Brainstorming tips for better time management

The major bottleneck in any planning or problem solving process is brainstorming or generating new ideas and options for specific actions and solutions.

The resulting outcome of your solution or plan is only as good as your best options and ideas you put in it. It is also important how fast you can come up with new ideas, as you will need many of them in your time management and decision making.

Fortunately, there are ways to significantly improve your effectiveness in brainstorming new ideas.

Though sometimes word brainstorming refers to group brainstorming sessions, here we will look at how you can brainstorm to generate ideas on your own.

With very few exceptions, everyone already has a natural ability of creative thinking. Yet, that creative ability is fragile. It is easy to block it just by the way you use it, by your attitudes, by the way you think.

Here is a selection of brainstorming tips that can help you to unlock your idea generation ability. Those tips are like brainstorming tools that you can use systematically every time you need new ideas.

The best practical way to have good ideas is to have many of them first, and then to select the best ones. Generating many ideas fast is what brainstorming is focused on.

In your brainstorming session you can follow these steps.

First, take a few minutes to think about what it is you would ideally like to accomplish. How clear a picture you see in your mind? Try to refresh and extend your view of the problem. In particular, think of 5 people you know that come from different background than yours. Imagine what each of those people, one by one, would see in your problem, how they would approach it.

Now it is time to start the actual brainstorming exercise. Take a sheet of paper, a pen, and your watch. Set a goal to write a certain large number of options (over 10 or 20) or ideas within a specific short time interval (minutes). A good example is a goal to write 20 ideas within 5 minutes.

What is important in this activity is that you focus on quantity of ideas, not quality. When you brainstorm, you just write in a list manner whatever comes into your mind, and write fast. You let your imagination flow, you play. Forget all judging or analyzing, common sense, rules, or practicality.

A pressing, almost unrealistic, deadline plays an important role in the brainstorming session. It mobilizes your subconscious and conscious minds. It helps to paralyze your judgment, analysis, and other mental blocks, freeing your imagination.

After the time is up, take a few more minutes to brainstorm a few more ideas, until you feel you cannot squeeze anything more out of your mind. Often those last ideas will be the most valuable ones.

At the end of this brainstorming exercise you have a long list of ideas, options, and thoughts. You will discard most of them later, at the judgment stage. Yet, the ideas you eventually select tend to be much better than something that would logically follow from what you had in your mind before the brainstorming exercise.

The outcome may surprise you. It is worth every minute you spend on it.

Finally, if you would like to go to a more advanced level of brainstorming effectiveness, I refer you to a book by Roger Von Oech A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative. This book has been of invaluable help to me over last couple of years.

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