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By Matt Paulin

In a previous article I pointed out that you should try and write down ideas as they come to you. If your willing to do that, also record the date.  I have been doing this for well over 10 years and I have noticed some patterns.  In this article I want to point out a couple of these patterns.  From it I can tell you how to increase the number of ideas you get personally.

Ideas are related to your experiences.

This might seem obvious but, it needs to be pointed out.  Basically if I’m suddenly into wood working, I will have ideas about wood working.  By looking at my idea list, I can tell when I got an iPhone.  Because suddenly there are all of these ideas about iPhones.  I seems to have a rash of ideas recorded involving politics and Obama.  That would probably correspond to the heated politics of the last election.  

Travel is a goldmine of ideas.

If you want a pile of new ideas, record them while you travel.  Sure they will be about better ways to get through airports, new food services, better iPhone apps for finding things, but if you take the time to write them down you will have many of them.  You will also notice another pattern.  Not all of them are about travel.  Usually, you bring a book with you on a plane, I bet you get ideas from that subject matter.  

Ideas go through cycles.

When you come up with an idea it is when your mind is in a open, non-focuses mode. If you are going through a life changing experience, you might be in a state of focus.  Marriage, children, death, these will focus you.  At that point your probably not thinking hi-level.  This is reflected in the number of ideas.  Also if you have any ideas they will probably be about what is focusing you at the moment.  Regarding that, I have a strange set of ideas related to better baby bottles and infant sleeping devices from about a year ago.

Using this knowledge

There are many other bits of data we can tease out of recording ideas.  But, just armed with this, I can say what works for me regarding new ideas.

New experiences

My biggest enemy is myself in this regard.  I don’t stray too far from my comfort zone and really have to push myself to do something new.   I think the rule of thumb here is, if you hear about an opportunity and it scares you, consider doing it.

More immersive = more ideas  

Its easy to take only an hour for something new.  And you will get some new ideas.  But, the more immersive the experience, the more it will change you.  And the more it changes you the more crossover between the old you and the person you are becoming.  So it will come down to how much you commit.  


People are key.  People force you to engage. A conversation with another person is unpredictable.  You must focus, and in doing so you will see things you haven’t seen before.  If nothing else get them to tell you problems they have noticed.  Or ask them to try and solve problems you noticed.  Everybody can identify a problem, but the way people solve problems is based on who they are and what they know.  So get someone else to solve a problem. I bet if will take you down a totally unpredicted path.


Travel is great.  It gets you away from things you know, puts you in awkward situations.  Its new, its immersive, its not possible to control everything.  Thus your mind will be exploring all sorts of new pathways and lots of ideas will light up because of it.

Ultimately, our minds become a reflection of the experiences we have existed in.   We are extremely focused and only exist in that space.  Just by shaking up our usual patterns it seems that our subconscious will try to relate patterns from our past and current experiences together.  This is what you will want to capitalize on.  Give a talk, join a club, have coffee with someone you don’t know.  To maximize change for yourself, you must do things that are wildly opposite from your usual behaviors.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to write down the ideas that come out of it.

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