Even when it comes to creative ideas, less is more. How to shed the good ideas so you can get to the great ones.
Have you ever wondered why not all highly creative and intelligent people end up being as successful as they could be? There are a thousand answers to this question but one of them goes like this:
It’s just so hard to focus.
One of the great problems with creative and intelligent minds is they have more ideas than they know what to do with. In other words, it’s not that they lack opportunities to use their creativity and intellect. It’s that they are almost too creative and intelligent for their own good.
The image that comes to mind is standing in the toothpaste aisle at the grocery store, 300 different kinds of toothpaste staring you in the face.
How do you choose which one is best for you?
Which elements of toothpaste are the very most important to you? What do you hope your toothpaste will offer you? What is your price point for toothpaste? And just because a toothpaste says it fights gingivitis — does that mean it really does?
More options does not always mean a better outcome. Sometimes too many options can be paralyzing.
The same is true for creativity. I can certainly attest to this. I have no shortage of creative ideas. In fact, sometimes I find myself late at night buying domain names or designing websites for projects that will never actually exist.
I can’t tell you how many tweets I’ve written, how many blog posts I’ve drafted, how many designs I’ve started that have ended up on the cutting room floor. And while I know this is all part of the creative process, I also know if I don’t find a way to reign in my ideas and limit the ones I pursue, it can be toxic to my creativity and a hindrance to my success.
Where there aren’t good boundaries, there isn’t creative “flow” and where there isn’t creative flow, there isn’t progress.
So how do we trim the fat when it comes to creative ideas? That’s a great question and one worth spending a few minutes to answer.
There are two major things creative people can do if they find themselves under the weight of too many creative ideas; when you’re staying up too late wondering which “toothpaste” to buy, so to speak, when, the truth is, they all work pretty much the same.
The first one is: keep an ideas folder.
This is a practice I started a long time ago and it’s where all of my would-be ideas go when I don’t have time to pursue them in the moment. For example, if I get a product idea while I’m working on a website design, I write it down and drop it in the ideas folder.
This satisfies the part of me that never wants to let any ideas go but prevents me from getting derailed in my current task.
Second, I have specific times of day set aside for productivity and other times for dreaming. When I’m in “productivity” mode, I’m working on a current project, an idea I have already decided is viable. I don’t allow myself to get distracted in those moments.
If I have a new idea, it goes in the “ideas folder”.
But during the times of day I have specifically set aside to dream, I talk on the phone with friends, share ideas with my wife, scan the internet and just let my brain go wild with ideas. I experiment. I ponder. I play. I dream.
If you struggle with the curse of having “too many great ideas” maybe one of these tactics will work for you.
Whatever you do, don’t let your “too many good ideas” keep you from that amazing one.
- 8 Bad Habits That Crush Your Productivity and Stifle Your Success
- Successful Entrepreneurs Focus More And Quit More Often
- The Idea Overwhelm Myth Exposed
No Sidebar: At Work
When it comes to running a business or growing your career, it can feel difficult or even dangerous to “cut out” or “throw away” ideas that might lead to greater success. That’s why it’s important to think of your work like a rose bush, rather than a tree.
If you don’t prune some of the buds, eventually the bush will exhaust itself and die.
In fact, one of the biggest mistakes you can make as an entrepreneur — and even within your larger organization — is not being willing to let go of what isn’t working and pivot quickly.
The trick is finding which ideas are really the most important to pursue and then committing your time, attention and energy to those ideas so they can have the opportunity to grow and thrive; and so you can have the chance to thrive with them.
No Sidebar: At Home
Is it possible to find a balance between doing what creatively inspires us and also making money? According to Angela Bickford, yes, but we have to start by believing there is a way.
Before we totally dismiss the benefit of starting things without knowing if we will have the time or money to finish them, let’s consider the possibility that maybe it isn’t such a bad thing. “One step at a time” is a great way to get things done.
No Sidebar: In Your Soul
Having “too many ideas” rattling around in our brains doesn’t only impact what happens in the world around us — how much money we make, if we do or don’t achieve our goals, how healthy our relationships are — it also impacts our internal world.
Do we do what is expected of us, or do we give into our passions? Do we stick with due dates, or forget about what is expected of us and go where the creative energy leads?
The tension can feel overwhelming.
But ultimately, if we choose a path and stick with it, if we’re willing to trim back and focus, we can leverage the power of our creative ideas. Our creativity and intellect has the power to change the world.