Ideas are tricky things, and they’re hard to pin down. It seems like whenever we most need to come up with a good idea our minds are somewhere else. And when we’re not giving it much thought at all our best ideas suddenly pop up, seemingly out of nowhere.

It certainly seems that idea generation is an abstract and somewhat elusive concept. And trying to pinpoint where exactly good ideas come from is a little like trying to capture smoke.

But just like creativity in general, there are certain techniques we can employ to help stimulate our minds to generate more ideas with more regularity and success.

So here are 6 tricks for generating great ideas.

Write down lots of ideas every day

By writing down even our smallest and most seemingly insignificant creative thoughts, we’re training our minds to actively seek out ideas.

It’s like counting yellow cars on the motorway. When you’re looking out for them, they’re everywhere. The same thing is true for ideas. When we’re keeping an eye out for them, more and more will appear.

So even if an idea seems useless, take it down. At best there might be something in it that sparks a more original idea further down the line. At worst it’s going to train your brain to come up with more (and better) ideas in the future.

Read more

It’s like Dr Seuss said, “The more you read, the more you know.” And the more you know, the more ideas you’ll have.

Reading is a brilliant way of forming connections between unassociated subjects and generating original insights. And whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, you’ll find that increasing your reading time will stimulate lots of creativity.

Take breaks from your work

Some of our most profound insights can occur when we’re being the least productive. Many people report stumbling on solutions to complex and long-running problems whilst gardening, or exercising, or taking a walk in the countryside.

It’s the lightbulb moment that strikes when we’re doing something completely unrelated to the creative task we’ve been working on. All of a sudden the solution just comes to us. And this can only happen if we allow ourselves to take mental breaks and disconnect from our work.

Sometimes it’s important to remember that a busy mind doesn’t necessarily have the time or the space to create new and unique thoughts.

Keep a journal

Journalling is an excellent way to capture random (and seemingly insignificant) thoughts and ideas. One of the biggest advantages to journalling is its spontaneity. You’ll often find yourself coming up with thoughts and ideas that you weren’t even conscious of.

Journalling is also a very effective way to establish and keep up a creative habit. And creative habits are extremely important if we ever hope to generate regular creative ideas for our work. Like attracts like, after all.

Meditate

This is a slightly more obscure technique. But one of the more curious side effects of meditation is that it’s said to increase creativity. This is partly because meditation helps to clear the mind and alleviate stress, which in turn creates more room for thinking up ideas.

By meditating regularly, you can open up a mental space in which new ideas can develop and flourish undisturbed. Not only that, but meditation comes with a whole host of other positive mental benefits which may also boost your creativity.

Get creative

For more advice on how to get more creative, why not take a look at these 4 habits for cultivating creativity.