Stuck for ideas?


You’re staring at the one third of a report you’ve managed to – somehow – scratch out. The deadline is looming. BBC News and Facebook have given your battered brain mild relief for the last 40 minutes. But, sadly, they’ve given you no ideas about what to put next.

You’re tired. You’re bored. And as the clock ticks, you’re beginning to feel slight flutters of panic.

We have a couple of unorthodox – but highly effective – suggestions for getting your brain into the zone and bursting with ideas when you’re feeling flat and uninspired.

They’re both about NOT THINKING. Or more precisely, about removing analytical filters from your thinking.

Because our brains are playful little treasure troves. And if we let them talk to us without censorship, we can fire up all sorts of innovative ways forward.

So if you’re stuck, try these things.

Word association

Print out this sheet of random words, chop them up and put them in a plastic cup. Grab a colleague who won’t judge you. Find a quiet spot and use the words to play word association.

Pick a word out of the cup and say it out loud. Your colleague then says the first thing that comes into their head and you respond with the first thing that comes into yours. Don’t think, just talk. Whatever pops into your head, say it. If you stall, stop and pick out another word.

Do this for five minutes and go back to your report. What you’ll have done is jumped your brain out of the rut that was making it unhappy. You’ll be able to tackle your work with fresh eyes.

Word association

Click here for a PDF you can print off.

Writing blasts

Pick up a magazine, book or newspaper. Find a line of writing that appeals to you. Just randomly, like this:

  • The slap echoed through the restaurant.
  • Suddenly a dog seemed possible. Maybe even necessary.
  • She clutched the advertisement promising a new homeland and did not write any letters.

Now say the line out loud to yourself (or under your breath if your colleagues are near enough to overhear). Let the line conjure up an image in your head. If the line is about dogs, maybe you’ll see a picture of someone dancing with a dog.

Start to write down what you see or imagine. Don’t stop to think. JUST DON’T – or this won’t work.

Keep on writing for at least a couple of minutes and then do another one.

Then go back to your report, unblocked, with a less achey brain.

Give it a go

These little activities will take you 5-10 minutes, max. Don’t be self-conscious, try them. See what a difference they can make.

They’re fantastic unblockers in situations where:

  • You’re getting bogged down in detail
  • You’re short on time
  • You’re deeply into one project but have to jump into another

Let us know how you get on.

Leave a Reply