Tap into your unconscious mind and get better ideas

13 April 2016 -


Creative ideas don’t just come naturally, you need to engage your brain and work at it

Guest blogger Neil Pavitt





This fourth collection of tips from my book Brainhack, will help you generate more and better ideas.

1. Run a brain marathon

There are lots of problems with brainstorms, but the main one is they don’t go on for long enough.

They usually stop when people have run out of ideas and you get those embarrassing silences. But that point when you get stuck and feel like you’re not getting anywhere, that’s when you’re hacking your brain and getting your unconscious and its huge processing power involved.

Get people into small teams of two, three or four and then allocate a decent block of time for them to work on a problem. The very minimum should be half a day.

Brainstorms might come in convenient half hour and hour time slots, but ideas don’t. So if you’re really serious about finding a solution to a problem, give a brain marathon a try.

2. Don’t try to have good ideas

Entrepreneur Seth Godin said a businessman asked him where he got all his good ideas. The man explained that it took him a month or two to come up with just one and that Seth seemed to have more than that. Seth then asked the man how many bad ideas he had every month. The man paused and said, “None”.

When there’s pressure to think of a “great” idea, you start judging your ideas before you’ve even written them down.

Whatever you’re working on, try giving yourself 10 minutes to come up with 10 ideas on the subject. What’s important is not to worry if these ideas are any good or not. Your only goal is to think of 10 ideas.

This exercise helps bypass your critical, conscious mind and access your unconscious.

3. Don’t finish

If you’re working on a writing project that takes more than a day, don’t stop at the end of a thought or paragraph. Leave a sharp jagged edge and stop mid-sentence.

Firstly and most obviously, by stopping when you know what you want to write next, makes it a lot easier to start again the next day.

But more importantly, you’re engaging your brain and tying it to the project. The brain doesn’t like unfinished business, so by stopping mid-sentence you keep it thinking about it.

4. Work messy

There seems to be a current trend for de-cluttering. But if you want to solve problems, messy is the way to go.

Steve Jobs, Einstein, Mark Twain, Alexander Fleming, Mark Zuckerberg and Alan Turing were all famous for having messy desks.

Our brains are very impressionable, so the unconscious cues of disorder in the messy room make us think “messy”. This disorderly thinking is an ideal state to be in when trying to come up with innovative and unexpected ideas.

5. Stay focused

We are at our most alert first thing in the morning, so don’t waste that first hour. Give yourself one focused power hour, when you don’t make phone calls look at emails or check social media.

David Meyer of Michigan University, one of the country’s leading experts on multi-tasking, says “You can’t do two cognitively complicated tasks at once. When you’re on the phone and writing an email at the same time, you’re actually switching back and forth between them, since there’s only one mental and neural channel through which language flows.”

Neil Pavitt is a writer and creativity coach. This article is based on his latest book Brainhack: Tips and Tricks to Unleash Your Brain's Full Potential (published by Capstone)

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