How you can get great Business ideas by “doing nothing”

It never fails for me – I get great ideas by “doing nothing”.

My “method” started off by accident – but now I “do nothing” deliberately.

I seem to get a lot of good ideas when I am flying. I connect to creative ideas by disconnecting from all my technology.

In the past I would usually try to use flying time (especially on business trips) to catch up on reading work documents – or I’d watch the in-flight news or read the business sections of the paper. I always had to be doing something. Do you feel compelled to always be doing something? – especially reading something.

Now I “do nothing” purposefully. As tempting as it is to want to use the time “productively” – I just sit in my seat and stare and out the window – the blue sky and fluffy white clouds during the day or the darkness at night. I deliberately “think of nothing in particular” and I find after a while ideas pour into that emptiness and space. I know it sounds very “zen” – emptiness is full of potential – but it works for me every time.

One thing I do however is I make sure I have a pen and paper to capture the ideas. I now have a special plane idea notebook I take with me when I fly. I used to write all my ideas on my boarding pass – but now I have the special notebook.

One time I was wrestling with a particular work problem to create some content to help clients improve their proposals. The harder I tried the harder it was to find a solution. I remember I was flying from Sydney to Melbourne for work. It was one of those sparkling clear days you couldn’t help but want to take in the beauty. I was just staring out the plane window thinking about “nothing” when a solution came to me. I think the idea came because I was relaxed and I “wasn’t trying”. I wasn’t distracted by reading or watching entertainment.

Ever since that flight I use the disconnect, relax and do nothing “technique”.  Now I don’t want you to think I do this every moment when I’m flying. When I am on overseas flights I take advantage of the movies (as I’ve written about in previous posts) but I might “do nothing” for 30 minutes or so – get some good ideas  – then enjoy the entertainment.

So next time you fly – try doing nothing. I know it will be hard and you will be tempted to read or listen to music or watch the in-flight entertainment or your own iPad or other gadget – but try doing nothing.

Just, make sure you have a notebook to capture the ideas that flow to fill the “space” you have created by doing nothing.

The “secret” of allowing some space in your life.

I know I often refer to a great web resource and book – Presentation Zen – by Japan-based American professor/presenter Garr Reynolds.

In my opinion he is one of the “most interesting” professors on he subject of presentation and visual communication. Then  again, I like his style because I also am a  big fan of what he is a fan of – the Zen minimalism style, music (he’s a drummer which is almost like a musician! Only joking Garr!) Star Wars and being a dad.

Anyway, the reason I am writing about  Presentation Zen in this post about getting ideas is – one of the best bits of advice I ever got from Garr’s book and website was this idea of “not always cramming in too much and filling up every moment your life with activity”.

Garr talks about the Japanese idea of  hara hachi bu – only eating until you are 80% full – satisfied but not stuffed.  We, especially in Western business culture, tend to cram out lives too much in our “hunger” for productivity. And yet, if we don’t feel compelled to fill every space with activity and action – our lives can be more peaceful and pleasant and yet we can still be productive and actually more effective. And, the space allows “good stuff” like ideas to flow into it.

Here is a link to Garr’s  Presentation Zen post about hara hachi bu.


Enjoy, and please try “doing nothing” and see how it works for you!


About doubleshot media

Hi, I'm a lawyer turned journalist/speechwriter/presentation coach - combining business experience with personal passions for music and writing to blog about persuasion, retro, music, and even business lessons from theatre and performing
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