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13 Ways to Make Idea Generation a Daily Habit

13 Ways to Make Idea Generation a Daily Habit

Coming up with ideas that are relevant to your audience, useful, and interesting is one of the most difficult parts of creating great content.

Part of this struggle lies in the way many people approach creativity; they wait until they need an idea to start brainstorming.  Caveat to this approach: you can’t force a brilliant idea.

If you’re creating content around the same topic or industry, make idea generation part of your everyday routine. Adopting habits that encourage more creative thinking will keep you one step ahead of the sometimes futile process of idea generation. Then, you’ll always have a collection of ideas on deck to choose from as new content needs arise.

Set aside 30 minutes a day for one of the below techniques to stay inspired, keep your mind sharp, and never run out of ideas…

How to Generate a Constant Supply of Ideas

1. Embrace Bad Ideas

Write down every idea you have, no matter how terrible. Don’t get caught up on whether or not your idea is good yet. What’s important is you make it a habit to record ideas when they happen.

Critiquing your ideas shouldn’t happen simultaneously with generating ideas. You can pick and choose the best ideas later.

2. Follow Fewer Industry Blogs

Trying to read every blog in your niche gets overwhelming. It’s inefficient to read a lot of blogs, just to weed out the valuable content from the noise.

Focus on 5-10 blogs you consider the most authoritative and forward-thinking in your vertical. This will not only keep you informed, but also trigger new ideas for you to write about.

Keep an eye on which content is most popular for these bloggers. Read what people are asking in the comments, this is often a great source of ideas.

But don’t get trapped in your industry’s blog vacuum. Follow well-written, popular blogs outside of your niche.  Examine what makes a post compelling to you, then try to tailor those ideas to your audience.

3. Read More Books

While it’s necessary to read blogs in your niche to keep up with news and others’ perspectives, you should devote the majority of the time you spend reading to books, not blogs.

Since a book is more in-depth and often much better researched than a blog post, reading just one book can set off countless ideas. Pull out the takeaways from the book and relate them back to the topic you write about.

Don’t have time to sit down and read? Listen to audiobooks while driving, working out, shopping, or commuting. Just make sure you have a way to capture ideas while you’re listening (I’ll get to that in a minute :)).

4. Talk to People

And by talk, I mean actually talk…not email, tweet, or send smoke signals.

The trick? Don’t ask them for ideas (that puts anyone on the spot!).

Instead, listen for possible content ideas brought up in conversations about your vertical. Below are a few people who can inadvertently give you great ideas…

  • People Who Are Starting Out. What are common pitfalls for people getting started in your industry? If you’ve been at it for a while, this may have changed a lot over the years. Find out what those new to your industry are curious about and what types of resources would benefit them.
  • People Who Aren’t Involved. Pay attention to what friends, relatives and others outside your industry often ask you about your industry. People who aren’t involved in the day-to-day of your niche can offer an entirely new perspective.
  • People You Don’t Know. Do you overhear random people talking about your industry? Embrace your inner voyeur and turn eavesdropping into ideas. If it’s a great conversation, butt in and ask some questions to flesh out your idea! You’re not nosy, you’re curious

5. Review What’s Worked

Looking at the metrics for your past content can help you decide which topics to continue focusing on. Let your audience tell you what they want based on what they’ve engaged with and shared the most.

  • Blog Comments. Which posts saw the highest level of engagement? Could you write a new post based on  questions and ideas left in your blog comments?
  • Social Shares. Which of your past posts received the most social shares? Is this the same content that received a lot of comments?
  • Links. What did people say about your content when they linked to it? Do sites outside of your niche link to you? Is this a niche you could also incorporate into your content?
  • Google Analytics. Which content receives the most traffic? Which terms are leading people to your blog? Where are visitors spending the most time on your site?

6. Revisit Rejected Ideas

Get in the habit of storing your old ideas that don’t make it to publication. Include notes on why these ideas didn’t make the cut, such as not enough time, not original, too much research, etc.

Return to this list every few months to evaluate if you’d be able to write about this idea. By then, you might be more knowledgeable, have a new perspective, or have  more resources to execute the idea.

7. Pinpoint Your Most Creative Hours

Do you know what time of day you’re most creative? Using a time tracking app (we use Toggl around here), you can not only understand your workflow better but also notice your peaks in creativity. By tracking my time I noticed between 11 – 2 I tackle creative projects (I suspect it’s because I’m full of caffeine).

8. Plan Meetings for One

Once you identify your creative peaks, schedule blocks of uninterrupted time during those hours. This can be anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours depending on your current content needs.

Use this time to focus on creative aspects of content creation, like idea generation, outlining, and writing. Tasks that require less creativity, like research and editing, can fall outside of this window.

9. Scour Your Old Content

Get inspired by you. Digging through your blog archives can spawn a lot of ideas.

Most of your past comprehensive ““how to’s” or tutorials will eventually become outdated. Edit these to include updates if these drive a lot of traffic to your site. Or, write a ““current edition” follow up post you can link to within the original post.

Is there a common theme between some of your content that you hadn’t noticed before? Consider creating a massive resource that combines/links to this similar content.

10. Stop Trying to Be Unique

No matter how innovative an idea, chances are it’s been done before. Don’t let this defeat you.

Be on the look out for ideas that have already been done but you can do better

  • Was it done by someone in your industry or with the same audience as you? If no, go for it!
  • How long ago was it done? Could you create an updated version with more current information? If yes, go for it!
  • Could you write a more in-depth version, such as an ““ultimate guide” or resource? If yes, go for it!

11. Drop What You’re Doing

As nice as it would be to force creative bursts from your brain, that isn’t always the case. When you feel a surge of creativity, put aside other tasks and jot down your ideas.

Even if you only have 10 minutes to spare, take the time to outline an idea while it’s fresh in your mind so you can return to it when time allows. That’s how this post was born. :)

12. Be Prepared in Any Situation

This seems obvious, but always carry a pen. I’m willing to bet some of the world’s greatest ideas have been written on cocktail napkins. If you have a purse or pockets, there’s no excuse for not having a pen with you at all times.

Inspiration usually pays a visit when it’s inconvenient. Prepare for those flashes of brilliance that happen unexpectedly, and you won’t lose all of the great ideas that come when you’re doing something other than writing. Below are some common, but inconvenient, situations when great ideas surface…

  • When You’re Half Asleep. If you tend to be most creative in the morning, leave a pen and paper near your bed or wherever you do your morning routine. This is perfect for writing down any ideas you during that night’s dreams, which you’re likely to forget shortly after you wake up.
  • In the Car. Call someone and tell them your ideas or leave a voicemail to yourself on your home phone.
  • In the Shower. If this is where you do your best thinking, you’re part of the reason why waterproof notebooks exist.
  • While Working Out. Keep your phone with you. Send yourself a quick text or email with your idea during your water breaks. If you only exercise at a level where you don’t take any breaks, well, I can’t help you ;)

13. Have a Life

Ideas are born from rich experiences, not while sitting in front of a computer waiting to be inspired.

Play a sport. Travel. Take an art class. Spend time with your kids. Go on long walks.

Just make sure you have a means to capture all of those ideas that happen when you’re not trying to think of ideas (see above :)).

How do you conquer idea generation? What are some ways you stay inspired? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Ayaz says:

    Great tips and I really like the idea of making the habit of writing down all the ideas that comes in to mind and I really want to make some changes to generate more ideas.

    That post really have made a great impact on me. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kerry Jones says:

      Thanks, Ayaz! Most people don’t associate creativity with a routine. Hope you find these tips to be useful once you put them into action :)

  2. Patrick Winfield says:

    I am currently reading Bird by Bird, about creative writing and life. I would recommend it to anyone interested in either :) Awesome post FTW!

    • Kerry Jones says:

      Thanks, Pat! I will definitely add that to my reading list. Less blogs, more books :)

  3. Amazing post, Kerry, thank you! Recording ideas is very important and few bad ideas might lead to a good one, but it takes plenty of good ideas to come up with a GREAT one. 100% agree with your suggestion to jot down bad ideas and coming back to the full list once in a while.

    Another important factor: there’s been some research suggesting that by recording ideas, you “free up” your brain to come up with new ideas :)

    • Kerry Jones says:

      Thanks for the great comment, Slavik! I totally agree writing down ideas frees up your brain. You have to let ideas out to make space for new ideas.

  4. Max Minzer says:

    Kerry, this is priceless!
    Wanted to pick my favorite one and couldn’t – all of them are great!
    Thank you!

    • Kerry Jones says:

      Wow, thanks Max! Glad you enjoyed it :) I’ll be doing a follow up post soon about tools for idea generation.

  5. Brad Rach says:

    13 very good points :)

  6. Teresa says:

    Thank you for posting this on here. I am in need, of reconnecting myself to my creative thoughts and ideas.

    • Kerry Jones says:

      My pleasure, Teresa :) Thanks for stopping by!

      • Teresa says:

        Please, do me a favor and send me your email address and we can stay in touch via by sending one another emails or if, you’re over on face book, look me up there as well. Hope to hear from you again soon. Again, thanks for the assistance.

  7. Sharon says:

    Excellent post! I particularly like the one about recording your ideas when they come to you rather than later, because in my experience later never comes, or I can’t remember the brillant idea in the same way. ALWAYS carry and pen and notebook, or find some other way to make note of the idea when it hits your brainpan. For me creativiity comes from sitting down with no distractions and making a list that may include sublists. This applies to writing, but to the other activities in my life. Thinking creatively may be like a light bulb going off, but it’s also opening yourself up to thinking with intention.

    • Kerry Jones says:

      Thanks for the great comment, Sharon. I only wonder how many great ideas I’ve had that were forgotten due to not writing them down!

  8. Linda Adams says:

    There are some great ideas on this list, including a few I haven’t heard before. Here are a couple to add to your list that I’ve tried:
    1. Facebook topics trending can be a great source of ideas.
    2. My work subscribes to business books, and I use the “What’s Popular” for ideas. Amazon or B&N top ten lists could be interesting resources.

  9. bill caskey says:

    Good article…your ideas are sound….but “read less blogs”? Really? Less is a volume…fewer is a number.

    • Kerry Jones says:

      Bill, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. My apologies for my grammatical error, I have corrected it. I’m willing to be your grocery store has changed their express lane signs thanks to you!

  10. I read your article after seeing it posted from someone I follow in twitter. Always looking for new and informative ideas for my blog and you came up with some good ones, thanks.

  11. Keiran says:

    I like “13 Ways to Make Idea Generation a Daily Habit”. Whatever job we are in, coming up with ways to generate ideas on a daily basis is very helpful. Even if the idea is just how to find another job. In copywriting and content creation it’s absolutely crucial, and developing this habit on a daily basis can make the difference between success and failure (sorry, deferred success).

    Something that’s also very important in Kerry’s post is the idea of an everyday routine. Establishing a routine for everything we want to achieve on a daily basis is essential. I can’t remember Tony Robbins’ exact words on this, but it was something like, “it’s not what we do once in a while that makes a difference, it’s what we do on a daily basis”.

    • Kerry Jones says:

      Great comment, Keiran. And I absolutely agree that establishing a routine is the key to any type of success!

  12. LaVcinema says:

    Well put article, thank you
    One thing that I’ve found Is that my brain is way more creative and productive while thinking in a set context
    Great source Is the book “Creative advertising” by Mario Pricken
    My. Best recommendations.
    And in general i found the most interesting techniques of creative thinking are coming from Ad industry.

  13. This is a very nice post. Just one thing – please change “2. Follow Less Industry Blogs” to “2. Follow Fewer Industry Blogs.”

    • Kerry Jones says:

      Thanks Morna. I made the correction since you were the second person to point it out. And a heads up to you, the link you included to your blog contains an extra period.

      • Wow – Thank you so much for pointing that out. It came off of the drop-down, so I’ve probably left that incorrect address with many (all?) of my comments. Tsk tsk. :-)