Personally, I think of new ideas best when I am playing racquetball by myself. The monotone process of hitting the ball back and forth against myself drives me into a trance-like state where my mind starts wandering and I think of new ideas. Because I know how to play racquetball now, my mind no longer needs to focus on how to hit the ball, so it’s free to think of other things.
I have heard that the same sort of effect works in many situations. One guy takes a walk every evening following the same path so that his mind doesn’t have to think about where he’s going and is free to wander. One of the more common methods is keeping a journal by your bed so that when you have trouble falling asleep because you’re thinking about a particular idea, you can write it down for the next day. The latter is one I should be adopting since anything I think of while falling asleep is quickly forgotten the next day.
What methods do you use?
Update: I just ran into this Lifehacker article that referenced a “The Oatmeal” article. My favorite quote from this article:
Inspiration is more like food poisoning: it sprays out uncontrollably when you need it the least.
Here’s the comic that the article references: