The flip side of not having any ideas to work with is having too many. Yes, it is possible to have an overabundance of ideas, especially when you only need one to get going.
This creates the same paralysis as not having any ideas. The constant question that drives me to the edge of insanity when I’m in this position is “which one do I chose!” Hair pulling, restless sleep, and irritability usually follow.
There’s two factors that go into being crippled by too much choice. The first is, you don’t want to make a time investment in something if in the end, it’s not going to be a success. This uncertainty is a killer.
It happens to everyone though, when faced with a plethora of choices, it’s impossible to know if the choice you’re making is the “right” one. You’ll only know after the fact.
The second factor, to a lessor extent, is, you don’t want to make a monetary investment in something that could possibly fail. You don’t want to lose money. It’s similar to buying a house. You don’t want to invest your money in something that 3 or 4 months down the road will become an albatross, a money pit of never ending despair.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for sure. You just have to make the best choice with the information you’re given right now. You can always change course later, but first, you need to get moving in some direction.
Set A Deadline
This strategy works for just about any task, and is surprisingly effective. I remember in high school and into college, I developed this ability to finish assignments in just the nick of time.
I would wait until the absolute last minute to start working, and I somehow got my stuff done and made decent grades (I was a straight B student, thank you). It’s incredible what a human is capable of when they’re up against a deadline.
Parkinson’s Law states, work expands to fill the time allotted. So if you give yourself infinite time to choose an idea to investigate, you’ll end up spending infinite time coming up with ideas. Set a hard deadline to pick an idea or two to run with.
You can always circle back around if they don’t pan out. And be sure to write the date down, somewhere you can see it every day, and stick to it. You’ll be amazed at how motivating it is to have a set in stone, absolute, looming deadline to make something happen.
I’ve started doing this recently, and it has kept me focused on the ideas that are promising right now, as opposed to being in constant indecision about all the ideas I have floating around.
I “borrowed” this method, and modified it slightly, for filtering ideas from an online course I took about a year ago. It’s a quick and dirty technique for eliminating ideas that aren’t right for you now, and it’s dead simple. For each idea, simply ask yourself these 3 questions (in order of importance):
- Do I WANT to pursue this idea? You don’t have to have a burning passion to get moving, but you do need the willingness to at least move to the next step. After all, passion comes from winning, and you’re not going to know if you have a winner until you get started. But the very first thing you do need is at least a small willingness to see where this idea will take you.
- Do I have the ability to execute this idea? Simply put, are you capable of making your idea come to life. If this idea requires specialized knowledge that you don’t possess yet, or a unique resource that’s really difficult to attain, or something else that might be a huge obstacle that you’re not willing to overcome just yet, then maybe you should move on to something else. But don’t sell yourself short. Obstacles are a part of the game; you’re going to have to overcome them. Just steer clear of the ones that would require a monumental effort.
- Will people pay me? This is the hardest to answer, and should, at this phase, almost always be a yes. Think about it though. If you’re gut tells you no, then maybe you should move on for now. There are ways, however, to test this, but for now, go with your instincts.
For all the ideas you feel good about, write down the next action you need to take to make it happen. Keep it simple and doable in a day (you don’t have to do it today, but it should be able to be done in a day).
Don’t Force It
I fall into this trap all the time. Even right now, I’m looking over my list of ideas and thinking “nothing in here is good.” If you can’t get excited for any of your ideas right now, then don’t force it.
All too often we get desperate to get out of a shitty situation and feel the need to do something now, and when that doesn’t happen, then we start to panic a bit. Panicking sucks, and leaves you desperate and forces you into making dumb decisions.
If you find yourself in this situation, throw all your ideas away and start over. You don’t have to literally throw them away, just mentally forget them. Then every morning for the next week or so, write down 10 ideas that you’ve never thought of before.
This is hard, and forces you to go deep. Then pick two to four of those ideas that you like the most and start working on them, but keep doing 10 ideas per day. This keeps your creative muscle in shape.
The point of all this is to stop living inside your head and start throwing your ideas out into the world to see if they stick. Remember, this stuff is hard. If it wasn’t, everyone and their dog would be doing it, and you wouldn’t need to be reading this awesome blog.
This post was written by A-ron, a regular contributor for MyWifeQuitHerJob.com.
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