by Mark Forster.
A very powerful way of developing ideas is by continuous revision. You can start with a single vague sentence and then by a process of revising it over and over again develop it until it is a fully fledged concept.
What I am going to do now is to give you an example of how a simple thought can be expanded over a period of days. I’ll show where I get to each day, but of course when doing it for real you don’t need to keep a record of each day. I’m showing the days separately only in order to illustrate how the process works.
So all I need is an idea to develop. Hmmmm … . what would be a good one? Ummm….. er….. um…..
I can’t think of any ideas!
I can’t think of any ideas, but there are many ways in which one can get ideas flowing, such as using a Wish List, random words, thinking about completely unrelated situations, continuous revision, sitting down with a pad of paper for an hour (or whatever). I forgot about sentence completion. The thing is there are lots of these methods around. I could research them on the internet.
When I get stuck for ideas there are many ways in which I can get ideas flowing. I could use a wish list, random words, thinking about completely unrelated situations and then forcing connections, continuous revision, sitting down with a pad of paper for a specified period of time, and sentence completion.
A good way of keeping track of an idea is to schedule it as a task in Outlook, and use the text box as the place for continuous revision. I can also use the text box as a place to store any relevant links to documents, e-mails, web pages, etc. With Outlook I can then schedule the idea to be placed on my task list daily or whatever other interval I prefer. Other programs provide similar facilities.
When I get stuck for ideas there are many ways in which I can get ideas flowing. These include:
a wish list
Writing down as many wishes as possible about an issue is a good way to expand my thinking, e.g. “I wish I had thousands of ideas”, “I wish I was more original”, “I wish I could keep the ideas I have”, “I wish I had a genie who would make my every wish come true”, etc. etc.
De Bono recommends taking a random word out of a dictionary and then forcing connections with the problem or issue.
thinking about completely unrelated situations and then forcing connections
for instance I could imagine a story, write down some keywords about it, and then force connections with my issue
This is an example!
sitting down with a pad of paper for a specified period of time
One of my favourite methods. Sit quietly and write down any ideas that come without trying to force them. Earl Nightingale used to recommend doing this for an hour a day. I’m not sure I can afford the time to do that. But perhaps the truth is that I can’t afford not to find the time.
Nathaniel Branden uses this a lot. Start with a sentence stem, e.g. “If I take full responsibility for my choices and actions …”, then fill in as many endings to the sentence as I can.
A good way of keeping track of ideas is to schedule them as a task in Outlook. Each task has a text box which can be used as the place for continuous revision. The text box can also store relevant links to documents, e-mails, web pages, etc. Outlook also gives the facility to schedule the idea to be brought forward daily or at whatever other interval I prefer. Other programs provide similar facilities.
And so on …
As I revise the idea daily, so the concept becomes clearer in my mind and more practical and detailed.
Ok, I’ll admit I cheated with the above example. I didn’t write it over a period of four days. All I did was copy and paste each “day” as I finished it and immediately revised and expanded it. However this was much easier than trying to write the idea out in full from beginning to end. And I really didn’t have any ideas when I started!
It doesn’t matter what the interval is between revisions. The method will work with any interval (or none) as long as the revisions are regular enough to keep your mind engaged on the subject.
Mark Forster is the author of three books about time management and personal organisation. The most recent, Do It Tomorrow, was published by Hodder in 2006.
© Copyright Mark Forster 2012. All rights reserved.