If you’re struggling to maximise your productivity in business – Read this.
In this blog post, we’re going to unpack a powerful tool that I use in business called brainstorming. We’ll dive into some effective brainstorming techniques that you can start taking advantage of right now.
In the past few years I’ve personally started 2 businesses. The first I started because I really liked all things girly, and the other (guess which one) took me nearly a decade of fine-tuning my skills before I was confident enough in myself to start my own practice. I believe that the fastest way to success is through monomaniacal focus, so I ditched the perfume and focused on The Busy Bookkeeper. Since its birthday, I’ve evolved my business (through brainstorming sessions) into more than just small business financial management.
Today I’m going to share some exclusive, insider secrets that have really helped me to get the most out of my creative planning sessions. I’m generally the type of person that brainstorms alone (being a Solopreneur that wears many hats), 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 these exclusive insider tips to help maximise your next brainstorming session and become more productive!
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 love glitter and neon-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:
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. 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 stress -free. This may be a brainstorming session, but your clients’ needs should still be your priority!
2.3. Personal technology:
Turn off your smart phone, 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 amazing 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? Death.
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 white-board in my office. The clear visibility really helps me stay present in the session, as I’m reminded about what it is that I want to achieve at a quick glance. I use this same whiteboard after my sessions to keep the key points that I took
To stay focused on the goal … you have 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 sounds of nature (such as the mountain stream sound) will optimise your ability to concentrate and mask white noise. This can drastically boost productivity. I personally recommend listening to classical music, or music without lyrics. Listening to your favourite song could have you singing + dancing in the living room, rather than focusing on what you’re trying to accomplish.
Listening to music is something that only works for me half of the time. Sometimes I definitely need some soothing music to help me relax and get focused. Other times, I find that music can distracting 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. Now this isn’t a licence to pick up a tech gadget and start scrolling through your favourite social media account. That will be the death of your session. I recommend taking short walk, 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 relaxing with a glass of wine. It completely relaxes me and this allows me to think much clearer. If you’re feeling overwhelmed during your session, take a well deserved break to rest your mind.
How Brainstorming sessions have helped my business grow.
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. Once I’ve brainstormed those gem ideas and spent some time on research, I try to run them by my partner. It can be so valuable to get an objective opinion from someone you know and trust, especially if they have a good understanding of your brand + vision. While it can be valuable to get a second opinion from someone you respect and trust, go with your intuition! 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 will support your craziest ideas, so don’t just get your toes wet,
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