Ideas have a shelf life. Use ’em or lose ’em

How many of us have a list of ideas, dreams, or goals to accomplish? That app to build. That business to start. That book to write. Lists of ideas are helpful because they seemingly are the first stage of initiation, however what happens to those lists when no further action is taken? Like fresh produce, ideas can go bad if left unused. I, too, am guilty of a full compost.

Three years ago, I had an idea. I was out running and then, boom, like lightning something had just appeared in my mind. I wrote it down as soon as I got back to the office. When I say I wrote it down, I mean 10 pages, single spaced, describing all I had in my head about this idea. I was exhausted after capturing it all, but felt good. I closed work for the day feeling great, and told myself, I’ll get to that first thing tomorrow. What do you think happened next?

I had so many details, features, milestones, and plans in my 10 page manifesto, that whenever I returned to reading it, in the back of my head I knew there was no way I could get all this done.

At first glance, I would get excited. I would think of all the ways an idea could happen, and then the phone would ring, leading me to take care of the next problem. (A side effect of running a business in the beginning is that you are very reactive.) Slowly, I started to dread looking at that idea. I began to hide it as a subtask, and then a subtask of a subtask. If that wasn’t damaging enough, I began to feel bad just looking at my task list, causing me to avoid it all together. To make matters worse, this wasn’t the only idea I’ve had. Does this resemble your personal experience?

How did that happen? Something that had brought so much happiness was now causing me to avoid it altogether. I had described it, right? Set my vision, correct? What was missing, and why was I feeling these terrible side effects? The problem was, although I described the outcome, I hadn’t decided to do it, or not do it. Not making this decision can lead to avoiding ideas altogether, resulting in perhaps an even worst fight with our subconscious.

Effects of leaving your ideas on the shelf.

When we leave our ideas on the shelf, without deciding to do them or not, we create an open loop in the back of our mind. Our subconscious picks this up, and reminds us to check in on something. We look at the idea, again don’t make a decision,  which then sends it back to the subconscious to be repeated all over again. It’s a vicious cycle.

Overtime, this behavior can have a mental and physical affect on you.

Bad ideas can literally be detrimental to your health. The best thing you can do is make a decision to:

“Do, or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda to Luke Skywalker. Empire Strikes Back.

If you have been in the habit of writing down your ideas, go through your list and throw away the ones that have gone bad. Ask yourself if you are actually going to do this. If not, throw it away, delete it, and move on. Remember, you can always add them back in later, but only if you have decided you are actually going to do this.

What do you do if you have decided to make it happen? Read on.

Tips to getting your ideas to happen.

I’ve read countless books, and listened to even more podcasts on getting things done. There seems to be a central process to getting an idea off the shelf and into action.

First, if it’s just in your head, write it down.

If you’re like me, and you’ve done this step, no problem. Move on to the next step. Writing it down assures you have something outside of yourself. To repeat, the first step is to write it down. Why is this step so important?  It creates a “thing” and gives it a space outside of yourself and your mind; telling your subconscious, “ok, I got it from here. You can handle something else.” Consider the following prompts if you are having trouble with this initial step.

  • What does your idea look like when complete?
  • What is the final outcome?

Simple but powerful questions get the ball rolling. Do yourself a favor, limit your description to  one page. This helps to share your idea(s) with others. Think about it, when’s the last time you read a 10 page manifesto?

Capture next steps

After you know your outcome and have described your idea, there are two well known strategies to capturing next steps.

  • Work backwards. Think about what the idea looks like in the end. Look at your idea description, write down the stages of getting to that idea from end to start, and arrive at the first step!
  • Start from the beginning, work towards your outcome. What’s something small you could do today? Write down the first steps, tasks, actions you can take today to get started. Something small, and think in terms of, “if I had an hour to move this idea forward, what could I do?” You would be surprised what you can do with an hour. I did this article for example.

One of them should work for you, and if you’re still stuck, let us know in the comment section.

Share your idea and find partners.

It’s simple. Tell someone. I know this goes against the fear of someone stealing your ideas. So don’t just tell anyone. Think about people you trust, who can help you achieve your goals and evolve the idea. Share your idea with these people, and be open to their feedback.

Ideas evolve as they grow. Let your team help your idea become something strong. Your idea might not be what you had originally envisioned when you first thought about it. If you trusted and involved the right people, it can be better. When this starts to feel uncomfortable, remember, if you were able to do this by yourself, it would have been done already. However, it’s not done, because deep down you know you need partners, and help, which is scary because you’re not able to stay fully in control. Cede that control to people you trust, respect, and who you believe can help. Build on that trust with follow-through.

Take action

This has to come from you to make it happen. I’m not saying deep within you, just from you. It’s not going to come from me, or a book, or some conference. It’s going to come from you. You need to get up, and take steps to getting an idea to happen. So stand up, and get going. Take that first step. Share your idea with others. That’s what I thought when I had the idea to write this post.

Ideas evolve. Guide them, and let them evolve.

Ideas can be a source of great happiness. They represent a better tomorrow, and the ability to change the present into something better. But, they can also be a source of anxiety as well, if no decision for action has been made. Sharing your ideas, and taking action on them is one of the keys to a happy life. Bold statement but true.

Share your ideas with the right people. Specifically those who can help your idea evolve into something great. Allow your idea evolve by letting others help you out along the way. Make your idea happen, and help it be the best it can be.

By the way, if you’re curious about what became of that idea I left on the shelf for three years, we started recording this podcast show in January 2015, and we’re about seven episodes in now at the time of this writing, with a growing listener base. All thanks to the power of just getting something done.

If you like this post, we have more in the works. Subscribe to our mailing list today, and we’ll send you an idea builder tool free. Additionally, we’ll send you a collection of our most popular posts from the developers and builders at Rückbau.

 

About the Blogger:

Ja Shia is a marketing and startup consultant based in Oakland. He has started several businesses including Shia Productions, Shia Media Services, and JaShia.com. You can find him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and by throwing a stone at the Internet.