20 Sure-Fire Ways to Come Up With Great Ideas

“Ideas are the beginning points of all fortunes.”

- Napoleon Hill

Man having ideaThis 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.

5. Exercise.

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.

7. Brainstorm.

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.

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12 Comments

  • Kim Roach says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I think every blogger has had writer’s block at one time or another. I have also found a great resource called “101 Great Posting Ideas” at
    http://www.ihelpyoublog.com/20070316-101-great-posting-ideas-that-will-make-your-blog-sizzle

    I like to use this list when ideas are running low.

  • Pamela says:

    Those are great tips. I believe that idea needs time. We can’t just force it to appear in just one sitting. We must be patient and most of all prepared all the time.

  • Susiechka says:

    Great tips! I have a suggestion for what to do when you get great ideas when you are driving: a digital voice recorder. I play it back when I get home and add the items to my written (or computerized) lists.

    The voice recorder is also very useful for talking through your ideas, especially when driving or commuting. When everyone around you is really tired of hearing you go on and on about your latest list of great ideas, the digital voice recorder is always the perfect listener :-).

  • Miracle says:

    I actually make a living by coming up with new ideas and like this list alot. I use pretty much everyone and they are all really helpful.

    I found a solution to the issue about finding the chance to write down an idea while driving. My cellphone has a voice note recorder and I just whip it out and record a new note. If you don’t have a voice recorder on your cellphone then you can get a voice recorder for as little as ten dollars and keep it in your car.

  • Hi Ririan, thanks for the lists of tips. I really like tips presented in such a quick and easy format. The stimulate my brain and remind me often of what I want to remember. I like the tips about walking and drawing. I walk everyday to be inspired in my writing on my blog at http://www.explorelifeblog.com. I find if I have a question and pose it while I walk, I often get great responses from what I call the Infinite Mind or the Collective Consciousness. The drawing part is a reminder to get out mu pencil and paper and start drawing again. Something about drawing and what it stimulated in the hemispheres of my brain.

    I appreciate your blog. What you blog is of real value and I an sure people are being awakened by what you offer.

    Joseph

  • Charlie says:

    I agree with the list. Those are helpful ways to come up with good ideas. I believe that ideas are not easy to come up with and it’s necessary to carry a notebook or anything that can be used for recording ideas inorder to be prepared all the time.

  • andrés says:

    4. Use your drive time.

    A voice recorder would come handy when driving. (some cell-phones are voice-recording capable. Just make sure you don’t get a ticket). Surely, using a voice recorder would be better than scribbling “at the next stoplight”.

    8. Keep a running list.

    Software could help you keep your notes organized.
    In a mac I recommend “Journler”. (get it at jornler.com)

  • Ross Cornwell says:

    I enjoyed reading today “20 Sure-Fire Ways to Come Up With Great Ideas,” and I thought you might be interested to learn that a new edition of Napoleon Hill’s classic book “Think and Grow Rich” has been published.

    Its title is “Think and Grow Rich!” (subtitled) “The Original Version, Restored and Revised.” I am the editor/annotator of this new 412-page edition, which is really an homage to Dr. Hill. (For several years I was the editor-in-chief of “Think & Grow Rich Newsletter.”)

    What I have done is this: to restore Dr. Hill’s book to its original manuscript content (it was first published in 1937, but was abridged in 1960), annotate it with more than 50 pages of endnotes (most of the persons and events he discusses are generally unknown to readers today), index it thoroughly, add an appendix with a wealth of additional information about Dr. Hill and his work, and revise the book in ways to help remove certain “impediments” to reading the book today (language that today would be considered obsolete, sexist or racist). None of these things had previously been done with TGR.

    If you would like to learn a little more about this project, a quick visit to http://www.tgr-restored-revised.com will give you some details. The “Editor’s Foreword” provides more complete information, and the “Testimonials” page will demonstrate how well-received this new book is around the world. Here is the book’s Amazon.com page:

    http://www.amazon.com/Think-Grow-Rich-Original-Restored/dp/1593302002/sr=1-1/qid=1172004763/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-1493475-7148634?ie=UTF8&s=books

    The book is available on all the Amazon websites and most other online sellers, it can be ordered by any bookstore, and it will start appearing in bookstores soon.

    Our edition of TGR! is superior in every way to other versions on the market. It is a trade paperback, not a pocket-size mass market paperback. It is 412 pages versus 230 (depending on the edition). It looks better, feels better, reads better than any other version. It is fast becoming the “version of choice” among Napoleon Hill devotees and other students of success and high achievement.

    Thank you for your time and attention.

    Ross Cornwell, Editor

  • Holly says:

    Keep a digital voice recorder in your car to keep track of thoughts while driving…

  • Racquel says:

    This is my favorite way — 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.”

    I really recommend this because this is how I usually come up with better articles. Sometimes, it doesn’t take a genius to write an excellent material. All you need is a freak brain that can really think out of the box. Really helpful tips. Keep em coming. =)

  • veerendra says:

    Great points you have stated here !! An artist should take care about those aspects .. really nice stuff on this blog !!

  • Odirile Ntinima says:

    yeah! these are what i ve bn lookn 4. gr8 stuff thank u!!

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