Most ideas don’t stand a chance. We put them off to deal with the constant flow of life’s seemingly urgent little things. Or, burdened by the doldrums of project management and the effort it takes to move ideas forward, we abandon them in favour of something more immediately satisfying.
Welcome to the project plateau, the point at which creative excitement wanes and the pain of deadlines takes over. This process can easily repeat itself ad infinitum, preventing you from ever reaching your most potentially meaningful goals.
Until ideas are pushed forward, until they’re made to happen, they’re little more than air. Ideas become solid things only when we apply other forces to them: organisation, community and leadership.
Entrepreneurs must develop the capacity to drive ideas forward, against all odds. That means taking a new approach to projects, tweaking the ways you manage your energy and short-circuiting the old-school reward system. (New ideas are fun; old ideas are too much work.)
For my book, Making Ideas Happen, I talked to a group of creative people who turn concepts into reality. Ready to do the same?
Schedule time to think
Without realising it, most of us are living a life of reactionary work flow. We’re constantly bombarded with communications – emails, texts, tweets, Facebook posts, phone calls, instant messages – and instead of using our energy in a proactive way, we spend it reacting, living at the mercy of the latest information.
Some of the most productive people I’ve met schedule non-stimulation time into their day to focus on long-term projects that require research and deep thought.
Set up three files for each idea
The implementation process for most ideas will have three components: action steps, back-burner items and references. Action steps are succinct tasks – the ones on your list that start with verbs. File them separately from your notes and sketches.
Back-burner items are ideas that come up during a brainstorm or on the run that you can’t (or shouldn’t) act on immediately, but could be useful later. Collect them in a central location and review them regularly.
References are the articles, notes and other stuff you collect for the idea.
You don’t need to devote much time to organising your notes. Instead, keep a chronological file and rely on your software’s search function to find what you need.
Want to Change Your Business? Just Disrupt Your Thinking
Measure meetings with action steps
If you consider what your time is worth, regularly scheduled status meetings can be costly interruptions. Any meeting that closes without the proposal of new action steps would have been more efficient as a voice mail or email.
End meetings by having each colleague or client share the next specific tasks they will complete as you work toward your common goal. The exercise will uncover what’s missing, what’s misunderstood and whether there are redundancies.
Keep moving forward
Don’t let inertia kill your ideas. Plod ahead. There’s no better way to show your ideas (and yourself) some respect.