I have a confession to make. I'm unable to work on a project unless it has a name. So the ability to verbalize an idea is a crucial part of my side projects. It also makes it easier to manage them in productivity tools of all kinds.
In the beginning, I have to speak of something. There's no definitive guide for finding names, and what works for me, doesn't have to work for you. Still, techniques I describe below are rather universal and applying them will increase your chances.
Straight to the point, I am going to explain my thought process by example.
Let's say we want to find a name for a new shiny habit tracking app.
It's important to design your environment in a way that it's least likely to distract you. Switch off your phone, don't look at Twitter, and tidy up your desk. Grab something to write on and something to write with. I prefer physical notebooks, but do whatever suits you.
It may be a good idea to set up a timer for, say, 10-20 minutes.
This will be your creative freedom time!
Have a few deep breaths.
Ready, steady, go! The clock is ticking.
The first thing I do is writing a list of keywords describing the idea.
Usually, less than ten of them are enough.
— beating procrastination
The next step is to create a list of whatever associations you may have for every keyword you listed.
— habit (action, cycle, loop)
— tracking (follower, chart, line)
— measurement (ruler, meter, mile)
— progress (growth, steady, bar, chain)
— beating procrastination (boxer, kick, bite, beat)
— atomic (proton, neutron, small, tiny, electron)
— automation (machine, computer, bot, robot, terminator)
At this point, you have already established a solid base to produce lots of different names. The next step is to jot down every possible idea that comes to your mind. The important thing is not to judge any of them, not now. You can use the techniques I've listed below.
— combine words
— skip some letters
— change order of letters
— double some letters
— think about emotions or feelings connected to some keyword/association
— think about other languages (French, Latin, German, you name it)
— think abstractly, have more associations
— look through your window
— look at your surroundings
To give you a sense of what can be an output of following them: habitline, habeat, smallbites, hauto, measurebot, habitto, habitree, neutrica, habiterminator (ok, this one is terrible :D).
As soon as your timer plays the final sound, put off your pen, close your notebook or your note-taking app. Let your brain cool down after this crazy run. Don't look at the list for at least an hour. Let your relaxed thinking come in to play.
The final step is to review your ideas. You can judge them now.
Underline the good ones, strike through the bad ones. If you have found your Holy Grail, the job had been already done! If you haven't, you can reiterate on the good ones, or repeat the process.
Thinking outside the box
As you can imagine, not every app/company figured out their name using a technique like this. Sometimes, it doesn't have to be descriptive at all. Think about names like “Apple” for a tech company or “Amazon” for an e-commerce marketplace company. That's another route to take. There's no silver bullet.
We can increase our creativity through exercise, like any other muscle.
It's worth training, so go to the “gym” and enjoy your creative time.
PS. Buy domain names as soon as possible ;)