Has this ever happened to you: You’re about to say something, but you get interrupted and seconds later you forget what you were going to say.
No matter how hard you try to remember, it’s gone.
So you quit trying…and a few seconds later you suddenly remember what you were going to say.
How does that happen?
Simple: The thought didn’t actually vanish; it was just hiding in your subconscious mind. Once you stopped straining to pry it out, it floated to the surface on its own. Funny how that works.
That same principle applies when you’re trying to come up with an idea for an ad, a product name, a visual, or the answer to a problem. Sometimes the best way to have an idea is to simply stop trying for a bit.
When you’ve been brainstorming for a while, the law of diminishing returns often kicks in. The mind turns to clay; the ideas dry up.
You stop consciously trying. Your mind has all the information it needs. It’s time to let it do its thing.
So you go do something else. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it doesn’t involve thinking about the project. Here are some suggestions:
Take a nap. Ideas will often emerge as you’re falling asleep or just waking up. Somehow that “twilight” region between sleeping and waking provides a natural conduit for ideas to flow from the subconscious into the conscious.
Take a walk. There’s nothing like getting outside and into the fresh air to give you a fresh perspective. The openness of the outdoors lifts that claustrophobic sense of feeling boxed-in by a project. Getting out and seeing some blue sky lets your imagination soar.
Exercise. It’s not just good for your body, it’s good for your brain. Rigorous exercise puts you in a different mental state and causes your brain to release chemicals that give you a sense of well-being.
Take a long, hot shower or bath. Don’t feel guilty about pampering yourself; it’s work-related. Standing in a steamy shower or letting Calgon take you away puts you in a mode of pure relaxation where your thoughts can freely drift. Those wanderings will often bring back useful solutions.
By no means are these the only methods for freeing your mind to do its best work. You can certainly try your own. Whatever you can do to stop consciously thinking about a project for a while enables your mind to work behind the scenes and to unlock all those ideas you have waiting to get out.
Try it for yourself and let us know how you do.
(Note: You can’t predict when an idea will emerge, so be prepared. Make sure you have a pen and notebook handy to jot down or sketch out the idea before it disappears into the ether. Don’t make the mistake of trying to recall it later on; write it down! Most ideas, particularly complex ones, quickly become cloudy unless captured immediately in written form. The mind is always active; ideas start undergoing alterations the moment you conceive them. Five minutes later, your original flash of insight may have morphed into something less useful. Write it down in its pure form the first moment you imagine it, and you’ll capture its essence.)