Start your day off right with a simple process to focus your creative mind.

The Process

This process sets the stage for your subconscious to focus on the question you want answered. You should supplement any brainstorming or problem-solving activites you're already doing, aka don't rely entirely on this process. This also assumes you have a well-defined question and believe you're on the right track. If not, check out Understanding Questions and Problems. Here are all seven steps from start to finish:

  1. First, get you question handy. Find a sticky note or a note card and write your question down.
  2. Place your sticky note on a nightstand or in a place where it is the first thing you see in the morning. This is important.
  3. The last thing you should think about before going to sleep is your question. Dwell on your question for some time.
  4. Go to sleep.
  5. When you wake up in the morning, the first think you should do is look at the question you've posed to yourself. Spend a few minutes reading and thinking about the question. If you're half a sleep, re-visit this question once youre awake but ideally you start pondering before you've done any other real thinking.
  6. Go about your day, occasionally re-visiting your question when you can.
  7. If you haven't answered your question by the time you've gone to sleep, repeat this process.

The Logic Behind the Process

With this process, we combining several creative psychology best practices to focus your conscious and subconscious mind on the question. Getting your unconscious cognition involved, which is always working in the background, is often key to solving problems. The problem with the subconscious mind is that we can't control it. We don't know when it's thinking about our question or telling the stomach to digest lunch.

  • In step 1, we are getting a well-defined question together. If you ask the right question, you'll get the answer you want. The right question is crucial to generating these moments of insight.
  • In step 3, we are trying to engage your subconscious to think about your question while you are sleeping. Ever heard of the phrase: 'sleep on it'?
  • In step 5, the first thing you see in the morning is your question. Hopefully this will help direct both consciousnesses towards your problem. When you wake up in the morning, it's almost as if you are working with a fresh sheet of paper or a clean whiteboard.
  • In step 6, we are forgetting about our question and letting the subconscious do the heavy lifting, that is unless your day-to-day routine revolves around your question. Isaac Asimov did this often and wrote 'When I feel difficulty coming on, I switch to another book I"m writing. When I get back ot the problem, my unconscious has revisited it.'

Parting Thoughts

This process isn't a silver bullet but often you'll find yourself with a seemingly random insight at some point during your day, in the shower or while riding the bus. I followed this process recently and while running on the lakefront path one evening I came up with an idea for a new card game and a nifty SEO strategy for an application I'm building. This process continues to work for me and hopefully it can work for you too.