Exercise – Bug list

(Takes about 10 minutes)

This is an exercise to find problems small and large – from the minor annoyance to the life-stopping dilemma. Why would you want to make a list of these? Because problems can be a source of energy, inspiration and direction. Let me try to show you how.

The exercise

It’s worth doing this exercise with a timer as writing longer than is “comfortable” might force you to dig deeper for ideas – and to dare to put down a few that are far-fetched or ridiculous. Keep it playful, fluid and exploratory.

For 10 minutes:
Write down a list of things that bug you. This can include things that are mundane (e.g. plastic flowers), profound (e.g. existential angst), social (e.g. dishonesty), abstract (e.g. fear) or common (e.g. selfie sticks). Have fun and don’t stop until your time is up.

Congratulations, you now have before you a goldmine of prompts to stimulate ideas to improve your life, improve other people’s lives or start new projects. For each of these categories “extract” a new list from your original bug list. So for example, if your original list had included “traffic jams; loud people; and farts”, your “Things I should change in my life” list might include the items “I could take the train to work; I could leave my girlfriend; I could eat less beans”. Here are the categories:

  • Things I could improve in my life
  • Things that are useful for other people
  • Inventions or business ideas
  • Personal problems that I’m avoiding facing
  • Things that make me happy
  • Anything else you might find useful or interesting


Sometimes just naming things that bug us can rob them of some of their emotional power. Try it in your daily life today and see if it has any effect.

As with all brainstorming exercises, this is the first step of a process that now needs to be capitalized on. You may have already started on this with the proposed “mining” of your list for ideas. You could keep this list as a basis for other writing exercises, particularly where you may need a problem or challenge to deal with.

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