Overcoming idea overload so you can get things done
When I went through some aptitude testing a few years ago to help me make a big career change and make decisions about my entrepreneurial journey, I was both relieved and proud to discover that I scored exceptionally high on an aptitude called “ideaphoria”. I was relieved to finally be able to give it a name, and proud to have a useful aptitude.
But those who also possess this trait will know that it is a curse as well as a blessing. The best description I have heard of ideaphoria is that it is like having fireworks in your brain. Every little grain of information can quickly and easily explode into a constellation of ideas as they feed off each other to create more and bigger supernovae of brain fodder. It can can exhilarating, as well as exhausting. The biggest danger for me of ideaphoria is that I can easily get mesmerised by all the internal fireworks shows going on, making it difficult if not impossible at times to get things done.
Combine ideaphoria with a temperament that rebels against anything that tries to squelch spontaneity or freedom, and the whole concept of scheduling and discipline is a very tough pill to swallow indeed.
It’s easy to chase ideas like fireflies because it’s fun and addictive, whereas the hard graft of taking them to fruition seems like boring drudgery.
In my new year reflection I have realised that I haven’t been very successful at overcoming this behaviour.
I reminded myself just how much of a disservice I do to myself, my business, and all the other endeavours I have goals for when I do this. How much more could I have accomplished had I applied some discipline and a better work rate to what I wanted to achieve?
While reflecting I also saw all my ‘great’ ideas that have been piling up, left languishing in my notebooks, unloved and uncultivated. Fat lot of good they are doing me or anyone else, and fat lot of good it does to possess the gift of ideaphoria if those fireworks just fizzle out to nothing after a few seconds of pizzaz.
When you value “the thinking mindset” more than “the doing mindset” you will eventually end up with a note app or notebook full of dozens or even hundreds of ideas and plans.- Thomas Oppong
Yep! In addition to notebook upon paper notebook, I have a whole Evernotebook entitled “Ideas Scrapyard”. Idea Graveyard is more apt.
I will embrace my ideaphoria, but put it to good use. I will try this for a mantra this year instead:
Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working. — Pablo Picasso
Of course, that is easier said than done. I need some strategies to help me along:
- Reframe the game. If I can learn to view creating a schedule and fostering discipline as harnessing the power of ideaphoria to make amazing things happen and not as a ball and chain that takes all the fun out of creativity, perhaps I will have better motivation to stick to it. I don’t have to give up the fun and glamour of idea generation. This may be easier said than done, but it certainly seems worth the effort.
- Find my reward system. I’m not very good at rewarding myself. Things like promising myself a piece of cake or a trip to the park for achieving a goal or finishing a task just don’t seem to work. There is an inner satisfaction that is the reward, but it is too nebulous and elusive to act as the carrot on the end of the stick. It would serve me to identify at least one thing that I can tie to the end of a task that would help me keep working toward it. Any ideas for the internally motivated??
- Have a plan. I am motivated by process. Understanding step 1, step 2, etc. makes all the difference to me starting and therefore finishing anything. Process is also what I dread creating the most. Nothing seems as tedious and un-fun when trying to get an idea off the ground. Can’t I just wish it into reality? But you know the saying, wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills up first. For the ideas or tasks I have committed to, I will write up five first steps to getting it off the ground. Even if it is as basic as “turn on computer, google [topic], make list of all relevant articles”, surely it will help me get moving and lead to a more complete plan. Just start, right?
- Foster accountability and collaboration. I have also written about how I have no shame in asking for help, and the dozens of people who have given me their time over a cup of coffee. But there is a different sort of reaching out I need to focus on here, that I hope will be reciprocal- part of the quid pro quo and giving back that I’ve written about before. That is, creating a cuddle of accountability partners and collaborators. For instance, offering to share the process I grindingly created to complete my latest task might be valuable for someone, and maybe they will share one as well. Or, they might set a challenge or reward that will inspire me to swallow the next slimy frog, and I will do the same for them.
- Visualise the outcome. This may sound a bit hokey, but I find this to be a powerful motivator: I get a lot out of using my imagination and dreaming, so perhaps I can spend a bit of time thinking about what it will be like to finish a task or project, or how a certain accomplishment will feel to release into the world. Even now, I can picture myself with the gnarliest frog of the day sitting in front of me while I daydream of hiking, so I can also see myself in that moment visualising myself signing up that next big client, or launching my book. Oooo, that feels nice.
Being able to generate ideas is essential for successful entrepreneurship, but you’ve got to be able to get them off the ground. Otherwise ideaphoria is a destructive force that feeds your ego and makes you buzz with dopamine, and accomplish absolutely nothing. So, here’s to a idea-filled yet structured 2018!
You can sign up here to receive news of the launch of my first book, Becoming a Fearless Leader: A simple guide to taking control and building happy, productive, highly-performing teams. I will be sharing free materials to everyone signed up here shortly.
I write about how I became the founder of a tech startup as a non-techie, over-40 female with no entrepreneurial experience, and all I am learning along the way. You can see more here. If you think this might be helpful for others on their entrepreneurial journey, please recommend and share.