There are two things that almost every project entails — creativity and deadlines. Unfortunately, those two things usually don’t go together so well. When deadlines are looming, I’m almost always pressed for a new idea. But this strategy, which shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes, is the perfect way to overcome your writer’s block, and have enough content ideas to keep you busy for weeks.

I use it to help with my writing, but it’s a process that can be easily adjusted to help you come up with new ideas for content marketing campaigns, design projects, photo shoots, or whatever you’re creating. Spend 10 minutes on each step below, then get ready to start building your next idea.

Step 1: Make a list, and don’t stop until you run out of time.

The best way to come up with new ideas is to simply sit down, write everything that comes to mind, and cross out the bad ideas later. As you write, explore your ideas further, touching on different topics and finding new ways to interpret them.

For example, I might have jotted down this blog post as “How to Overcome Writer’s Block,” next moving to “How to Generate 30 New Ideas in 30 Minutes.” But don’t stop there. Next, you might think about “How to Write a Blog Post in 30 Minutes,” or “Tools to Help You Organize Your Ideas,” and keep going down the rabbit hole until you’re really at a loss for something new.

View of computer from above by Ahmet Misirligul
View of computer from above by Ahmet Misirligul

You don’t need to flesh out or really think about each idea you’re writing down during this step — if it pops into your brain, you probably have (or can find) enough knowledge to write about it later on.

Step 2: Look at what’s worked in the past.

Once you’ve finished Step 1 (better known as the “idea purge”), you should take some time to look back at the content you’ve created in the past, to see what has already performed well on your site. If you find that articles about SEO are your bread-and-butter, try generating a few ideas on SEO topics you haven’t covered yet. If your readers go crazy for data visualizations, take note of which ideas can be re-purposed to include graphics.

For this step, don’t just look at “page views” as the end-all, be-all metric. Also pay attention to time on page and pages per visit, which generally represent more quality traffic. Likewise, you’ll want to be wary of content with a consistently high bounce rate.

Step 3: See what other people are writing about.

The most tried-and-true advice for how to be a better writer — to read more — applies here, as well. If you’re paying attention to what the industry is talking about and what other writers in your field are covering, you’ll have more inspiration when it comes to your own ideas.

Cat wants to learn and help with content ideas by daLy
Cat wants to learn by daLy

You can use a tool like BuzzSumo to see what content has done the best for certain keywords around the web, or you can just visit sites that you admire and think about which topics they’re covering. Maybe you’re an expert on video production, but you’ve never thought to write about how music affects editing. Or maybe you’re a social media marketer, but you’ve never shared your expertise on community management. Looking at other blogs will inevitably spark your creativity, which will help immensely as you work to generate dozens of ideas in such a short timeframe.

Step 4: Edit your list and get ready to write!

Once you’ve finished the first three steps, you may want to do one final “idea purge,” quickly writing down anything else that came to mind between Steps 1, 2, and 3. Now look at your list. You should have at least 30 ideas, but it’s likely that you’ll have far more. This last step — cutting down your list and getting ready to write — can be done right away, or a few days later, if you want to revisit your list with fresh eyes.

When I edit my lists of ideas, I do two things: First, I sort the topics into categories like, “I know this like the back of my hand,” “I know this, but would have to do some research on it,” “This will be 100% research,” and “I know nothing about this — why did I even write it down?” Then I move them into my list app and add tags (#Marketing, #Photography, #Creativity, #Design, etc.) to organize each idea by topic. I never delete an idea, even if I hate it, because you never know what might spark something in your brain later on.

If you want to organize the ideas, I definitely recommend the category approach. It allows you to see which ideas you can jump on immediately, which will take some extra time, and which you might be better off handing to a guest blogger or freelancer. From here, it’s time to organize, write, and work however you work best. You’ll go forward with at least 30 days worth of content (assuming you post once a day) and it only took about 30 minutes to do!

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Top image: Retro Clocks on the Wall by Mr. Lightman

Think you tuned in late? Head back to the fundamentals of content planning.