Not every idea is worth acting on… even if it’s a great idea.
When my clients pitch favorite new ideas to me, my first thought is usually, “How can I stop this?”
No, I’m not out to get them. I want them to succeed. But sometimes, it’s our best ideas that stop us from taking the action needed to reach our goals.
I learned this through writing. I write a lot, and through this practice, I know first-hand just how difficult it is to edit your own writing. My children love writing too, and they’ve learned a ton from great writing teachers.
When they were younger, one particular teacher taught them an invaluable tool to help with self-editing. She told them, “When you’re not sure what to do next with a piece that you’re writing, find your favorite sentence… and delete it.”
While that seems counter-intuitive, the principle makes sense if you break it down. That favorite sentence is the hinge you’re working around. If you get rid of what appears to be an immovable element of your writing, you’re then free to manipulate and construct the rest of the piece at will.
I find myself doing this frequently now as I write. If I’m stuck in a blog post, I find my favorite sentence and delete it. Soon after, the whole post seems to fall into place. Before I learned this, I worked around that great sentence. I tried to keep my best sentence intact because I thought it was a fabulous turn of phrase. Consequently, it jammed up the piece.
Ideas work the same way.
I have some brilliant clients who come up with fantastic ideas. But many of these ideas aren’t worth acting on. And if you delete them, the other projects you’re working on might start falling into place.
What Makes An Idea Worth Acting On
To help you decide which great ideas are worth trying, I’ve come up with a quick system to test them.
When you have a great idea, ask yourself these questions:
1. Can I do it now?
If so, get started right away. If not, ask…
2. Can I save it for later?
If yes, put a date on it. Choose a specific time you will implement it. If you can’t nail down a date, ask …
3. Can I set it aside?
Then, set it aside in a specific location for all your “not yet” ideas. Maybe you designate an Evernote file, a notebook, or a folder for these great ideas that you’re not ready to act upon.
If a great idea can be implemented immediately, go for it. If not, there may be a great place for it in the future.
How to Use Great Ideas Later (or not)
Your “not yet” ideas become a database for new projects in the future. Next time you’re ready to work on something new, go through these ideas. As you read through them, leave a tick mark on every idea you consider but decide not to implement. When a “not yet” idea accumulates three tick marks, delete it.
If you passed over an idea three times, you’ll never do it. Three times, something else edged it out. Three times, another idea made it to the top of your list instead.
Yes, it was still a great idea. But, it’s time to quit letting it be a distraction.
You don’t have to do every great idea you have. When you realize that your idea isn’t worth acting on, kill it. Sometimes a great idea is simply that — a great idea.