One of the most common themes I’ve noticed in the entrepreneurial world is that we have so many amazing options, it’s easy to become overwhelmed because there are just too many of them to act on. Almost every entrepreneur I know has a running list o in some form or fashion where they keep their ideas.
Acknowledge that not all ideas are the Sistine Chapel
When you come up with a new idea, it’s so easy to get excited, and to get emotionally attached to it, before you’ve validated it as something that truly matches your goals, purpose and abilities.
If you can let go of a little bit of your ego that believes every idea you have is pure gold, glitter, and rainbows, then you’ll be comfortable with the idea that it’s actually okay to have an idea that doesn’t work for you and what you’re prioritizing right now.
- not every idea has to be a good one for you
- sometimes an idea can be a good idea for you, but later on!
We all know “that person” who is always talking about how their book will be a bestseller and one day they’ll be the next J.K. Rowling… but they never finished their book. Or the people who say “If they’d been given a shot they could have gone pro after college.”
The question is: what do you value more? The temporary excitement of a new idea, or the satisfaction of having actually accomplished something?
Give yourself process time
I tend to move at warp speed. My husband could leave for work and I would be working on one project, and by the time he got home I’d have a new domain name, a totally new business concept, and several product ideas as well as a basic business plan sketched out.
If I’d given myself a little time to process and think about my inspiration, I could have saved myself a lot of time and frustration when I realized I didn’t want to maintain another separate business, I just wanted the business I had to be profitable for me.
During one period of complete overwhelm, I committed to 90 days of only finishing projects. No new things at all. I couldn’t even write down my new ideas, because I knew I would get overly excited about the new thing I wanted to try. During that time, I finished two small products that were (in my mind) nothing special, but met a need in my audience. Those two products (which both sold for less than $10) made me more sales than any other product in my catalog and represented 36% of my product-based income for the year.
Finishing a project may not bring you huge, dramatic results, but unless you finish it, you’ll never know, will you? And this story brings me to my next tip.
How to give yourself process time:
- Give yourself permission to let an idea sit until the bright shiny object syndrome has passed and you can really analyze the idea
- Set aside a day each month where you review the previous month’s ideas. (In December, you’d be reviewing November’s ideas for example)
- Any idea can go into one of four categories:
- Next priority after current unfinished projects
- Would like to do later, but not a high priority
- Not ideal for me at this time
- That was a stupid idea. Deleting that one!
Commit to finishing before you start something new
Part of being an entrepreneur with a mountain of unfinished projects and half-baked ideas simply comes down to discipline, and picking what your priorities are.
Most wanna-be entrepreneurs I know are constantly chasing butterflies, but never getting anywhere in their businesses because they lack the self discipline to say, “Not right now” to an idea. They lack the basic boundaries with themselves that would allow themselves to flourish. And I’m not preaching at you here, I’ve been guilty of this as much as anyone!
In this Forbes article, author Amy Anderson says, “Great ideas are born by the minute. At some point you have to decide to stop talking about your ideas and take the first step with enough confidence to carry you through to the next step. “
It’s easy to never say no to yourself and to ride the high of a shiny new idea all the way to being broke, depressed, and wishing you’d done something more with your life instead of wasting it on half-baked ideas that never had a chance to work due to your lack of discipline.
Most entrepreneurs don’t see the damaging effects that a lack of focus can have on your business, but stop and use your imagination with me for a second. Can you imagine if you had to account for your time to a boss?
“Well sir, I didn’t actually finish any projects that can bring in revenue this month. I started a new domain, outlined part of a course I think has a lot of potential, redesigned some of the website again and made another new logo. Finish something? No sir.”
If you were your boss at a company, and didn’t care about your “potential” – would you hire yourself? Or would you fire yourself?
A lot of entrepreneurs I know aren’t people I would hire, simply because they’re more invested in the idea of success, rather than the actions it takes to really get there.
How do you really commit to letting things go though? For me, this is what it takes:
How to really stay focused on what you’re working on:
- have ONE SINGLE PLACE for ideas
- keep all ideas in that place, no exceptions!
- if you find yourself inspired with a new idea during work time, set a timer and give yourself 10 minutes to brainstorm all you like about the new idea, then when the timer goes off, refocus on your top priority!
See the pattern of sabotage
One of the biggest eye-openers to me when it came to my habit of never focusing and finishing one idea before starting something new was when I sat down and estimated how much money I could have made if I’d finished every project I’d started. I didn’t get through every idea I’d ever had (that would take forever!) but I did work on it long enough to know that by not saying “Not right now” to myself and finishing projects, that sabotage had cost me thousands of dollars in potential income.
It was a huge wake up call to realize this wasn’t “just a thing I struggled with” – this habit had become the single worst thing for holding me back from the business success I had said I’d wanted so badly.