What to do when you have too many ideas

Recently I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with business ideas. There were just too many! Different services, different people I might work with, different resources I could share.

It felt a bit overwhelming and if I’m honest a bit like a traffic jam in my mind. So many ideas that together they couldn’t get through and sat side by side stuck in gridlock, honking their horns at me. I felt cranky and like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I felt even cross with myself and the ideas – why are you coming to me and just sitting here and not convincing me to take action?

Eventually a few things fell into place and now I finally feel as if the traffic lights have turned green, they are merging into one lane, and I know what order they will pull off in.

Here are five things that helped me, and might help you (especially if you are a big picture creative or busy scanner), when you have too many ideas:

 

  1. Write them down somewhere where you can find them

If you are anything like me you might have notebooks for everything. Lists, ideas, journaling, affirmations, drawings, outpourings of the heart, business ideas, the works. However those half pages lost in various notebooks you will rarely reread is not super helpful. It can add to the feeling that you are frittering away your ideas and that nothing is building. It’s easy to feel lost when your ideas are actually lost in a notebook.

Some things I have found helps for finding the ideas again is:

  • Using dedicated notebooks for different things and different notebook sizes or colours so I can find the right one quickly (my gratitude and celebration journal is bright yellow, my dream and wishes journal is hot pink, my regular daily journals are black)
  • Having a ‘scanner daybook’ as recommended by Barbara Sher for capturing those thoughts on big wild inventions, projects or life ideas (mine is a huge weighty tome with the very best paper and cover that I could afford at the time)
  • If you do keep your ideas in the one notebook or journal all mushed up, you might like to try what I have started doing, which is writing ‘IDEA:’ as a large header in capitals before I write or draw out business ideas. That way when you run your eye down the last few pages or few weeks of pages you can easily spot the bits that were to do with ideas, and you wont have to read all of your emotional outpourings, other lists etc.
  • Go digital and use a program like Evernote so you can access your notebooks from your mobile device as well as your work or home computer (I’ve just started using it, I’ll let you know how I go).
  • You could also create private Pinterest boards for yourself and save photos or articles that relate to your project or idea

OK… so that is all about how to write them down and where, but maybe you are a visual person and finding the connection between ideas is important rather than just a list, which brings us to the next suggestion: map them.

 

  1. Map them

I find drawing out or mind-mapping parts of the ideas really helps. For example are three of your ideas related to one core topic and the other three are on a different topic? Are there flows of information, materials or learning that would take place between these projects if they were happening side by side? Do some of your ideas support others, and of you were to do them first would help support subsequent projects? Pulling out these different ideas (that you may have written down in various locations at different times) and putting them together into a diagram can help you visualize connections, and make sense of what might at times feel like unconnected ideas. I find this ‘sense making’ helps bring a feeling of order and calm, even amongst the sometimes chaotic feeling barrage of ideas.

 

  1. Feel into them

Ideas can be persistent in our minds but when you pay attention to each one they can ‘feel’ different. In a recent podcast with Lisa Murray on the Recovering Perfectionist, she called it ‘following the energy’. I like to call it ‘feeling into them’. The way it works for me is when I visualize the idea it can either feel light, charged up, and unobstructed, or it can feel heavy, cloudy and like it is sitting behind a pane of glass some distance away. When it feels cloudy I often have my mind being indignant and saying things like ‘but it’s a very good idea! It makes sense’ – kind of defending it if you like. That tells me that my conscious mind likes the idea, but that another part of me isn’t so sure.

The way I think about it is this: our conscious minds are not the sum total of our wisdom. I believe our subconscious is the vast databank that integrates more information – contextual, historical, emotional, futures focused – than our day to day conscious minds can handle. I think that it can give us valuable additional info to what our conscious mind can, but that it doesn’t ‘speak’ in a linear, language based, logical way. So when I get that heavy or obstructed feeling about an idea I am learning to trust that it might be that there is a good reason that it might not be the right time, or that the idea might not yet be in a form that will work best in the world, and that I need to give it some more time to mature.

 

  1. Give them time – but not too much time

As long as you are not forgetting your ideas then thinking them over for a while before you start is a very reasonable proposition. For me, for big complex ideas, a few months of mulling it over feels about right. If it is a small idea that feels 100% doable right now the lag between thought and action can be quite brief (hours or days). If you leave it too long (years) you may be in danger of putting it in the ‘too hard basket’ and making the idea seem like an idealized fantasy far removed from your everyday life. That’s not to say that the whole idea needs to be implemented and completed in those timelines, but that you commit to it and start taking some kind of action. It may be that it gets harder and harder to take action. The exact nature of these timelines is probably different for everyone, but it might be worth considering the right amount of time you plan to give your ideas to mature before you get started.

 

  1. Expand your time horizon for implementation

Barbara Sher talks so beautifully about the way that scanners have a skewed sense of time, and often forget that they have a tomorrow and a next year to do things, not just a today. With these recent ideas I was having I kind of forgot that maybe my timeline was bigger than just the next few months. I realize now that maybe they will unfold over 5 years, and that is OK. It takes the pressure off and reminds me that I can start on them all now, but the preparations for some might run in parallel with the launch of others.

As Elizabeth Gilbert* says, “Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest.” So don’t let a traffic jam stop you from bringing some of those ideas into the world.

Do you have lots of ideas too? how do you manage them so they feel like an asset rather than a burden? Did anything resonate from my list above? Please let me know!

 

*Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear