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How Pros Incorporate Ideation into Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

For those who develop ideas on a regular basis, there’s no better way to succeed than to plan ahead. By incorporating ideation into everyday tasks you’ll find that your ‘work’ is done without conscious effort. Whether you have to brainstorm for client infographics or your own blog, this process will work.

notepadideas3.4mpesBegin each day with a notepad. Some of the smartest, most efficient people on the planet keep notepads around constantly in order to jot down words to Google, thoughts that are inspiring and work solutions. Yes, a smartphone will work: however, carrying around a good ol’ fashioned notebook does make you feel a bit like Deep Throat or Columbo.


mpes3.4breakfastAlong with a savory English muffin and a BlendTec masterpiece, your morning should start with a few mental crunches and lunges. Between bites try to link words in your mind at random. For example, if your current assignment is for a famous hot dog brand’s sharebait creation, think about breakfast meats. Imagine different ways to cook them, art pieces that have used them and cartoonized hot dogs in chef hats. Just let your mind wander within the region of that topic while enjoying your meal.

Try to note anything that occurs to you that could later become a well-formed idea. For example, if you manage to think of eight funky Pinterest recipes that used hot dogs, then jot-down the title “These Aren’t Your Mama’s Wieners! How People Bake, Broil and Fry Hot Dogs Today.”

Before you leave for work try to incorporate this assignment into other tasks, such as a brisk workout. While you’re Sweatin to the Oldies you might think of the calories in hot dogs, how to cook them more healthfully, and if there are vegan hot dogs. Whenever something really gets your interest make sure to note it. Like midnight dreams, quick ideas quickly fade.

If your morning is anything like mine, then your daily notes might look like this:

While Eating: “These Aren’t Your Mama’s Wieners! How People Bake, Broil and Fry Hot Dogs Today”

Working Out: “Calorie Countdown to a Slimmer Waist: Prepare 8 Childhood Favorites Healthfully”

Spacing Out Over Coffee: “A History of 14 of the Oldest Foods in Your Market”

Cleaning the Pool: “America’s Favorite Poolside Treats: A Guide for Summer Parties”

Running Late to Work: “Fast Dinners for Moms With Careers”


mpes3.4lunchMost people want to take a lunch break and zone out. Even if your boss is breathing fire over a set of ideas for a cranky client, you can still take a peaceful lunch and finish your work. First, spend a few minutes reviewing the client’s demands: for this example we’ll say it’s a refrigerator company seeking various forms of content.

As soon as you’re done reviewing the client, forget it. Leave for lunch and have a pleasant hour off (or half hour, if you’re less fortunate). Your subconscious is much more powerful than your waking mind: after reviewing client needs your mind will work on ideation while you laugh with friends at Starbucks. Really. It works best if you do not attempt to think of work at all during the break.

Immediately after returning to work, open a blank document and quickly brainstorm. Type every idea that crosses your mind for ten minutes. After brain-dumping every idea, take time to format the list, revise and remove ideas that can’t work.  If your mind works like everyone else’s, this list will be chalk-full of golden article titles, infographic concepts and video blasts.

Don’t be surprised if your list looks like this:

“How to Defrost Frozen Milkshakes to Just the Right Consistency”

“Why Iced, Freshly Brewed Coffee Is More Bitter Than Refrigerated Day-Old Java”

“What IS Freezer Burn and Is It Dangerous to Eat?”

“18 Craziest Things Found in Abandoned Fridges”

“How Super Maids Clean Fridges Fast (Without Breaking a Nail!)”

“33 Refrigerator Casseroles for Dad’s Babysitting Night”


dinner3.4mpesYou’re home from work, your shoes are off and of course the house looks like Ozzy Osbourne’s mind. Yet a rush assignment has popped up, and a tire manufacturer needs a multitude of ideas by morning. Fear not! Ideation can take place at dinner, too.

When the whole family is halfway finished with the meal and everyone is fairly calm, ask a leading question about tires. Such as, “If you had 12 tires and wanted to build something out of them, what would you make?” or “How much should a tire cost?”

It doesn’t really matter what the question is: the point is to keep leading the conversation back to tires. Your family will naturally get on tire tangents, mention things you never thought of and suggest websites with information that could be useful. In a way, your family is a study group that’s held hostage by love. They’ll get used to it.

If you have a few kids and a goofy spouse, you might get ideas like these:

What If Tires Were Square: “5 Worst Ideas Ever Designed for Cars” (which would include absurd tire designs)

Could Cars Drive on Old Wooden Tires: “8 Products Made Better in 1913 Than in 2013” (which would list a few ‘honorable mentions’ that are made better today, like wheels and toilets)

Tires Are Expensive: “Save Hundreds on Tires Employing 3 Unique Techniques” or maybe “The Cost of Tire Production: From Fields to Big O”

I Wish Cars Didn’t Have Tires: “The Evolution of Travel: From Your Feet to Hovercrafts”

“Mama! Nana. Nanas, mama!”: “Tires Safe Enough for Your Toddler: Why The Groove Matters”

Bonus! Dessert

winecheeseplate3.4mpesTreat yourself to some fresh pineapple or a glass of wine, and then squeeze in a few last minute ideas. If your client is a cell phone carrier and you need ideas that will be published on a business blog, take your smartphone to the table with your treat. While munching on the fresh fruit casually text a few friends inquiring about their work apps. Ask them how much time they spend on their phones at work, which games they play during the day, and what level of crisis would make them take a call in a meeting.

Gather your friends’ insights while using your phone and you’ll have the added inspiration of experiencing using your own smartphone to gather work info. List ideas from friends along with your own insights about how easy it was to text quickly while taking notes.

With the help of a few clever comrades, your dessert list might look like this:

From a Friend: “Apps That Seem Expedient but That Waste More Time Than They Save”

From Your Boss: (hey, if you’re working they should be too) “The Real Cost of BYOD Programs for Employers”

From Your Observations: “Why Texting Takes Less Time Than Writing”

Fitting work into your everyday tasks isn’t difficult if it’s a priority. Once you begin to do it, you may find that friends and family are eager to assist you with ideation. My sister-in-law and husband often ask me if they can help (and look quite disappointed when there’s nothing left to do). Lastly, remember to give yourself breaks that let your subconscious do the heavy lifting, and to always take good notes.

About the author

Michael Purdy