Keeping a future ideas log

Sometimes in business and writing, you’re stuck. You know you need to be doing something, creating something new or something different. You need a project, damn it!

I usually don’t have that problem. I usually have way more ideas at one time than I can realistically work on. This is the best of problems to have, like having too much coffee.

It can also blow. You’ll run into the same situation I often find myself in. You can’t work on everything, or you won’t get anything done. You can’t let progress slow to a crawl on the project you’re working on right now to give into the excitement of a new project. Worse, you can’t give up on your current project because you think that this new idea is better. Spoiler, it’s probably not. It’s just that when you’re in the middle of a project when the excitement of the new thing is gone and the end game is a long way off, anything you work on seems crappy. Everything new seems so much better.

When I come up with a new idea, here’s what I do. I write down all of the details I have at the time. Anything that has already occurred to me in the midst of that first spark. I write it all down and keep it in an Evernote document. (I don’t use my bullet journal for this because I might very well move onto another one before I get to this idea. I don’t want to carry it over.) This gives me immediate satisfaction because it’s an action towards this new project. It also captures that excitement, I hope, and stores it until I’m ready.

I compare it to a trick I’ve learned from curbing compulsive shopping. For me, it comes from a feeling of lack. I feel like I don’t have money, I can’t have this thing I want. My stubborn streak comes out. But if I say, “I can have this, if I really want it,” then I usually don’t. If I say, “I’m not giving up on this new project, I’ll get to it when I’m done with this one,” I’m happy. I might even put a mark on my planner, three or four days after the deadline for the current project. This is enough to keep my inner child happy.

Having that new, shiny project looming is also an incentive to work on those projects might give you a push during the tough times of your current project. As we already discussed, and as you’ve probably experienced, every project is harder to work on after it’s cooled. When you need a little extra push, knowing that you have a next big idea can give you a little extra push. Hopefully, it’s not enough of a push for you to rush your current project and do a crappy job on it. Just enough of a push to get back to work.

Finally, I’m afraid I have some bad news. Not all of your ideas are the best. Not all of my ideas are the best. No one comes up with nothing but stellar ideas. But in the heat of a new idea, everything seems awesome! Everything’s not. Sometimes distance will help you figure out if this one’s good or not. There’s a good chance that when you go to your future ideas log, you’re going to realize that your brilliant idea is shit. In giving yourself some time, you might save yourself some time by avoiding devoting time to a bad idea.

Here are your actionable items for the week. Open a document on whatever you like to keep notes in. I like Evernote, but that’s up to you. Title your document Future Idea Log. Now, promise yourself that you won’t finish the project you’re working on right now. If a new idea comes to you, give it some headspace. Give it space on this document. Then get back to work.

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