Entrepreneurs Get Their Best Ideas During Down Time

Small Business Monitor from American Express OPENA Small Business Monitor report by American Express OPEN says that over one-third of entrepreneurs use down time — time when they are not technically working — to come up with creative ideas for business:

“More than one-third of entrepreneurs (35%) report coming up with their best ideas during “down-time”. Male business owners are more than twice as likely as female business owners to come up with their best ideas on the way to work (18% vs. 7%). Women are also more likely than men to wake up in the middle of the night with ideas for their business (70% vs. 56%).”

At this time of year I do a lot of gardening. I find that the time spent alone outdoors — just the plants, some red-winged blackbirds, a few moles and me — is prime time for coming up with new ideas. There’s nothing like pulling weeds or deadheading flowers to have new ideas jump into your head as if out of nowhere.

But the ideas are not really coming out of nowhere. Our subconscious and even our conscious minds are at work during down times like gardening. Sometimes down time is the only time we have to actually think about breakthrough ideas or new products or creative approaches. On a typical work day we tend to be occupied with phone calls, answering emails, meetings, writing and other specific tasks, leaving little open time. We may have to get out of the office to have unfettered time for creative thinking.

How to get entrepreneurial ideas is not so much about forced thinking, but about clearing out your mind. Entrepreneurs have to give themselves enough down time and thinking time, to come up with ideas.

When do you come up with your best ideas?


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

13 Reactions
  1. I usually come up with ideas when I am trying to fall asleep at night. It’s dark, the house is quiet. Great time for uninterrupted thinking.

  2. I too find gardening a good time to let my mind wander and find that ideas will come to me. The other time is in the shower.

  3. Gardening IS great for bright ideas (when I don’t have my 1 and 3 year olds “helping” me) but also I find browsing the web randomly also prompts me with brilliant ideas when I come across something completely unrelated but somehow right on the mark. I love those moments.

    I also think that as I get older, my subconcious does more for me. Perhaps it’s because my life is so busy, there’s not enough conscious time and my brain just keeps going and going and going behind the scenes. Anyone else have that?


  4. You just can’t beat out in the garden for coming up with some of the greatest ideas. Also, does taking a nice long walk help many out there…really works for me.

  5. The shower! It relaxes and seems to clear the head enough for those great new ideas to pop in there.

  6. I sneak out of the office and drive down to a parking lot on a cliff overlooking the Pacific. In no time at all I come up with enough good ideas to last me for months.