How to Choose Ideas

November 16, 2015

Hi! BLUEPRINT closed Saturday, and I'm jumping into new projects and feeling the pull of new ideas, and the push back of reality and time limits and budgets. The result: lots of decision making, which is necessary. And a little painful. I thought I'd share an old blog post I wrote a couple years ago for the McGinley Motion blog. And after posting this I'll work on taking my own advice. Wishing you a week of taking things bird by bird!

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How to Choose the Ideas That Push You Forward


I’ve decided that the greatest challenge facing artists and creative entrepreneurs is having too many ideas. When I meet with clients about projects, or talk to artist buddies over a beer, their brains are spinning! In some ways this is a great thing. It’s because you have big ideas that you do what you do in the first place. It’s a gift to be an ideas person. Except for when they’re getting in your way...

All too often I hear ideas that are actually huge distractions from the business endeavor or progressing career of the artist. They end up diffusing the energy of the creative person into a million directions, until their most important endeavor is taking a back seat.

They are ideas like:

+ Going back to school
+ Signing onto a project that’s not in line with your goals (or giving you something you need)
+ Changing jobs
+ Changing the direction of your business (or adding new services or products)
+ Learning a new skill/art form that distracts from becoming an expert at your current one
+ Creating a new project just so that you’re eligible for a grant

For the right person at the right time with the right motivation, any of these ideas could be good ones. I’ve had most of these ideas myself at some point. Luckily, I also have a strong inner pragmatist and a couple of accountability buddies who tell me when to shut off the ideas and get down to work. The challenge is pinpointing what ideas will move you and your creative endeavor forward, and which ones are only getting in your way, and sucking up valuable time and energy.

Here's What I've Found Helpful:

+ Write It All Down: Sometimes it just feels good to put your ideas in a safe place and get everything out of your head. Find a notebook or computer file to put them in. Decide which ones to shelve, and which ones actually need to be dealt with now.

+ Make a Mission Statement: Use your personal strengths, past experiences, and training to come up with a paragraph or two about who you are, what you do, and what you\'re working towards. I call these your Suitcase Contents.

+ Craft a 5-year Plan: Create some long-term goals that are driven by your mission statement.

+ Do Not Change Course: Well, try to avoid huge changes, or scratching your plan without giving it a decent chance. Challenge yourself to make micro-adjustments (small changes) or to refine your plan and the steps towards your goals.

+ Get An Accountability Partner: This person should be familiar with your Mission Statement and your Mega Plan. Their job is to help you get as objective as possible, and help you ask The Big Questions.

+ Ask The Big Questions: Your Accountability Partner can help you get honest: Is this idea moving you down the path of your Mega Plan or distracting you? If it's not moving you forward, do you have enough energy to give to it AND your Mega Plan? Or, if not, is it going to eventually give you something that will help further you towards your goals? Does it make you insanely happy, give you a lot of money, or teach you a skill directly applicable to your plan? These things are worth considering.

+ Set An Indecision Limit: I have lost days to indecision. So have a lot of creative people I know. Give yourself a set amount of time to decide whether or not you\'re going to go through with something. Your Accountability Partner can help you with this. Now, go read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. I'm pretty sure he'd claim that a great deal of our Idea Overload is actually resistance-- a way of self-sabotaging and preventing ourselves from Doing The Work. Our ideas can make things complicated; keep it simple. Keep moving!

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