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What To Do When You Have Too Many Ideas

What To Do When You Have Too Many Ideas
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    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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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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