatever comes to you, get it down. You can go back later to sort and weed out. One key is to ignore any voice in your head that might be telling you something is dumb, not worth writing down, or won’t work. Remember, while absolute clarity on goals and objectives is important, this isn’t the time for that. The idea is that one “dumb” idea might spark another brilliant one, and if you snuff out the spark of the dumb idea, the good one will never have a chance to grow.
4. Mind-map it. To really enhance your note-taking and idea flow, consider using a mind map. If you haven’t used mind maps, do yourself a favor and look into it. Mind maps are a very easy technique that will make a world of difference, whether during brainstorming, planning or any kind of note-taking. Take a look at this video that does a good job of explaining mind mapping.
5. Wrap it all up. Once you feel like you’ve exhausted your brain, you should have a whole bunch of notes and ideas to go through. Obviously brainstorming is only effective if you take something from it, so don’t delay in going back over everything. While you might be mentally drained right away, set a time in the very near future to scour your notes and narrow down what you’ve put together into something useable. If you used mind maps, this won’t be that difficult. If you simply wrote notes, your goal is to pull out the useful information and put it into a form you can use to move forward.
Whether you’re trying to come up with business ideas, marketing plans, or content topics, you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll gain from these sessions. And the great thing is that the more you do this, the easier it will be, and the more you’ll get out of it. So, what are you waiting for? Get to brainstorming now, even if you’re going it alone.