Six Tips to Make Ideas Happen
“If you want your idea to succeed, you’ll have to take the offensive. So, you become a Warrior and take your idea into action.”
Roger von Oech, “A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative”
Ideas are plentiful. However, ideas that are seen through to completion are an entirely different story. Most ideas end up in the idea graveyard, surrounded by countless good intentions and one-day-I-will dreams. Focus, determination, organisation, and productivity will determine whether an idea will ever become reality. Below you’ll find six tips to help you make your ideas happen.
Choose One Idea to Work On – Avoid the Idea Avalanche
Avoid the idea avalanche, or the creative person’s tendency to jump from idea-to-idea without getting much done. Stephen Pierce defines the idea avalanche as: “The mental condition whereby ideas come to you in such abundance that you have trouble keeping up with all of them.” It’s basically about having a great idea, then having an even better one three days later, and moving on to yet another fabulous idea the day after that.
The net result of the idea avalanche is that you never see any of your ideas through to completion. The solution to the idea avalanche is to choose one idea to focus on, to the exclusion of all other ideas.
An idea in and of itself is basically worthless; this is true even of brilliant ideas. The idea needs to be coupled with execution in order to become valuable. Derek Silvers explains that ideas are just a multiplier of execution. He describes it as follows:
AWFUL IDEA = -1
WEAK IDEA = 1
SO-SO IDEA = 5
GOOD IDEA = 10
GREAT IDEA = 15
BRILLIANT IDEA = 20
NO EXECUTION = $1
WEAK EXECUTION = $1000
SO-SO- EXECUTION = $10,000
GOOD EXECUTION = $100,000
GREAT EXECUTION = $1,000,000
BRILLIANT EXECUTION = $10,000,000
To create a business you need to multiply the value of the idea by the manner of its execution.
Keep an Idea Journal
Every time a new idea pops into your head, resist the urge to drop the idea you’re currently working on to pursue the new venture. Instead, create a system for storing all of your ideas so that you can act on them at a later date. This system can consist of having a notebook or moleskin in which you jot down ideas, creating a word document on your computer which you can easily open as new ideas emerge, or you can even write your ideas down on index cards and keep them in an index card file (as Maya does). You can also consider keeping your ideas in your swipe file, which I wrote about here and in a guest post published over at “Write to Done”.
Cultivate a Sense of Urgency – Change the World or Go Home
In order to turn your idea into reality you need to act from a sense of urgency. Feel the urgency to get things done, to make your idea take shape and become tangible. You can put off executing your ideas to another day, but that mentality will lead to endless procrastination. Instead of delaying the next task on your action plan for a couple of days, act as if it’s urgent, even if it isn’t. Put some pressure on yourself by making the decision to tackle the actions that need to be taken to make your idea a reality, now.
The desire to see your idea become reality must be so strong that you’re willing to make sacrifices of time and energy to make it happen. Unless you have a burning desire to see things through to completion, you will be tempted to quit. Hugh McLeod from the Gapingvoid explains that in 2006 he posted a cartoon on his blog of a blue monster which he designed with some of his friends who worked at Microsoft in mind.
The cartoon was meant to represent the culture that he had observed among Microsoft employees, a culture of “change the world or go home”. The idea of the blue monster took off, and soon lots of Microsoft employees had blue monster posters hanging in their office, were wearing blue monster t-shirts, or had a blue monster on the back of their business cards. Create a blue monster for yourself; something that symbolises or represents your burning desire to execute your idea.
Create a Massive Action Plan
All projects can be accomplished by taking a series of small steps that build on one another. Create a list of everything you can think of that you could possibly do in order to turn your idea into reality. Keep asking yourself: “What else could I do?”, “And then what?”, “What’s the next step after that?”, and so on until you have a long list of actions you can start to take. Then look at each of the steps you wrote down and ask yourself if that step can be broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Proceed to decide on an immediate next step and act on it. Every day chose three actions you can take to execute your idea, write them down on an index card or in your daily planner, and carry out those steps.
Become an Organisation and Productivity Ninja
As I mentioned in the first paragraph of this article, your productivity and your level of organisation are two of the elements that will determine whether your idea ever sees the light of day, or whether it languishes within the confines of your idea journal. Start collecting and applying organisation and productivity tips as if your life depended on it. Here are two tidbits to get you started:
Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will expand in time and seeming complexity depending on the time you set aside for it. Go through each subtask on your action plan and estimate how long it’s going to take you to complete each one based on historical data—that is, the amount of time that it’s taken you to complete that activity in the past. If you’re tackling an activity for the first time, simply make the best estimate you can as to how long it will take you to complete it. Once you’ve determined a length of time for each subtask, keep an egg timer next to you to help you stick to the allotted time.
Identify Time Wasters
Time wasters are those “filler” activities that keep you busy but don’t really move you toward achieving your desired outcomes. They can include: checking your email every fifteen minutes, checking your blog’s visitor statistics once an hour, shuffling papers, doing things others could do, taking an excessively long time in preparation, and so on. Identify these activities and replace them with focused action that moves you toward achieving your goal.
In order to execute your idea you need to find a method for holding yourself accountable. This could be making a public commitment on your blog, finding a mentor who tracks your progress, joining a support group where you all hold each other accountable for turning your ideas into reality, and so on. You can even consider joining JourneyPage which is a goal support system. Basically, every day members log in and input their three most important outcomes for the day; your friends or your accountability partner can access the data that you input in order to help keep you accountable. In fact, you can even put money in an escrow account which is returned to you only if you meet your weekly goals.
The execution stage is a vital part of the creativity process. I hope that the six tips explained above will help you turn your ideas into action. Remember, ideas without action are worthless.