Many of us tend to overlook the importance of setting aside time to think. When was the last time you had a brainstorm sesh?
Brainstorm sessions allow you uninterrupted time to work through a problem, develop an idea, or fine-tune a process. If there’s something that needs your attention, a brainstorming session may be the way to the solution. Here are some tips to get you started so you can have the most productive brainstorm possible!
How to Make the Most of Your Brainstorming Session
1. Schedule it!
Like any task that needs your full attention, your brainstorm sesh must be blocked into your calendar! Give yourself ample time to set up your workspace, get your thoughts in order, and tie up any loose ends that may need squared away before you dive in.
Before you start brainstorming, make sure you know what exactly you’ll be focused on and be real with yourself about how long you’ll need. If you’re just setting aside time to think freely, maybe start with an hour or a half hour and see how you feel. If you need to focus on a bigger task, try to estimate the amount of time you’ll need and even add a bit to that estimate. Avoid making yourself feel rushed!
2. Journal your thoughts beforehand
If you want to have a productive brainstorm session, the stray thoughts and stresses and details in your brain need to be addressed beforehand. The laundry that needs done, the email that needs sent, the grudge you’re holding about that tiff with your husband — all of these thoughts, no matter how important, are distractions from the work you’re trying to complete in this moment.
I use the practice of Morning Pages to brain-dump my thoughts every morning. I write 3 continuous stream-of-consciousness pages to rid my mindset of any distractions that may be buzzing around during the day. This allows me to work through tasks and challenges with a clear head later on. Even if you don’t write in the morning, journal for a bit before you begin your brainstorm so you can give it your 1000% focus and attention!
3. Use associative brainstorm techniques
Associative brainstorm techniques allow you to explore new ideas and create new connections that you may not have made just by free-thinking without structure. Try creating a mind map (drawing a map of your thoughts to show how they connect and grow into other ideas), or writing a word storm (brainstorming based on the words you see, aka: writing the word “books” and expanding to “chapters” or “shelves” or “covers” — wherever your mind takes you!)
Experimenting with different brainstorming techniques will open up your thought process to new and creative ideas. We often start our process with an idea that may seem obvious or simple, and sometimes we throw that idea away because it doesn’t seem ‘good enough’. Usually, that idea just needs to be fleshed out.
4. Take notes
Don’t rely on your mind to hold onto the important ideas you discover in your brainstorm session. Write them down! Too often, we convince ourselves that we don’t need to write something down. But what do you lose by doing it anyway? If something strikes you that you want to pursue in the future, make a note of it.
I keep journals dedicated to different things, like my Morning Pages journal and my happiness journal and my brainstorming journal. My brainstorm journal is pretty similar to my bullet journal — I use it to work through problems and make notes of things that I need to explore further in the future. While I don’t use it for planning like I do with my bullet journal, it’s the space where I keep all the info from my thinking time and know I can reference it later.
5. Keep an open mind
Don’t shut yourself or your ideas down, no matter what they are. Use your brainstorm session as a free space for your thoughts, and consider each idea you have. We tend to judge ourselves too early in the creative process — we shut down ideas that can actually be edited and reworked into something amazing. Let yourself think without judgement or criticism and see what happens!
QOTD: What have you found to be helpful when you need to think through a problem?