Keeping Up with Ideas

Dec 7, 2015
Joe Buhlig
~2 mins

Ideas are sometimes hard to come up with. But what happens when you have so many that you get lost? You have all these ideas begging you for attention and it becomes unclear which ones you should take on and which ones you should let go.

I don’t know how to tackle this issue with anything other than a list. But a list is no good if you don’t trust it. You have to trust that you’ll add items to it and you have to trust that you’ll come back to it. There may be mental freedom in writing it down, but if you never look at it again you’ve just conned yourself into forgetting.

Analog vs Digital

Where you keep this list doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you. Most people assume that I do everything digitally. False. Many times I’m writing notes or drawing pictures on a note card. I convert it later, but I still prefer pen and paper.

Choose the process that works for you. If you’re using a paper calendar, you’ll likely want to keep this list on paper as well. If you don’t have a printer, you’ll probably find an app for it.

Capture

No matter which form of list keeping you use, it’s imperative that you keep something around to grab these ideas when they come. And they will hit you at inopportune times. Think about how you’ll capture ideas when you’re driving your car or taking a shower. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll start losing them.

Building Trust

The only way you’ll build trust in your new list is to read through it regularly. I’ve found weekly to be a great starting point. It doesn’t matter when, so long as you do it. Schedule a time if you have to, but make sure you don’t forget this step; it is the most vital part of the process.

With consistent review, you begin to trust that your ideas aren’t lost after you write them down. You will come back to them. And as a nice bonus, you’ll start to have more ideas as you go through the list. Seeing them all together typically prompts new ones to form.

Making Decisions

If you create this list, collect ideas for it, and trust it, it’s still worthless if you never activate an idea. But when do you start working on an idea and how do you know which one to pick?

Timing is the easy part. You can only choose to work on an idea if you have time (or make time) for it. If you decide to get up early to work on that new side project, you know when you’ll work on it. If you feel overwhelmed by your workload as it is, you need to focus on completing current projects before you take on a new one.

Deciding which idea to pursue is the hard part. If possible, you want the idea to have purpose and hold your interest. If there’s no strategic or direct value in it, why work on it? It should either be a building block to something else or a straightforward product that you’ll enjoy.

When you find yourself having a lot of new ideas, take advantage of it. Write them down, because they don’t always come when you want them.