Ideas are wily, elusive, completely unpredictable beasts. Yet as creative marketers we’re expected to keep churning them out week after week. This causes us all some amount of anxiety. But chaining yourself to your desk and staring at a blank doc isn’t the way to go. Here are five tips to help you brainstorm more effectively.
1. Believe In Yourself
Not to get too Stuart Smalley on you, but the less energy you waste worrying about your deadlines and what your bosses or clients will do if you fail to hit them, the more energy you can devote to the task at hand. You’ve done it before. You’ll do it again. Have confidence that your brain will do its thang.
2. Set Your Mental GPS
The term ‘brainstorming’ encourages us to embrace chaos. However, it’s helpful to define some parameters before you get started. Know what your brand stands for and what you want your audience to take away from your marketing. Once you figure out the goal of execution, you can have fun discovering all the different routes you can take to get there.
3. Step Away from the Computer
Here is the neatest thing I learned in high school anatomy: Our brains work a lot like our computers do. When you set about solving a problem, it’s like starting up a program. You can run additional programs, but the problem-solving program will continue working in the background (just like all those apps you never close!). So even if you are not furiously typing away, your brain will continue to work on the task. That’s why ideas seem to suddenly ‘pop’ into our heads. So take a walk, get a coffee or hit the gym. You’ll be surprised how much ‘work’ you can get done away from the computer.
4. Keep a Notebook Handy
The Big Idea can hit when you least expect it. It could be on the bus, over dinner, or in half-dream at 3 a.m. Be prepared. Have a notebook and pen ready, or use that handy ‘Notes’ app on your phone to make sure that idea doesn’t get away. If you’re in the shower when the idea strikes, make up a song about it and sing it to yourself until you are dried off and can go write it down.
5. Don’t Drink
We all know the Madmen-esque stereotype of ad guys drinking and smoking into the wee hours of the night before finally coming up with that groundbreaking concept. This has never worked in my experience. Alcohol tells your brain that it’s time to wind down. So let it be a reward at the end of a productive day, not a hinderance in an unproductive one.
You can’t force yourself to have a great idea. But you can create an environment in which great ideas are more likely to come, and in which you will be more likely to receive, recognize and act on them.
In the immortal words of 90’s supergroup, En Vogue, “Free your mind, and the rest will follow.”