Do you find yourself overwhelmed with ideas and not knowing how exactly to make the best use of them? Perhaps you can’t decide which idea is the best one. All the ideas you have appear shiny and exciting.
And this is often where the danger lies: when you have too many ideas you become overwhelmed and end up doing nothing about them.
In fact, some people even feel proud that they can come up with a lot of ideas. The truth is, without execution, ideas by themselves are not useful at all.
How do you make the best use of all the ideas that come to you?
In this article, I will show you a step-by-step method on how to best make use of all the ideas that come to your head. By knowing exactly how to do this you will be able to turn an idea into new business opportunities or income streams.
Step 1: Create a system to capture your ideas
When we think of coming up with new ideas, we often think of people sitting together or by themselves, in a room, jotting down ideas as they come – periods popularly known as brainstorming.
Science and personal experience, however, have proven that intentionally trying to come up with ideas doesn’t yield the results we want. Instead, we come up with our best ideas when we least expect it, like when we’re taking a shower, not when we intensely focus on coming up with ideas during brainstorming sessions.
Some of the article ideas for Campfire have popped up during idle moments in a train or in a queue, waiting and without much intention of idea generation. It’s possible that your best ideas for your business have popped up the same way too.
What this means for you is that you are not as in control of when you come up with your best ideas as you’d like. Rather than forcing yourself to come up with ideas during periods of brainstorming, consider building a system that captures all your ideas as they come.
For me, my idea capture system includes a notebook (non-digital), a pen and Google Keep. Whenever I’m out, I make sure I have these two things close by. Any time an interesting idea pops up, I write it down on my notebook or make a note on Google Keep.
You can use any digital or non-digital note keeping systems to capture your ideas. Test them out to see what works best for you. I know some people who like recording their ideas rather than writing them down.
The most important thing about any idea capture system is that for them to be effective, you need to make sure you can access them quickly. Ideas are a volatile thing. Once you lose them, you are unlikely to get them back. So it’s important to have quick access to your idea capture system.
Step 2: Create a system to sort your ideas
It’s likely that not all ideas you capture will be for a single project or business. It is important for you to categorize them so you don’t waste them digging into your idea files when you need a specific idea for a project or business.
For me, I use a combination of Google sheets and a few properly labeled offline Excel sheets. A few times a week I transfer ideas from my notebook and Google Keep to these files. Doing this has allowed me to make the best use
You can use any method you like to sort your ideas into appropriate categories. You can even use a note card system where you physically sort the ideas out using index cards and mini boxes.
Regardless of what you choose to use to sort out your ideas, make sure you don’t skip this step. Sorting your ideas out properly also reduces your tendency to miss out on ideas when you have too many ideas to keep up with.
Step 3: Create a system to decide what you are going to do with the idea
Once your ideas are properly sorted, you have to decide what you will do with them. Are you going to execute them straight away or are you going to wait for some time to pass before executing them?
To make decisions on what to do next with your ideas, you have to create systems. I personally use the Checklist system to make decisions. In the Checklist system you go through a set of questions to help you decide what you should do with an idea.
Although most of us have internal checklist systems to help us with our decision making, it’s best to write it down so you can refer to it again and again without missing out anything important.
The checklist can include questions like:
- Do I currently have the resources (time, money, manpower) needed to execute this idea?
- If not, how soon can I have it?
- Do I currently know anyone who I can talk to to further develop this idea?
- Do I have any fundamental skills in to execute the idea?
- Is this idea going to help with the long-term business goals of my company?
And so on.
The aim of the checklist is to help you make a decision on things like:
- How soon can you start executing the idea?
- Is your company and team ready to execute the idea?
- If not, what else do you need to get ready before you start?
- Is it worthwhile to pursue this idea? (i.e. does it fit with your long term business goals?)
You don’t have to follow my questions exactly. List down questions that best suit your business goals and current business structure. What ultimately matters most is that you can qualify every single one of your ideas using a robust and reliable system.
Step 4: Execute, Postpone or Discard
Once your idea has gone through Step 4, you now have a decision on whether to execute, postpone or discard the idea.
For ideas that you want to execute, be sure to start planning on how you can do so. Gather your team and resources to execute the idea in the most efficient way possible.
On the other hand, when you have decided on postponing or discarding an idea, make it a point to not look into them. Doing so would mean taking resources away from the idea you want to execute.
As much as you are tempted to jump into every single idea, the best strategy is to focus your resources into a few which has the highest impact on your long-term business goals.
Be realistic about what you and your team can really do. Deciding to execute every single idea that appears appealing will leave you and your team overwhelmed and exhausted. Worse, you won’t have any results to show for it.
Having many ideas but not being able to capture them and make decisions on what to do with them is a waste. Great ideas often change our businesses, resulting in new business streams and hundreds of dollars extra in revenue.
As much as we’d like to think we can control when our best ideas come to us, we can’t. They seem to pop up at the most unexpected times. To take advantage of all the ideas which come to you, you must have in place an efficient system to capture these ideas or risk losing them.
You must then qualify your ideas and decide if you should execute them immediately, postpone them for later when you have more resources or discard them if you find them to not be useful for your goals.