Do you often dream of starting your own business?
Let me tell you my Friend there aren’t many people on this earth that don’t want to be the proud owner of an awesome + respected brand.
To help you get started the right way, I’ve decided to do a little blog series to help you get from desire to actuality. In this first installment I’m going to dive into effective brainstorming techniques that you can implement into your business planning sessions to help you get the most out of them.
In the past few years I’ve personally started 2 businesses. One I kind of fell into because I really liked makeup, jewellery and perfume, and the other (guess which one) had me fine tuning and perfecting my craft for nearly a decade before I was confident (and gatvol enough of being employed) in myself to start my own practice. Obviously I believe that the fastest way to success is through monomaniacal focus so I ditched the perfume and focused on The Busy Bookkeeper, which I’ve since (through brainstorming sessions) evolved into more than just small business financial management.
If you’re multi-passionate and struggling to hone into just one epic business idea to start monetizing, then gosh do I get it! This contribution to The Startup Success series is a sort of prequel before we get stuck into the juicy bits like business idea generation, development, naming and planning. I’m going to share some insider secrets that have really helped me to get the most out of creative planning sessions for my business. I’m generally the type of person that brainstorms alone (being a solopreneur and all) so you’ll find these tips to be more helpful to an individual’s brainstorming session (not to say that you can’t tweak it to suit a group session though).
Steal my insider tips to help maximise your next brainstorming session!
1. Decide on where you’ll be brainstorming:
Being an utter neat freak, I find that brainstorming in a comfortable yet tidy environment really helps ignite my creative juices. I enjoy sitting in the comfort of my lounge when the kids are at school or asleep. I usually make sure that the location I’ll be brainstorming in is well stocked with paper, pencils + pens (I’m such a sucker for glitter and lumo coloured pens), a laptop and my whiteboard so that I can jot down all my ideas (no matter how silly they may seem at the time) and see where they take me. Simple pleasures like nice pictures and a pretty view also help me focus. I keep snacks and something to drink (like ridiculous amounts of coffee) on hand too as they help me to stay focused.
2. Minimise distractions:
Oh boy, this one’s a biggie. Just so we’re all on the same page as to what possible distractions could be, here are a few of the ones that I’ve personally struggled with and have overcome:
2.1. Social Media:
Yes. Social Media can be the death of a productive brainstorming session. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT take small breaks during your session to start checking your Facebook or Twitter notifications! You’ll end up lost in your news feed after you’ve checked them out, and before you know it time’s gotten away from you, and you’ve lost all motivation … not that I’d know or anything cough – ahem.
I try to clear out my mailbox(es) before I start. I.have.4 — gasp. By doing this, I can attend to anything important that a valued client may need before I start my session so that I can brainstorm guilt- and worry -free. This may be a brainstorming session, but your clients’ needs should still be your priority!
2.3. Personal technology:
Turn off your smartphone, tablet and anything else that may distract you from your brainstorming session especially if your self-discipline is severely lacking. Having constant distractions from phone calls, messages and notifications will kill your train of thought, especially if you’re running with what could be the birth of an epic idea.
2.4: IM (Instant messaging):
If you’re going to be using your laptop/ tablet for your brainstorming session, logout of Skype, Google Hangouts, Whatsapp etc. Hearing the luring pinging of notifications going off will whet your curiosity and lure you into aimless conversation … guess what that does to a brainstorming session?
2.5: Phone calls:
If your session is planned, let those nearest and dearest to you know that you’ll be unavailable for a few hours — yes, this includes clients, which is why going through your emails beforehand so you can attend to anything before you start is so important — and then switch off your phone and leave your landline off the hook. Unless you have superpowers (of which I am envious), constant interruptions will break your train of thought.
Should you be using your laptop/ tablet for brainstorming, close off all open tabs that have nothing to do with your brainstorming session. Yes, this is going to take some self-control as your mind may start wandering off as to what’s for dinner and you could possibly start Googling recipes (guilty – big time) rather than stick to the purpose of the session. If you can, rather grab a good ol’ fashioned notebook + pen to brainstorm with. You can’t Google with that now can you?
3. Keep your goals visible:
I write my goals down on the whiteboard in my office. Keeping them in a visible spot really helps me stay present in the session as I’m constantly reminded about what it is that I want to achieve. To stay focussed on the goal … you’ve got to keep the goal in focus!
4. Set the mood:
Music can really set the mood for a brainstorming session. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute discovered that adding the sounds of nature (such as the mountain stream sound) will optimise your ability to concentrate and mask white noise while still possessing enough randomness to not distract you from your session. This can drastically boost productivity. I personally recommend listening to classical music, or music without lyrics, as your fave jam could have you singing along and dancing in the living room, rather than focusing on what you’re trying to accomplish. Now this is something that only works half of the time for me. Sometimes I definitely need some soothing music to help me relax and get focused, and other times I find that music can be a real noise and very harmful to my sessions. It all depends on what feels right at the time.
5. Take small breaks:
If I’ve hit a complete mental block, I find that taking a small break really does help. This isn’t a licence to pick up a tech gadget and start scrolling through Facebook, okay? I’m strongly recommend a short walk around the block, having a small sweat session by doing some star jumps in the lounge, soaking up some sun … whatever! I’ve solved some of my biggest mental blocks on a morning run or soaking in the bath with a glass of red wine, completely relaxed and removed from the session. Breaks are very important as they help with fresh thinking, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed take a well deserved one to rest your mind.
How Brainstorming sessions have helped me to grow my business.
Brainstorming is an important tool that I’ve used to grow my business. Many ideas birthed from these sessions have taken my business from stagnant to successful. After I’ve had a fantastic brainstorming session and spent a bit of time researching its viability, I always try to run it by my partner just to see if he thinks it will be a good idea, or a good fit for my brand (he is my biggest cheerleader). However, while it’s amazing to get a second opinion from someone you respect and trust, totally go with your own gut feeling on it. If it feels right to you then it’s definitely worth exploring … especially if you believe in it enough to make it work. The people who matter the most to you in life should support you on your wildest ventures, so don’t just get your toes wet – jump in!
Ciao for now,