noticing things to get ideas

Have you ever heard people say that to have ideas you just need to start noticing problems or interesting things happening around you? I always think that advice is about as useful as telling someone they need to exercise to get fit. There’s no structure built in. How do you suddenly start noticing things you didn’t before?

Let me tell you my story about not noticing, It’s about knickers if you have problems with underwear stories please do not read on.

My not noticing story

A few years ago as part of my Christmas present, my Mum bought me a pack of white M&S knickers with a black and white pattern on them. Nothing particularly unusual there (apart from maybe your mother buying you pants – sorry if you’re reading Mum). Anyway, I didn’t think a lot about it until a few months later when I wore them again and noticed that the pattern was of dogs. I AM 47 and I am wearing knickers with dogs on them! My first thought was OMG if I had had an accident I may have died as the paramedic would have been too busy laughing at my pants!

Kind of weird though, something that you wear every day and you don’t even notice it, but that is exactly what happens and why we potential miss spotting some great ideas right in front of us.

Train yourself to notice things

So what steps can we take to capture those everyday issues or even the fun stuff? This is where my corny named DaytectiveTM method can help. This method is essentially a questioning review of your day. It’s designed to recapture those moments that may have otherwise slipped by without a further thought. It’s also a good idea to keep a notebook/digital or analogue with you at all times.

Set an alarm

Start setting yourself an alarm each day. Do this once or twice a day when you have at least 30 minutes to spare. Work through the series of questions to try and recall as much of day as possible and extract any useful idea starters.

Ask yourself these Daytective questions

What did I do today (this morning/afternoon)? (create a list)

  • What did I notice about the things I did
  • What were the annoying bits and the problems and what were the interesting or fun things?
  • What ideas could this inspire (how could I overcome the problems or make something of the interesting things)?

Who have I spoken to today? (create a list)

  • What did I notice about them?
  • What did they say, what were their problems?
  • What ideas could that inspire?

What did I watch, read and listen to today? (create a list)

  • What did I notice about it?
  • What were the interesting elements, what were the problems?
  • What ideas could that inspire?

I’ve used this technique to come up with ideas for cartoons, blog posts, and app ideas. Even if you never intend developing some of the ideas it gets your idea muscle working and you start noticing things more.

Let me give you an example that I have shared before. I was once clothes shopping in Leicester. By the time I went home I noticed on my Fitbit that purely through shopping I had walked six miles. This could be an interesting way to get fit. It could be developed into an app, made into a cartoon, be the inspiration for a blog post or exercise program.

Give it a try and see how it goes.