Having too many ideas definitely is a nice problem to have. It is certainly much better than having too little ideas or no ideas at all.
But, what if we generate more ideas that we can realize? What, if we have completely different ideas every other week?
Your Vision, Your Goal
First of all you need to make sure that you have a clear vision and a clear long-term or even life goal. This works as your compass and enables you to value, organize and prioritize your ideas.
So, what is the problem with too many ideas? Leonardo da Vinci had a lot of ideas, even in different fields and we admire quite some of his ideas until today.
Most of us are quite overwhelmed when it comes to information input. We read articles, listen to podcasts, get instant messages or see social media posts. All this might spark all kinds of different ideas. However, it also shortens our attention span and we often jump from one topic to another.
New ideas are good of course, but if you hop from one new idea to another one every other day you might lose focus. You might lose the big picture. And, you might get off track on your path to your goal.
Good Ideas and Bad Ideas
We all know the situation when we (or others) say: “This is a good idea” or “This is a bad idea.” However, at the very beginning an idea is what it is, it is just an idea. This is important to recognize because too many people don’t come up with or express their own ideas because they are afraid these ideas might be bad ideas.
Think about the idea to offer strangers a place to sleep in your house. A bad idea? Well, many people thought so but now Airbnb generates over 2 billion USD revenue from that idea.
Even if an idea turns out to be a bad idea it might still spark a new and maybe better idea. And, real innovation and disruption usually starts with ideas that sound weird in the first place.
So, don’t be too shy to generate and to express ideas, even strange ideas.
Many extraordinary ideas appear in very ordinary situations like on a walk, in the car or in the shower. Also, quite often great ideas appear to us during little breaks. In order not to forget these ideas it is recommendable to write them down. This makes it easier to find them again later but it also frees your mind for other, new ideas.
If you don’t come up with ideas for a certain problem, there are techniques available like brainstorming, daydreaming or combining other ideas. However, this should rather be the topic of another article.
Do you know this? You are on the road or in a restaurant and you have this amazing idea. Then later at home you cannot remember it anymore.
Whenever you come up with an idea try to write it down. Either, use a little paper notebook you carry with you or use your phone and note down the idea there.
Whatever you use, make sure you can find your ideas again later. And later might be when you arrive back home in the evening or even months or years later when you come across that topic again.
When you use an app or some kind of electronic note taking it might be easier to find your ideas again later. You can just use the search function of your tool and if you have all your notes in the same tool, chances are you will find what you are looking for. When writing a note, already keep in mind possible search terms you might use later when you try to find this specific note.
On a regular basis you should go through your list of ideas and organize and prioritize them. A good time for this, for example, is when you review your goals.
The main objective of structuring your ideas is to keep track and to identify the ideas that are helpful for your goals. You can then assign the ideas to your goals. This can be done with physical drawers or folders, or you can assign the ideas electronically. For example you can place the ideas into a certain folder on your laptop or you can use so-called tags.
If you have a note-taking tool that supports tags you can assign multiple tags to your notes. The benefit is that you can easily assign one idea to multiple goals (tags) or you can use sub-tags for more granular organization. When you click on a certain tag, you will see only the notes with this (or these) tags.
Another powerful way to organize your notes is mind mapping. Mind maps are not only powerful for organizing ideas, they can also help you with generating further ideas.
The concept is simple and you can again do it on paper or electronically in a tool or app. You draw a central topic, for example your goal, and from there you draw lines to related topics that you arrange and organize around the center.
Now that you have organized your ideas you can use them to bring you closer towards your goals. You can use your ideas to support your goal-setting process. There are ideas for planning and ideas for taking action.
It is important to have a clear focus and your goals and your values can guide you here. Prioritize your ideas according to how helpful they are for your goals. This is not always easy because it can be tempting to follow a great new idea even if it is not at all related to any of your current goals.
You should not discard your great ideas in this case. You can either keep them for later or adapt your goals. Sometimes a good opportunity arises and it is indeed worth to postpone your current goal and take the chance. If you change your life goal any other week, however, this is way too often.
Prioritization is an open term here. You can order ideas by importance or by urgency. The following questions might help you with your prioritization.
What’s good for me?
Does this help me with my goals?
What is the short-term and long-term impact?
What is the possible cost?
Will it be fun?
The reason why we remember Leonardo da Vinci is because he realized his ideas. The best ideas remain just ideas if they are not executed. So, don’t ponder your ideas for too long, take action. Take action, learn, adapt, maybe generate new ideas and take action again. Taking action is an important part of your goal-setting process.
In their book Getting Things Done, David Allen and David Kelvin Allen explain a great technique that can help you to execute your ideas.
Tools and Resources
There are some great tools available that can help you with gathering and organizing your ideas. Here are some suggestions.
Simple note taking with web app and synchronization across devices.
Powerful, free note taking as app, software and online.
A popular, free mind mapping software.
Free online mind mapping.
A user friendly Android app for mind mapping on the go.
Now it is your turn. Check your ideas, organize them and see which ones can really help you with your goals and how. Oh, and by the way, the best time to do this is now.
Happy goal setting.