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Idea overload: How to organize and keep track of your great ideas

by Christie Browning

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I am an idea person. 

I love new ideas. I have a new idea just about every five minutes. Some of these ideas fizzle out, but sometimes the ideas are good ones and I don't want to lose track of them. However, the timing may not be right to act on those ideas. Or better yet... sometimes the ideas just come and keep coming to the point that I just stay stuck in idea mode with no action or implementation at all! Those good ideas, that bring life to my creative self, can choke out my most basic motivation to get anything done.

Anybody else like this? 

If you are someone who has a lot of ideas (like me), but who sometimes struggles with putting them into action (also like me!), then this is the post for you! Although my tendency is to get stuck on the idea mill, I want to share with you how I began organizing my ideas and plans, planning a way to act on them, and make things happen! So here we go!

#1: Dump your brain

An idea dumping session is a great way to just empty the mind-clutter without losing the great ideas! Grab a notebook and pen and start writing! I use a sketchbook. I love this kind of book for brainstorming and brain dumping because the pages are unlined so I can just write willy-nilly on the page and not get hung up with keeping my ideas written perfectly on a line or in a margin.

You can keep this notebook handy at your desk, on your nightstand or wherever you might have easy access so that when the idea strikes, you can jot it down. The idea here is to just get the thought on paper and stop depending on your brain to keep up! Plus... when you keep these ideas rolling around in the mind,  you are more likely to focus just on that idea or other ideas, taking up valuable brain power that should be channeled to the daily to-dos that need your attention now. 

The other benefit to writing your idea down is so you can create a written record of your ideas. This allows you to build on your ideas as other ideas overlap each other or support each other. Also, writing it down will let you see what ideas are great at the moment, but might not have the staying power once the "newness" of it dies off. And...there's a chance that months, years later that idea just might come back to life. 

#2: Organize the madness

Ideas scribbled in a notebook is just the start. Yes... it feels great to flush the noodle, but now we need to create a little organization so we know how to begin tackling this brain dump.

I personally like color coding my ideas. In the front of my notebook, I create a little reference of what color is for what category. My categories start with:

  • Blue - Personal 
  • Orange - Business
  • Yellow - Family/ Household
  • Green - Financial
  • Pink - Spiritual

As I jot an idea down, I try to assign a color to it  -- what category does this fall into. As I writing and organizing, I make sure that the idea has more explanation around it if needed so that in six months from now, I can remember what the heck I meant when I wrote that idea down. 

From there, I pull out the ideas that are in the same category into a notebook for just that category. Now, you can easily organize this into just two spiral notebooks.. the sketchbook for the brain dump and a 5-subject spiral notebook, creating one section for each area of life mentioned above. 

As I transfer these ideas from the sketchbook to the 5-subject notebook, I cross it out on the sketchbook so I can keep track as to what moved over. The idea is that I can just write things down at random times of creativity in the sketchbook, but I don't necessarily take time right then to transfer it to the 5-subject notebook..... because the 5-subject notebook is my action planner. 

#3: Plan to take action

So in reality, I don't transfer every idea from the sketchbook (braindump phase) to the action planner notebook. Usually, by the time I come back to the sketchbook, those ideas have already died or as I come back with a fresh set of eyes, I think... "that was crazy!" Now, I still keep it in the sketchbook because believe me... you never know when that idea is going to resurface. But for the most part, I can tell from the braindump which ideas are actionable at the moment. Those are the ideas I transfer to the action planner notebook. 

So in my 5-subject notebook, each section is assigned one of the five areas of life. At the top of a new page in that particular section, I write the idea out like a title for that page. Then I begin to explore the steps I need to take to launch that idea. Those steps may not be ones I am going to take in that same day. To just get going, I want to identify what needs to happen. Then... when I am ready to start making a move, I jot dates or I prioritize and rank those steps so I know what needs to be done first, then second, etc. 

I also use the space on these pages to identify a budget if the idea is going to cost money, estimate how much time it's going to take, brainstorm people I need to connect with, and so on. 

A couple of warnings for you creative types:

#1: Don't get distracted by all the ideas. This planning and organization suggestion is to help you stay focused on what needs attention now. This is not a plan to get you in launch mode for every idea right away. Sometimes ideas are great, but need to wait until other things happen first -- you know, cart verses horse.. which one comes first? 

So ask yourself, "What needs to happen first?" "What projects have I already started that I need to finish before I launch another idea?"

Don't get distracted by the latest and greatest. Ideas are great and fun and sometimes the fresh breath you need. It's easy to get distracted when something is new and exciting, but the reality is, you will lose momentum if you never actually cross a finish line or reach completion. 

#2: Compare your ideas to the goals you've set. Does your idea take you closer to your goal, to your vision for your life, your business or your finances? If it does, then you want to most definitely keep this idea written somewhere. If it takes you on a tangent, maybe that's an idea that ranks low on the priority list. 

#3: Revisit your list of ideas regularly. As you continue to make progress on your ideas, keep checking in on your existing list of ideas. You might just find that you keep coming back to the same area of interest, or that you have new innovative thoughts on old ideas.

By keeping this list alive, you help it be as powerful as it possibly can be.

You are an idea person. Don’t let your ideas overwhelm you; take control of them and harness your creative ideas to do amazing things.