You've probably noticed that your best ideas tend to come at certain times or during specific activities. It might be during your morning run, just before bed, while meditating, or some other time when your mindset is in just the right place for inspiration.
Some of the most creative minds in history have built their success on life's little brainstorming moments. You might have heard that Woody Allen does his best thinking in the shower, or how reading an article on phone hackers led Steve Jobs to create the Apple computer with Steve Wozniak.
But a number of successful innovators went to some strange and extreme lengths to conjure colorful inspiration from their gray matter.
Take America's über-inventor Thomas Edison, who preached that old line about genius being 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration--he didn't limit his thinking spaces, instead treating every place and every moment as a potential source of inspiration. Rather than waiting for those mythical eureka moments, Edison treated idea generation like any other task, often forcing out dozens of ideas, knowing that the vast majority of them were probably duds.
But what if you don't possess Edison's total Type A drive and relentlessness? It's the 21st century, after all. Shouldn't we be able to be a little smarter about, well, thinking?
Here are five places that more modern innovators go for inspiration:
1. Almost drowning on purpose: Yoshiro Nakamatsu was a highly prolific inventor cut from the same cloth as Edison, but with some added eccentricities. To come up with some of the more than 3,000 inventions, including the floppy disk, that are credited to him, he would deliberately deprive himself of oxygen underwater. He claimed that he would visualize an invention half a second before death and then write it down on an underwater notepad.
2. The bathroom: This one probably isn't surprising, but some inventors did thinking in strange bathrooms or in strange ways in normal bathrooms. Steve Jobs would sit on top of a toilet and dangle his bare feet in the water while thinking. Nakamatsu had a custom made "calm room" for thinking that was basically a bathroom tiled in 24-karat gold, which he believed blocked out broadcast signals that harmed creativity.
3. Traveling and surfing the world: After his advertising business failed, Nick Woodman, then 26, gave himself some time to travel and surf in the hope of finding inspiration for what to do next. Turns out that inspiration was right under his nose and above his surfboard. Woodman realized on the trip that he wanted a wrist camera to document his surfing adventures. He cut his trip short and went back home to work on what would become GoPro.
4. The company bathtub: We might not all have the luxury of a cool vintage bathtub available for long soaks in the office, but it was one of the odd perks that legendary video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto enjoyed at Nintendo. He said recently that long soaks during a stressful time in the early 1980s when there was pressure to come up with a hit game led to the inspiration for Donkey Kong. That idea would ultimately lead to another great gaming franchise involving a plumber named Mario.
5. On the train: We've all zoned out and gotten lost in our thoughts while riding public transportation, but author J.K. Rowling took it to an extreme. When she found herself stuck on a train for four hours without a pen to write down a book idea and too shy to ask strangers for pen and pad, she went deep into thought about the storyline, sketching it out and committing it to memory. The result was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Wherever you go to think, perhaps the most important thing is to actually carve out a piece of your hectic schedule just for thinking. Because ideas don't just happen in certain places--they happen at certain times, too.