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5 Strategies for Turning Ideas into Outcomes

Vivisection of an ideaphoric brain

Overcoming idea overload so you can get things done

When I went through some aptitude testing a few years ago to help me through a premature mid-life crisis 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.

In my year end reflection I have realised that I have been behaving like a petulant child, refusing to embrace schedule and discipline because it seemed to take the fun out of everything. A classic example: “I know researching competitors in on the schedule, but it’s sunny now so I better go take advantage- because I can!”. If I had a nickel for every time I thought that or something similar…..

But in that reflection, and as a fairly new entrepreneur, I realised that I had done myself and my business a great disservice. I thought about how much more I could have accomplished had I applied some discipline and a better work rate to what I wanted to achieve in my company. Instead I was patting myself on the back for all the cool ideas I came up with, and running off to chase the fireflies because it was fun and addictive.

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.

2017 is the year for me to do something about that, and this is how I am going to do it.

Thomas Oppong just put out the perfect New Year article for reflecting on productivity and getting things done. It’s a great fit for an Ideaphoric; but in my view it’s good for anyone wanting a bit of a kick in the pants to better use their time this year. Thomas writes:

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, The Doing Mindset> The Thinking Mindset

Yep! In addition to notebook upon paper notebook, I have a whole Evernotebook entitled “Ideas Scrapyard”. Idea Graveyard is more apt.

I’ve decided to 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

To that end, I will be trying out these five strategies to turn idle ideaphoria into kick-ass productivity:

  1. 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.
  2. 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??
  3. 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 [competitors], make list of all relevant companies”, surely it will help me get moving and lead to a more complete plan. Just start, right!
  4. Foster accountability and collaboration. I often rave about the great community here in Sheffield and the people who have kept me going. 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 now, that I hope will be reciprocal- part of the quid pro quo and giving back that I mentioned in my last story. 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.
  5. Visualise the outcome. This may sound a bit hokey, but it has just occurred to me there may be another way of putting this ideaphoria to good use. 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.

My big lesson from 2016: 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. You need a plan. I need a plan. Here’s to a idea-filled yet structured 2017!

This is the latest story in my series on how I became the founder of a tech startup as a non-techie, over-40 female with no entrepreneurial experience. You can see more here: If you think this might be helpful for others on their entrepreneurial journey, please recommend and share by clicking the green heart.