The Working With… Podcast

What To Do With All Your Ideas So They Are Not Forgotten.

November 25, 2019

This week’s question is about developing your ideas so they either become a project or an area of focus.



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Episode 110

Hello and welcome to episode 109 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week it’s all about how to manage all your ideas, particularly if you are someone who has a lot of ideas. The question is what do you do with those ideas and how do you nor forget about them.

However, before we get to the answer, I’d like to remind you all of the upcoming Life and Time Mastery workshop in the UK on the 28 December. This workshop is all about helping you plan 2020 and I can’t think of a better time than just before the new year celebrations to spend a day with likeminded people who want to turn 2020 into the best year of their lives. 

I’ll be there to go through a number of strategies you can follow to not only decide what you would like to accomplish in 2020 but also show you ways you can turn those ideas into daily actionable steps. Plus, Kev Blackburn… THE Life Success Engineer will be kicking things off with his legendary lessons on turning your dreams into reality with his high energy, massive action session. 

This is a workshop not to be missed and it’s in a part of the UK that is easily accessible, just off the M62 in Scunthorpe. 

So, no matter where you are in the UK, come and join us in Scunthorpe for a day of discovery, planning and high energy inspiration with a group go incredible people. This is something you will never ever forget. PLUS…. There’s a good chance the mystery podcast voice will be making an appearance as well. Now there’s a reason to come and join if there ever was one. 

All the details for the event are in the show notes. 

Speaking of the mystery podcast voice, it’s now time for me t hand you over to her for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Nilesh. Nilesh asks… Hi Carl, I noticed that when I make plans for future I often forget about them and then after a few days I make new ones. It's really slowing down my growth and decreasing my productivity. Is there anything I can do about it?

Hi Nilesh, thank you for your question. I am sure this one will be very helpful to a lot of people. 

If you are adding tasks about future plans and then almost immediately forgetting you added them one of two things is likely to be happening. 

Firstly, you are not developing your ideas or plans outside your to-do list manager or secondly, you are not going over all your tasks, projects and areas of focus on a weekly basis. Or it could be a combination of both. 

Of course, it could be your ideas and plans are not important enough to you which means you will forget them very quickly anyway. 

Let’s deal with the first one—you are not developing your ideas properly. 

Now, what I mean by this is from the moment we have an idea, that’s all you have. An idea. All ideas need some form of development and some time to incubate. If you are adding ideas straight into your to-do list manager’s inbox and then turning them into a project without fleshing them out, you are going find a lot of those ideas will disappear inside your to-do list never to be seen again. 

Now, it’s okay to collect your ideas into your to-do list manager’s inbox, but before you turn it into a project or area of focus you should develop it first. That could be in a notes app or on a simple piece of paper. What is the outcome you want from this idea? Why do you want to do it? What's your motivation for wanting to do this project? And what steps or actions do you need to take to make this idea become reality? 

These questions and more need developing before you turn it into a fully-fledged project in your to-do list. It could be that once you have developed it, you decide you no longer want to do it. Which is another reason for not turning everything into a project immediately. If after developing your idea you have no motivation for doing it, it will sink to the bottom of your projects and die a slow death. 

Okay, so let’s assume you have fleshed out your idea and you decided it is something worth pursuing, what do you do next? Well, that means it’s time to move it to your to-do list manager. 

Now, I pull out the tasks when I develop my ideas and put them at the bottom of my development note. This just makes it a lot easier to send everything over to my to-do list manager once I have planned out my idea. I can copy and paste the full list of tasks straight to Todoist and Todoist will create tasks for each line. 

Another advantage of planning and fleshing out your ideas first is you get to see exactly what will be involved in doing the project. You can then make better decisions about what needs to happen next and more importantly when you will start the project. There have been many times when I had an idea and really really wanted to start it straight away. But after I had fleshed our my thoughts and ideas, I realised I really didn't have the time or resources available at that time to do it, so I was able to put the project into a holding area. 

To avoid forgetting about the project once you have it in your holding area, all you need do is add a review task to the top of your action list. Something like “review this idea” and add a date to that one task. 

I like to think of my holding area as something similar to how air traffic controllers ‘stack’ incoming flights in a ‘holding pattern’ before initiating the landing procedure. You cannot do all your projects at the same time, just like you cannot land all the planes at the same time. There has to be a sequence—a priority. Now those priorities depend on when a project is due, whether there is a genuine time sensitivity or the possibility of a missed opportunity if you do not start the project now. All of these factors need to be considered. And, of course, you can divert projects to another airport—or in our case delegate them to someone else. 

Now to me, a review task does not necessarily mean I must start the project that day. All it means is I can decide if I want to start it. If I decide to start it, I will complete the decision task and date the first task that needs to be done. 

If I am not ready to start the project, I will re-date the reminder task for a future date - usually one month later. 

Developing ideas this way means there’s no way I can forget about an idea. There will always be a note in my notes app to back me up and I will have at the very least a review date in my task manager to ensure I am not forgetting anything important. 

On the other hand, it could be you are not going over your projects and areas of focus on a weekly level—the weekly review. If you are not looking at and reviewing everything in your to-do list manager at least once a week, of course, things will get forgotten and missed. There’s simply far too much going on in our world for us to remember everything. That’s why the weekly review is so important—even more so today. And if you are the kind of person who is always having new ideas, you do need a place to keep those ideas for future reference and or development and then review them, to decide whether something is still relevant. 

Just as air traffic controllers need to be aware of what they have on their radar screens, you too need to be aware of what you have in your holding area so accidents do not happen. Missed deadlines, incomplete projects and or missed opportunities. That’s where the weekly review comes in. It prevents those things from happening. 

The thing is, if something is important enough, you will find the time to work on it. If it is not important enough to you, you will procrastinate and not do anything about it. It’s the old “if it’s important enough you will find a way, if it is not you will find an excuse” situation. 

Another good reason for keeping your ideas in a notes app or notebook until you have fleshed them out is if the idea is something you are not really interested in doing, it will soon drop down the list of ideas in your notes. I regularly purge my ideas lists because a lot of ideas I have do not turn into projects. If I were to guess, the percentage of ideas I have that turn in to projects is less than twenty per cent. That means eighty per cent of my ideas will never get started.

Now, I do not delete those ideas, I archive them into a single note and review them every six to twelve months, or if I go through an ideas drought, I can pull up that note and see a list of all my past ideas. Often just going though those ideas can spark new, better ideas and I can develop those. Sometimes an old idea suddenly looks very attractive and I will start developing that then. No idea goes to waste and old ideas do not take up a lot of digital space. 

So here you go, Nilesh. I hope that has helped. Try not to overthink things, keep it simple and understand that you cannot do everything all at once. You need to prioritise and make sure that the projects you are working on right now are the projects that you really do want to work on right now. 

Thank you for your question and thank you to all of you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.