What do you need most in order to succeed in your own business? I would argue that it´s ideas. Without new broad ideas and new solutions to problems big and small you´ll never grow and you´ll be lucky to survive. But there´s a problem. What´s one of the biggest single impediments to productive work? Ideas. Unless you are a remarkably disciplined individual (and if you are, why are you reading a blog about productivity and time management?), every new idea that pops into your mind sends you down a road of possibilities and potential and away from the task you are supposed to be working on.
How do you balance those two things? How do you keep being creative and having the ideas you need to remain on top while keeping focused on the tasks that need to be done?
It can be done. You just need to get those ideas out of your head as quickly as you can, so you can get back to your work. Take a minute or two to write down your idea and flesh it out enough that you will remember it when you get back to it. Once it´s down on paper (or silicon chip as the case may be), you can tell yourself to forget about it and move on. It takes a bit of practice to force yourself to quit thinking of more ideas or refining your idea, but the more you practice it, the better you will get.
To keep my ideas in check, I usually have an Excel spreadsheet open on my desk. Each project I am working on has a tab, and I can create a new tab if an idea doesn´t fit into an existing folder. I can quickly write down the idea, use colors to link it to related thoughts, and then get back to work. There are other programs and applications designed more specifically for this type of purpose, but I prefer the simplicity and versatility of this method. It works for me.
Whenever I have a few minutes or I am feeling low on energy I can look in the folder for inspiration. It´s like a repository of my excitement. An interesting thing happens when I look back at the file, too. By writing down the ideas and then leaving them alone, they move from my conscious mind to my subconscious mind. By the time I look at them I am often surprised how much I have refined them, rejected them or replaced them without even knowing it. That’s what I call productivity.