You know all about cluttered spaces. Even if you’re not a clutter person, you probably know someone who is. Or maybe you’ve seen one of those reality TV shows about hoarders. It’s rare to find anyone in Western civilization who hasn’t experienced even a short-term bout of clutter.
But what about “idea clutter”?
So many business owners tell me they have more ideas than they can keep up with. They tell me they suffer from “bright shiny object” syndrome – where every new idea, concept, interest and opportunity pulls hard at them, lures them away from what they were previously focused on… much like getting lost in the “click here” rabbit hole of the Internet.
Idea clutter is just like physical clutter. Oh, it may seem different at first glance, but the impact is the same.
The Impact of Idea Clutter
- Blocks your energy
- Is a distraction from what really matters (but is scary to you)
- Drains you emotionally
- Creates confusion
- Buries your treasures
- Keeps you playing small
- Overwhelms you into paralysis
- Traps you in an endless loop of false possibility
- Keeps you from living your true purpose
- Is an excuse to avoid your dreams
The very nature of being an entrepreneur is about growing an idea – you feed and nurture it, and develop it into a successful venture. Business owners must take risks. And that includes the risk to focus on one idea instead of another. Like betting on a horse race, your job is to decide which idea has the best odds. And run with it. Even when the other ideas are jockeying for attention.
If you are like me, you might cringe at committing to just one, or even a few, ideas. What about the other ideas? What if they are better? The truth is that taking action on a bad idea is more valuable than letting your best ideas idle on a post-it note somewhere on your desk. Even if your idea turns out to be a dud, the brave act of taking focused action will lead you to new discoveries, lessons learned and a more refined decision-making process.
Your role as business owner requires you to take charge of your idea processing. When idea clutter leads you astray, you are not leading your business. When new ideas keep you from completing something you’ve started, you’ve allowed some smaller part of yourself take over. Don’t worry – this is all very natural, you are not alone in this!
Enter… The Idea Incubator
My favorite way to manage idea clutter is to set up what I call an “Idea Incubator.” You can find the right way to do this for yourself, but my way is to keep a document handy on my computer’s desktop. When I’m bopping along doing my work (or play or whatever) and a new idea pops up in my brain, I click open that document and jot it down. There are cool fancy gizmos and apps you can use, such as Evernote or even a memos application on your phone. One key for me is that I’ve got one master Idea Incubator that gets synchronized with my mobile device so that it’s always handy.
It’s a tremendous relief to offload my ideas into the Idea Incubator. Knowing they are safe and cozy there, I am free to keep my focus on the current idea. I’ll visit the Idea Incubator on occasion just to refresh my memory, and see if any of my little ideas are ready to hatch. Being this intentional about the ideas I am committing to also sharpens my ability to decide when to abandon an idea. With the clutter, it’s all mass confusion. But the Incubator keeps me focused. Like magic.
Ask yourself: “Which horse am I on right now?” And try creating your own Idea Incubator to keep the rest of the herd from overtaking you. Let me know how it works out for you.
Neat idea, Martha.. Tis frustrating when at day’s end it seems little is accomplished since so many ideas, etc take me away from “the main thing.”
I love the idea. My problem is that I create physical clutter with my idea incubator, by writing my ideas down on lots of different pieces of paper. (Then I leave them laying about.) Perhaps I need a smartphone to keep my ideas organized? Ah, that’s a good pitch for spending the extra money 🙂
Hi Cindy — Yes, I’m looking for a good excuse to upgrade my phone, too! LOL
I think the next step is to design a system that shifts you from leaving the ideas laying around to having them in the “just right” place for you. For me, it’s an online document I add to. But when I’m away from my computer, I either scribble a note — and put it immediately into my Incubator (that took quite a bit of practice for me to develop the habit!). Or, my favorite way is that I call my office voice mail and leave myself a message with the new idea. When I’m back in my office, I listen to my voice mail and jot the ideas into my Idea Incubator document. Voila! (I even say something kind at the end of the message like, “Have a great day, Martha!” LOL).
Here’s to your decluttered mental and physical spaces!! 🙂
Great article. I have to keep my personal space organized, and I am always de-cluttering. I want as little stuff as possible! It definitely helps keep me focused in my head.
Thanks for sharing,
Me too, Linda, I’m better with less clutter. Of all kinds! This year I got committed to keeping my email inbox clutter free and I have mostly succeeded. Wow, what a difference it makes! 🙂