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What To Do When You Have Too Many Ideas

What To Do When You Have Too Many Ideas
    Too many ideas, so little time...

    Every day I’m struck with new ideas, whether they’re for a new writing project, an article I know that would resonate with a wide audience or something that would help keep my family life flowing. The problem with ideas is that until they are acted upon, they are just ideas – and aren’t worth much more than the thought they were initially given.

    So I capture them and then I curate them. Even still, there are a ton left once I’m done evaluating their merit, so the next step is start to do something with them. Then another problem creeps in – idea stagnation. I wind up doing a little bit with each idea, and some are never seen through to completion. It’s an ongoing battle, and it’s something that I’m not alone in.

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    There’s nothing wrong with having too many ideas. But what you do with them is far more important than just having them. It’s like having a lot of money but not doing anything with it. Sometimes there are just too many options. Choice is good, but too much choice can cause paralysis. If you find that you are an “idea machine” that breaks down once the ideas are supposed to turn into something tangible, there are some things you can do to give yourself a tune-up.

    1. Let them simmer until it’s time for your Weekly Review. When you have an idea, write it down. But don’t do anything with it until your Weekly Review day arrives. If the idea occurs to you less than 2 days before your Weekly Review day, don’t do anything with it until the following one. Let the ideas percolate and stand together with everything else you have to do. This will help you gain perspective on the idea in terms of what you can – and can’t – do with it. If it’s something that sits in your Weekly Review for four weeks, drop it. It’s clearly not crucial to you in the grand scheme of things. And besides, if you let it go and comes back to you, then when that happens you’ll know it’s something that you need to act upon.

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    2. Adopt a mission statement. These come in handy when looking at what ideas you’re coming up with in that they keep you honest. If an idea fits in with the mission statement you’ve adopted, you’ll have a better understanding of whether or not it is something you need to see through to the end. If there are any conflicts with the statement, then it’s not something you’re likely to build – or build well.

    3. Create idea buckets. Put all of your ideas in a bucket – and if you’ve got areas of your life that are fundamental to your happiness (such as a passion project, your work, or your family life), then create an idea bucket for each. Every time you have an idea, throw it into the pertinent bucket. When doing your Weekly Review (which you’re doing, right?) take a look at how many of those ideas are sitting in each bucket and how much progress has been made on them. If they are sitting there with no actions attached, it might be time to dump them. This tactic can be used in conjunction with, or as an alternate to, the first tactic mentioned. I use both because once the idea has simmered and it’s something that I’m intending on doing, I’ll put the idea in the corresponding bucket and turn it into a project when the timing is right.

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    4. Get real. This one is by far the most subjective, as everyone has their own way to do this. I look at all of my stuff (my task management application, my calendar, etc.) and really look at what I have time for. I connect with the ideas that I’m fondest of and know will bring about the most benefit to myself and others. Then I start to cull. I adopt a mindfulness by doing this regularly. I’m not really meditating, but I’m really getting in touch with all that I have on my plate and deciding – really deciding – what can stay and what has got to go. This is the hardest thing to do, usually because more ideas pop into my head while I’m doing it. But the ideas that come to mind during this time rarely stick, as they are usually meant to keep me from the objective at hand: to get real.

    One of the best things about having ideas come to you regularly is that you’re never at a shortage of material to work with. But it’s the “working with” part that is the hardest part. Capturing your ideas is great, but thinking on them is what will keep you from being trapped in overwhelm and bringing your ideas to life.

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    If you’re an idea machine, then learning to separate the projects from the rejects is a skill worth learning. Because an idea on its own isn’t worth very much, and you’re worth so much more than that.

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

    How about a unique spin on things?

    These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

    1. Empty your mind.

    It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

    Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

    Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

    Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

    How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

    2. Keep certain days clear.

    Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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    This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

    3. Prioritize your work.

    Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

    Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

    Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    4. Chop up your time.

    Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

    5. Have a thinking position.

    Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

    What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

    6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

    To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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    Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

    7. Don’t try to do too much.

    OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

    8. Have a daily action plan.

    Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

    Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

    9. Do your most dreaded project first.

    Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

    10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

    The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

    11. Have a place devoted to work.

    If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

    But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

    Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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    Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

    12. Find your golden hour.

    You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

    Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

    Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

    Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

    13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

    It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

    By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

    Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

    14. Never stop.

    Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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    Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

    There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

    15. Be in tune with your body.

    Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

    16. Try different methods.

    Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

    It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

    Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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