Like Havi Brooks at the Fluent Self, I’m constantly coming up with new ideas. They’re like little nerf balls that come from the ether, beaning me on the head with such regularity that I don’t even flinch. The Unlikely Mage has gotten used to it when ideaflurries hit me and I become completely wrapped up in one thing or another.
The advice that I generally give to folks when this happens is to write the idea down and then return to it when you’re more able to work with it. I know that I’ve given this advice at least twice, and that still sticks… though there’s a catch.
I’m not writing my ideas down
So, I’m not writing down the ideas that I’ve got. Instead, I decide that I’m going to pursue the new idea, and forget the one that I was working on in favor of the new permutation. It ends up being a constant state of NRE, where the old one is dumped all the time. To anthropomorphize here, the old one doesn’t feel so bad about being dumped… because it should know from history that the new one’s going to get dumped pretty soon, too.
I am still not writing down my ideas, and I know why
So, what’s the problem?
The notebook isn’t big enough.
I have a metric assload of notebooks. They come in all shapes and sizes, they come in all patterns, they have little flowers, or other stuff. Each of them are little snapshots in time, complete with ideas for a future date. With the flow of ideas that I’ve got, though, each of these new ideas that comes every few weeks is transient. It’s like, ‘hey, I’m going to crash on your couch and leave.’ To all those who are able to keep a thought for more than three weeks? You are farking awesome. Don’t ever forget that. But, these ideas… they’re trapped within the notebook, or they’re trapped in little text files on my computer. And I can’t see them.
If I were to gather all of these ideas together, there’d be hundreds of them, maybe even thousands. Those little text files and those other things don’t do the ideas justice. So, I write the new idea into a notebook, that idea knows that it’s pretty much going to be neglected and forced to stay within this notebook until I get around to playing with it. I give it the lip service that I’ll play with it, but in reality… it sits there like a little lost girl at the prom.
I’m fixing this
I’m making the ideas bigger. I’ve got several sheets of notebook paper which have the five projects that I’m working on. This isn’t to say that more projects can’t be added later, but I’m telling them that they can’t have priority over what I’m already playing with. This gives rewards to the toys that were in the bin first. Each day has 10 things that I can do to get points, with one point to each thing. Everything’s worth the same amount of points and such. I’ve talked about lists before, both here and here, but this one combines the two concepts.
Most to-do lists have just the task to be done. The master list has the overall list of stuff that I want to accomplish and tasks related to that. This one… well, this one’s a blending of that. On the left, I’ve got a list of the current projects. On the right, there’s a list of the tasks associated with those projects. So, for this blog, I’ve got a post and 30 minutes of social networking. I’ve got ‘diet’ listed as 64 oz water and a piece of fruit. If I get all of the points listed for the entirety of the week period… I win a prize. For me, these types of lists don’t work very well without prizes.
I might reward myself with a great book, or a trip to the movies, or something like that. I might reward myself with a grocery shopping run that includes special stuff. I might even reward myself with an excursion. The point is, there needs to be some reason to really keep track of this stuff, something that goes a little bit beyond the joy and thrill of doing them. And it needs to be on big paper. It needs to smell like marker. It needs to be mine.
Since all of these sheets are done at least a day in advance, it will give me a little bit of time to prioritize the stuff for the week. I’ll be able to go ‘hey, what’s the projects for this week?’ and stick with those. There’s enough room at the end of the sheets so I can write down the newest, latest, and greatest ideas for the day, but I’m not messing with them until the beginning of the next week. This whole eleven minute thing means sticking to the same thing for eleven minutes, rather than wildly jumping around.
Making it big and smelly with marker and handwriting and putting it into a place where I can see it and everything else makes me think about the real stuff and the real goals for the week. It makes me think about why I’m doing the stuff instead of just doing it. And with each emphasis of purpose, I get more resolved and more awesome.
Writing into notebooks means ideas get lost
Hand write stuff onto sheets of paper
BIG sheets of paper that can be posted in the office
Simple, combined lists to keep on track. And make you awesome!