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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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    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 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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